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Setting and Ideas in the Great Gatsby

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Fitzgerald's novel, The Great Gatsby uses setting to represent and symbolise major themes relevant to the time. In the 1920's America's economy was booming, and it twas possible for people form all backgrounds to make a living. East Egg is symbolic of 'old money', money obtained through having an advantaged family history. In contrast, West Egg is where the people who have gained wealth newly, through illegal means or otherwise, reside. The Valley of the Ashes is the result of corruption and immorality, where those who are completely underprivileged and poor live. Tom's house in East Egg and Gatsby's house in West Egg are representative of the opposing personalities and values of these two men.

East Egg symbolises the values upheld by people of 'old money' such as Tom and Daisy. During the 1920's people with a respectable family name, wealth and class were seen to be in direct contrast to those who had acquired 'new money'. This is evident in the contrast between West Egg and East Egg, or Gatsby and Tom Buchanan. East Egg is inhabited by classy people who believed that they were superior to those in West Egg. This is seen when Tom says, "Oh I'll stay in the East, don't you worry, I'd be a damned fool to live anywhere else." East Egg is described as being pure, inhabited by rich socialites such as the Buchanan's and its positioning across the bay from West Egg reflects the East Egg values that were impossible to attain unless you were born into the privileged society.

West Egg is one such symbolic geographical setting which emphasizes the ideas of new money against old money and the amoral against the moral. West Egg represents the newly made millionaires who have taken advantage of the economical boom during the roaring twenties. Gatsby was one of many who made a huge wealth in a short time period, relying on illicit means to accumulate such financial prowess. "He's a bootlegger". Gatsby's criminal activities as a bootlegger, highlights the destruction of moral values that took place in West Egg, in the race for wealth, class and power. However in Gatsby we see some shreds of spirituality shown through his obsessive love for Daisy. Compare this to Tom Buchanan of East Egg values, who had the class and power that came with old money yet no spirituality. Tom trod on all who stood in his path, yet he just utilized his vast wealth to save himself from any feelings of guilt or remorse.

The Valley of the Ashes is a representation of themes relevant to class and the ideas associated with the new world. It is described as bleak, grey, and desolate- a 'dumping ground' for the city. Looking over this are the unseeing eyes of T. J. Eckleburg, a forgotten advertisement, a sightless god created from materialism. The Valley of the Ashes is a negative side of this new world of the 1920's, showing that behind wealth is poverty. The people within are reflections of their environment, only descibed as 'faintly handsome' and 'without a facet or gleam of beauty'. They are products of the material world. Each are soulless, and lacking in identity- Myrtle with her lack of morals and Wilson with his lack of character. Wilson seems to blend into the walls, he merges into the dust behind the false glamour of his wife. He is



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