Long Island and New York City in the Early 1920s
Great Gatsby is set in New York City and on Long Island, in two areas known as "West Egg" and "East Egg"—in real life, Great Neck and Port Washington peninsulas on Long Island. Long Island's beach communities really were (and still are) home to the rich and fabulous of the New York City area, and Fitzgerald actually lived in a small house in West Egg. Apparently, he listened to his teachers and wrote what he knew, because Nick describes his own house as "an eyesore" that's "squeezed between two huge places that rented for twelve or fifteen thousand a season" (1.14).
These people are rich, and they have a lot of leisure time to spend worrying about how they're perceived socially. Nobody seems particularly interested in politics, or religion, or even education (you need the degree, but you don't need to have learned anything): instead, they spend their time conforming to certain standards, like not wearing pink suits (7.132). This setting matters, because it means that a lot takes place through innuendo and suggestion. There's very little violence or even outright arguing—people snap at each other and make snide comments, but these aren't the type of people to settle things with violence, at least not with each other. That's why the violent acts—Tom breaking Myrtle's nose; Wilson shooting Gatsby—take place between classes. It's not rich people beating up other rich people; it's violent conflict between the rich and the poor.
East Side/ West Side
Rich people do like to spend their time drawing subtle distinctions between types of wealth. Nick tells us right away that East Egg is the wealthier, more elite of the two Eggs. Despite all his money, Gatsby lives in West Egg, suggesting that he has not been able to complete his transformation into a member of the social elite. The distance that separates him from Daisy isn't just the water of the bay; it's also class.
The second contrast is between the city scenes and the suburban ones. Like Nick Carraway, Tom Buchanan and Jay Gatsby commute into the city for their respective lines of work, while the women are left behind. This geographical divide ends up being a gender distinction, too. But the city is important in other ways, too; Tom only interacts with his mistress in the city, and Gatsby only sees Meyer Wolfsheim there. They both use the city to hide their goings-on from the people they value on Long Island.
We open in the early 1920s: just after World War I, and right in the middle of Prohibition, when alcohol was effectively illegal. We say "effectively," because plenty of people manufactured, sold, and drank alcohol anyway—like all the characters in the book, who seem to be constantly drunk, and Gatsby, who made his money bootlegging: selling illegal alcohol.
But it's not all champagne and yellow Rolls-Royces. Myrtle and George Wilson inhabit a totally different setting: the grey valley of ashes that joins the fabulous worlds of the Eggs and Manhattan. Fitzgerald didn't know yet, but we do, that the excesses of the 1920s collapsed with the stock market in 1929--leading to a much grayer, grimmer life all over the country. Did Fitzgerald suspect that the fabulous lifestyles of Tom and Daisy's crowd were doomed from the start?
The Role of a Setting in The Great Gatsby Essay
1176 Words5 Pages
In F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, the setting of New York in the nineteen twenties performs an extensive role in the novel. Although the nineteen twenties are a time of economic prosperity, they appear to be a time of corruption and crime as well. In New York, particularly, the nineteen twenties are a time of corruption and moral scarcity. The setting is during the Jazz Age as well, where popularity, fashion, and commerce are a primary inclination. The setting of The Great Gatsby efficaciously portrays the behavior of the characters in The Great Gatsby, as well as the plot and development. The setting assiduously delineates how themes, motifs, and symbols can fluctuate in relation to the time or location. The setting of The…show more content…
This occasion displays how potentially careless and morally corrupt the citizens of New York in the nineteen twenties can be. It is occasions like these that prominently portray the depth of moral corruption in relation to the significance of the setting in The Great Gatsby. The nineteen twenties can be bestowed numerous names, such as “The Roaring Twenties,” or “The Prosperity Decade.” One name, however, is specifically attached to the nineteen twenties; “The Jazz Age.” It is during the nineteen twenties that jazz music becomes emphatically prevailing. With this new age, however, as with every age, comes a demeanor of fashion, spirit, and custom. The wealthy class of the Jazz Age, composing of Jay Gatsby, the Buchanans, and so on, prospers during this time. In chapter three, Nick Carraway proceeds to one of Jay Gatsby’s splendid parties, and scrutinizes the denouement of the amalgamation of wealth and a “Jazz Age” party. As Nick Carraway alleges on page forty, “By seven o’clock the orchestra has arrived, no thin five-piece affair, but a whole pitful of oboes and trombones and saxophones and viols and cornets and piccolos, and low and high drums… The bar is in full swing, and floating rounds of cocktails permeate the garden outside, until the air is alive with chatter and laughter…” From the quote on page forty, one may indubitably visualize how those such as Jay Gatsby or the Buchanans subsist on an everyday basis. During the Jazz