29th May 2017

Setting

1. List the four main settings in the novel. Provide a description for each setting and explain what each setting represents.


East Egg: Where the old money lives, the upper-class people who have inherited their wealth from the generations before them and therefore have not worked a day in their life. Mansions are isolated from others and very private in the East Egg town, much more spacious and fancy than West Egg.


West Egg: Where the new money lives, the middle-class to upper-class people who have worked their way up the class system to get to their economic standing.


Valley of Ashes: Where the lowest of the classes works in musty ash filled the atmosphere, an emptiness that is the Valley of Ashes in order to grasp on to the hope of achieving the American Dream. The Valley of Ashes is home to George and Myrtle Wilson, key characters in the story who despite Myrtle’s illusion of constantly transforming herself by wearing lavish upper-class dresses are both very poor. Halfway between East and West egg lies the valley needed to travel through when transporting between the two towns, therefore upper-class frequently are passing the poor, dirty peasants looking down upon them with pity.


New York: New York is the middle city in which Tom and Myrtle meet up to share a romantic love affair. Very vibrant and busy in the night with vintage cars rolling the streets and jazz music filling the city air, New York is very alive. New York later becomes a neutral place away from the drama unraveling at East and West Egg when Jordan, Nick, Tom, Gatsby, and Daisy all take refuge inside a hotel room to clear the air between Tom and Gatsby. New York is where Myrtle likes to get away from the poor and miserable Valley of Ashes to go shopping, visit her sister Catherine, and throw parties with her friends, to get away from the shame of being with George.
2. Select two of the settings above and discuss how these settings helped you understand the idea of illusion in this novel. Use quotes to support your idea.
“This is a valley of ashes – a fantastic farm where ashes grow like wheat into ridges and hills and grotesque gardens; where ashes take the forms of houses and chimneys and rising smoke and, finally, with a transcendent effort, of ash-grey men, who move dimly and already crumbling through the powdery air.” The valley of ashes shows illusion because of the fact that “ash grey men” wander the “fantastic farm” already crumbling because they are poor and lower class. houses coated in ash in the novel but the novel creates a fantasy-like wasteland with ridges and hills where ashes take forms of houses. Though they are shown as poor peasants slaving for the rest of their days, they have a far more interesting life than the upper class. Gatsby is shown to be wealthy and popularly known by many with “friends” visiting his rambunctious parties. Though he is shown as this legendary figure at the beginning of the novel, the illusion is uncovered and he is friendless with no family to love and care for him, this can be said about most people of East and West Egg, they’re careless and love of the citizens of the Valley of Ashes. Gatsby’s illusion relates to the valley of ashes because though they do not have Gatsby’s wealth they have something to wake up to every day, passion for a job, family, friends to lean on and hope for the American dream that they strive for. For example Myrtle, who tries desperately to create an illusion that she is part of the upper class by blending into the east egg crowd with her elegant dresses and through being in a relationship with Tom. By trying to escape the lower class status she makes the reader think of how ashaming and terrible living in the Valley of Ashes must be, when in fact she is shown to have several close friends and her sister Catherine to lean on. “Standing behind him, Michaelis saw with a shock that he was looking at the eyes of Doctor T.J Eckleburg, which had just emerged, pale and enormous, from the dissolving night.” This quote shows that Doctor TJ Eckleburg is a god like figure who looked over the valley of ashes because they are far more interesting and need more protection than west or east egg who are wealthy and have the money to thrive in life.
“Across the courtesy bay the white palaces of fashionable East Egg glittered along the water.” East egg shows illusion by showing the luxurious and desirable rich life fashionably glittered along the water, inhabited by “white palaces. White can be seen as being very empty and lifeless as a colour, uncovering the illusion that East Egg is that palaces are white, filled with kings, queens and princesses, all living their unfulfilled life, like the colour white. East egg is presented and described as a paradise that the characters inhibit through their eternal amounts of money, butlers surrounding them whilst awaiting their orders and not having to work a day in their life. They are shown to be the top of the food chain, bathing in their own money thus resulting in eternal happiness. Most people have not worked for their wealth (such as the Buchanans) and therefore haven’t achieved anything in life that the people of west egg and the valley of ashes have to be proud of the life they lived. Even in west egg, most people have achieved wealth illegally (such as Gatsby). After Myrtle’s death, there is a quote that shows just how empty the people of east egg are. “They weren’t happy… and yet they weren’t unhappy either.” The illusion of east egg having the most desirable life is broken because this quote shows that the people of east egg are so wealthy and self-indulgent that they lack any emotion or care for others because they are such empty people, with not many friends because of their money flaunting persona and perfect lives. All east egg characters portray the setting as being filled with very unkind and arrogant characters with little friends apart from their partner because of their arrogance. Another reason that breaks the illusion of east egg is the fact that they are poor on good human values like tolerance, respect and loyalty, as they are frequently showing infidelity by having affairs and being estranged from their lovers. At the beginning of chapter four Nick is noting down on an old timetable of “those who accepted Gatsby’s hospitality and paid him the subtle tribute of knowing nothing whatever about him.” Fitzgerald purposely has Nick list the guests of East and West egg because the guests of Gatsby’s party have their own traits hidden in their obscure surnames, from the leeches who suck , Hornbeams have horns and will stab your back, Voltaire’s are vultures who prey and tear you apart. These names are what the people of east egg comprises of, just savage animals, careless of others.

Join the conversation! 1 Comment

  1. In regards to question 2 (as discussed in class), don’t focus on the specific characters in each of the settings. Instead, think about the characters more as a “type” that inhabit a setting. Talk about them in more general terms.

    Focus on what makes each setting an illusion- the “glittering white palaces” as opposed to the “fantastic farms” and “powdery air”.

    Use evidence and descriptions from the text to show illusion. You do not have enough support from the text.

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