What are some facts about the East Egg, the West Egg, and the Valley of Ashes?I need some ideas of what to include in my Essay about the settings and how they establish understanding of character.

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Fitzgerald's marvelous work, The Great Gatsby, setting is absolutely intrinsic to the major elements of the narrative as it is a steering force in the novel, representing motifs and reflecting characters:


This wasteland outside New York City is an area of "grey land and spasm of bleak dust," a dumping ground which represents the corruption of the Jazz Age in which no concern is given to the by-products of industry.  The yellow spectacles of Doctor T.J. Eckleburg, a figure on a billboard, are yellow, symbolic of corruption.

Like the environment in which he lives, George Wilson is "a blonde, spiritless man, anaemic and faintly handsome" man whose washed out blue eyes light up at the approach of Nick and his wealthy friends.  Tom, who secretly is having an affair with his wife Myrtle, treats George with his characteristic superciliousness.


Like Tom and Daisy, East Egg represents wealth.  East Egg is personified as looking down on West Egg.  Like the Eastern states of the United States, East Egg is rather scornful of West Egg, built up by the "new" money. East Egg represents the established East coast while West Egg represents the Midwest and the rising wealth of industrial men and farmers alike.

The corruption of East Egg is exemplified in Tom's brutish behavior and attitudes.  He conducts an illicit affair with Daisy, but his temper rises when he realizes that Jay Gatsby fies for her attention. Toward Daisy he is cruelly patriarchal.


This is an area constructed by the nouveau riche.  Gatsby lives in this area, an area where the dissolute, criminal, and vulgar attend parties.  In this West Egg, there is an air of corruption.


This area is one of corruption and deceit. Just as there is deceit in Tom and Myrtle as well as some of the other parties, there is corruption of products that New York sends outside of the city into the wasteland.

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The Great Gatsby

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