The Great Gatsby Questions and Answers
by F. Scott Fitzgerald

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Why did Gatsby buy a house across the bay from Daisy in The Great Gatsby?

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D. Reynolds eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Gatsby buys his mansion across the bay from Daisy as part of what Nick calls "the colossal vitality of his illusion." Gatsby wants to reunite with Daisy, and the mansion serves two purposes in achieving that goal. First, it is in sight of Daisy and Tom's property; Daisy's home, and in particular, the green light at the end of her pier, is close to Gatsby, making Daisy feel almost within reach. Second, having a mansion so close to Daisy's home is the perfect setting for throwing the huge parties that he hopes will lure Daisy to someday cross his threshold.

Gatsby has a fortune but he does not have the social class that would allow him to approach the Buchanans, so he feels he has to proceed carefully. The mansion is part of his long-term plan.

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Gatsby buys the house in West Egg chiefly in order to be near to Daisy. Jordan tells Nick, who had thought this proximity to be mere coincidence, that "Gatsby bought that house so that Daisy would be just across the bay.” It is not entirely clear whether he had some plan to reintroduce himself to Daisy, or whether he simply wanted at first to be near her, but Nick is astonished by the modesty of his request for Nick to invite Daisy to his house (which is next door to Gatsby's) so that Gatsby can come over and meet her as a fellow guest:

He had waited five years and bought a mansion where he dispensed starlight to casual moths—so that he could "come over" some afternoon to a stranger’s garden.

The location of the house in arriviste West Egg rather than patrician East Egg is, of course, appropriate to Gatsby's "new money" status. He would have been out of place living too close to the Buchanans. It also means that he can look at the lights in Daisy's mansion romantically across the water rather than prosaically as a next-door neighbor.

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East Egg, where Daisy and Tom Buchanan live, is for the super-wealthy who come from “old money.”  West Egg, where Gatsby buys his mansion, is for the recently wealthy, or “new money.”  Gatsby has only recently become wealthy through some questionable dealings with Wolfsheim, and Gatsby must proceed with caution in trying to win Daisy’s love. Daisy is married and seemingly above Gatsby in social stature.  Gatsby begins to woo her by throwing lavish parties and hiding who he is until he finds an ally in Nick who will introduce them.  Gatsby must prove he is worthy of Daisy’s love first because he doesn’t really know what her reaction to him will be. Therefore, he proceeds with some apprehension in approaching her.  Moving next door would have been too bold a move and would have shown Gatsby as too aggressive.  So, for a while, Gatsby tries to find ways to prove his worthiness and contemplates his future life with Daisy as he watches the mesmerizing green light blink on the other side of the lake from his boat dock in West Egg.

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Lorraine Caplan eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Gatsby has purchased this house because of its proximity to Daisy. He has loved her, or at least the idea of her, since they met. I think that since he has loved her from afar for so long, he needs to be close to her, but not too close. He is comfortable gazing at her from a distance before they meet again, and even after they meet, there is something romantic, idealistic, and dreamy about his love that makes him want to view her from that distance.  Then he can fantasize without being confronted with the reality of her (or her dreadful husband.) 

Of course, as a practical matter, he wants to meet her again, and what better way than to buy a fancy house in her "neighborhood", have large parties, and hope she turns up?  Once he meets Nick, he finds a better way of accomplishing his mission. 

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