What does Nick mean when he says, "this has been a story of the West, after all."

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     The context of the quote is "That's my Middle West ... the street lamps and sleigh bells in the frosty dark.... I see now that this has been a story of the West, after all--Tom and Gatsby, Daisy and Jordan and I, were all Westerners, and perhaps we possessed some deficiency in common which made us subtly inadaptable to Eastern life." 
     Nick realizes that the East is connected with a fast-paced lifestyle, immoral parties, and bad moral values, while the West is associated with a more traditional moral system. Nick then decides to move back to the West. The difference between Nick Carraway and Jay Gatsby arrives when Nick realizes his moral failures and did something to help them.

     Sick of the East and its empty values, Nick decides to move back to the Midwest.  Just before he leaves, Nick encounters Tom on Fifth Avenue in New York City. Nick muses that, in some ways, this story is a story of the West even though it has taken place entirely on the East Coast. Nick, Jordan, Tom, and Daisy are all from west of the Appalachians, and Nick believes that the reactions of each, himself included, to living the fast-paced, lurid lifestyle of the East has shaped his or her behavior. Nick remembers life in the Midwest, full of snow, trains, and Christmas wreaths, and thinks that the East seems grotesque and distorted by comparison.

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Fitzgerald's novel is a contrast of values represented by the West and the East. The West is characterized by virtues, innocence, decency, all qualities we see in Nick and in Jay Gatz. The East, specifically New York, is corrupt and insensitive, words that describe Tom and Daisy. Although Tom and Daisy are originally from the West, living a wealthy life on East Egg has cost them any innocence they might have had and destroyed good qualities; they become "careless people who destroyed other people's lives."

Nick and Gatsby, on the other hand, come East but live in West Egg. Nick is much less affected by the corruption in the East; in fact, he plans to return to the West, to escape the kind of life he's seen. Gatsby, however, is corrupted in his pursuit of Daisy because he's resorted to crime to gain his fortune.

Although the novel is set primarily in the East, all four main characters are midwesterners. When Nick makes the statement you've cited, he reminds us of this fact. Some characters can maintain their goodness, but most cannot when they move to the East. The West is their home.

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In The Great Gatsby, Nick says that “this has been a story of the West, after all.” What do you think he means by that?

In my opinion, Nick could be referring to a couple of different ideas.

First, Daisy and Tom are from Chicago, as is Nick. James Gatz is also from that midwest region. The entire storyline revolved around these four characters who were Westerners in that era. They all sought the big city to escape something of the West. For each of them the escape was different. For Tom and Daisy, a extramarital affair of Tom's moved them away from the reputation that he would have had if they stayed put. For Nick, he was restless and sought something more engaging. For Jay Gatsby, he was running toward Daisy, escaping a life without her.

Another idea could be that the West refers to the great ideas that expansion westward was full of material gain. The gold rushes of the 1850s and the rush to the golden rays of California drew attention to the idea that life could be ideal. It could be perfect. All of these people were striving for their perfect in The Great Gatsby but none found fullness in the American Dream because they searched for it without concern for fellow man.

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