“The Great Gatsby” Setting Essay
“The Great Gatsby” Setting
The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald, is a popular novel that has remained one of the best-known literary works to this day. Set in the 1920s, the story is narrated by Nick Caraway, an easy-going bond salesman who lives next door to Jay Gatsby whom the story revolves around. Jay Gatsby is a man with a mysterious past, who lives in New York and is famous for his extravagant parties and fabulous wealth. The story is set during the summer in which Tom Buchannan, his wife, Daisy, Jordan Baker, (all three from West Egg in Long Island where all the “old rich” live) and Nick’s lives intertwine with Gatsby’s into a marvelous story of love, crime and lavish Jazz Age debauchery. In _The Great Gatsby_, the conflict and its resolution, as well as the main character, Mr. Gatsby, are all made possible because of the place and time where the story takes place.
The physical setting of the story has a large effect on the conflict that takes place. The main conflict is Gatsby trying to change himself into what he thinks Daisy wants and the events occurring as he tries to win her back. The different settings are greatly related to the events occurring in the story. As the social setting varies, many other things change like the atmosphere, mood and the themes of the story; examples of this are West Egg, East Egg, the Valley of Ashes, and New York City. For example, East Egg and West Egg are both places in which people of great wealth live but Nick clearly states that East Egg is where the “classier” people live. He says, “Twenty miles from the city a pair of enormous eggs, identical in contour and separated only by a courtesy bay, jut out into the most domesticated body of salt water in the Western hemisphere…
I lived at West Egg, the – well, the less fashionable of the two.” This indicated that even though Gatsby is really wealthy, there still exists a distinction of class between Gatsby and Daisy, which he is never going to be able to ignore. New York City represents the place where the characters go to show their “ugly side.” They keep this side from the people they actually care for. For instance, Tom Buchanan goes to New York City to have an affair and to keep it away from Daisy, who’s left in East Egg, as the following quote explains. “I went up to New York with Tom on the train one afternoon, and when we stopped by the ash heaps he jumped to his feet and, taking hold of my elbow, literally forced me from the car. “We’re getting off,” he insisted. “I want you to meet my girl.””
The social setting of the story affects the resolution as well. The way each character reacts to the events is a reflection of society at the time and is the cause of how the novel resolves. In the end, Gatsby is shot dead by George Wilson, Daisy goes back to Tom and their problems are magically solved, and Nick goes back home. Tom and Daisy fleeing after Gatsby’s death represents how shallow wealthy people were, Nick illustrates this by stating, “They were careless people, Tom and Daisy – they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness, or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made.” This statement seems to be a fairly accurate depiction of what rich people in society represented. The social setting in the story relates to the resolution because in the end it is all about the “fight” between the rich and poor. This is shown when Wilson shoots Gatsby, there is violence and it is not between rich and rich or between poor and poor, it is a conflict between classes.
The main character, Jay Gatsby, is a reflection of the social settings. This is most easily seen in that the story takes place during the prohibition and Gatsby’s wealth comes from bootlegging, or selling ilegal alcohol. His whole path to success has to do with this prohibition period. This fact also affects Gatsby and basically his dream of being with Daisy because his illicit business is one of the factors that drive Daisy away from Gatsby and more into Tom, her safe option and a man who has all his money legitimately. “‘I found out what your ‘drug-stores’ were.’
He turned to us and spoke rapidly. ‘He and this Wolfsheim bought up a lot of side-street drug-stores here and in Chicago and sold grain alcohol over the counter. That’s one of his little stunts. I picked him for a bootlegger the first time I saw him, and I wasn’t far wrong.'” This quote marks when Daisy becomes aware of Gatsby’s business for the first time and from this moment hence things go into a downward spiral for all those involved. Gatsby had to start this business to get money because it was socially unacceptable at this time for Daisy to be with someone of a lower class, this is why all his actions were influenced by society in this time.
The Great Gatsby’s social setting shapes the conflict, resolution, and the main character. The social setting of the 1920s is irreplaceable to the story as it makes the characters act the way they do, the readers feel the way they do and in Gatsby’s case it makes him the _Great_ person he is.