When reading F.Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby” for the first time, it may seem like a straightforward novel about all-consuming characters and symbolic themes. Settings appear to be unimportant. However, they play a valuable part in the story. The settings are used by the author to emphasize the characters and themes. The places Fitzgerald used in his novel epitomize various aspects of American society in the 1920s. East Egg represents the old aristocracy – Tom and Daisy, whose families were “enormously wealthy” even before the war. The West Egg represents the newly rich – Gatsby. After the war, Gatsby remained a poor soldier. He wanted to fulfil his dream and in order to achieve this, he had to become wealthy and have a high status in society. He became rich through bootlegging. Most newly rich earned money this way, as there was a big demand for alcohol because of Prohibition.
Through settings, Fitzgerald portrays the newly rich as being rude, gaudy and lacking in social taste, while the old aristocracy were people who possessed taste, elegance and grace. Gatsby wore pink suits, lived in an ornament mansion and organized loud parties. Tom, on the other hand, had a tasteful house with “a sunken Italian garden” and Daisy wore white, flowing dresses. Even though both Buchanans and Gatsby were very wealthy, there were still differences between them. The East Eggers proved themselves careless bullies, who are so used to money’s ability to ease their minds to not worry about hurting other people. They exemplify this in chapter 9 when they move to another city rather than attend Gatsby’s funeral. However, Gatsby, whose wealth was derived from illegal bootlegging, has a loyal heart, as he takes the blame for killing Myrtle rather than letting Daisy be punished.
Prices start at $12
Prices start at $11
Prices start at $14
Prices start at $12
Fitzgerald also uses settings to highlight the differences that were present in statuses between people in the 1920’s. By introducing the characters through their possession, the reader can see who is from the upper class and who is not. Tom and Daisy are straight away introduced as wealthy people through their environment. In chapter one, the reader meets them in a house with “French windows”, “wine-coloured rug” and a “frosted wedding cake of a ceiling”. The description of the opulent house suggests immediately to the reader that Tom and Daisy are upper class and rich. In contrast, the description of settings of other characters, such as Wilson shows how different life was for people with different statuses. Wilson who had his own business and lived in the “valley of ashes” couldn’t compete with someone like Tom who was always rich. The description of Wilson’s garage: “unprosperous and bare”, which contains only “the dust-covered of a Ford”, signifies to the reader that he was poor and of a lower status.
This comparison of settings shows the reader how unfair The American Dream was. People who worked hard like Wilson didn’t have a chance to achieve something that Tom always had – money and luxurious life. Fitzgerald uses settings as a way of showing Nick’s unreliable narrative. For example, the description of Gatsby’s party at his house. Nick compares the people present at Gatsby’s party to “moths”. This opulent description shows the reader how obsessive feelings Nick had for “gorgeous” Gatsby. If we compare this narration of Gatsby’s house with other settings he describes, we can see that Nick was a very unreliable narrator. For example, he illustrates Myrtle’s apartment in New York as “small” with “a set of tapestried furniture entirely too large for it”. In conclusion in “The Great Gatsby,” Fitzgerald is trying to show the reader the failure of The American Dream not only through characters and events but also through settings. Settings play an important part in the novel as they present the worlds in which the dream failed. The settings also help to highlight the different aspects of The American Dream and the differences in statuses between people that lived in 1920’s America.