Jay Gatsby's House in the Great Gatsby

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  • 0:00 The American Dream
  • 0:59 Gatsby's House
  • 2:00 West Egg and East Egg
  • 3:01 Old Money and New Money
  • 3:56 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: David Boyles

David has a Master's in English literature and is completing a Ph.D. He has taught college English for 6 years.

F. Scott Fitzgerald's 'The Great Gatsby' is a book largely about America's obsession with wealth and money, and objects play an important symbolic and narrative role. Gatsby's giant house represents Gatsby's striving for acceptance and failing to ever fully receive it.

The American Dream

F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby is often included alongside books such as Mark Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath as exemplars of the great American novel. Not only are they brilliantly written, but they also examine core aspects of what it is to be an American. The Great Gatsby in particular is a book about the American Dream, the idea that anyone in America can succeed through hard work and determination. Unlike established European societies, one's position in society is not determined by birth.

The book tells the story of Jay Gatsby, the mysterious millionaire who owns a giant estate next door to the book's narrator, Nick Carraway. Over the course of a summer, Nick befriends Gatsby and helps him pursue the beautiful Daisy, Gatsby's now-married lost love. Gradually, Nick learns that Gatsby was born poor and made his fortune through illegal means. Despite his wealth, Gatsby's failure to fit into proper society due to his background is one of the causes of his downfall.

Gatsby's House

Because The Great Gatsby is a book about wealth, money, and one's position in society, consumer objects play a big role in the story. Characters' choices of clothes, cars, and homes say a lot about them and serve as symbols, or objects in a story that represent a larger idea or theme. One of the central symbolic objects is Gatsby's house. In fact, Fitzgerald scholar Matthew Bruccoli noted that 'house' is the most frequently used word in the book, appearing 95 times.

In the first chapter, Gatsby's house is memorably described by Nick, who lives in a much smaller house next door: 'The one on my right was a colossal affair by any standard--it was a factual imitation of some Hotel de Ville in Normandy, with a tower on one side, spanking new under a thin beard of raw ivy, and a marble swimming pool and more than forty acres of lawn and garden.' Gatsby's house is notorious for its lavish and raucous parties: 'There was music from my neighbor's house through the summer nights. In his blue garden men and girls came and went like moths among the whisperings and the champagne and the stars.'

West Egg and East Egg

Gatsby's house is symbolically important for its location. A large part of the book takes place on the twin peninsulas of West Egg, where Gatsby and Nick live, and East Egg, where Tom and Daisy Buchanan live. Though Fitzgerald gives them fictional names, they are based on real locations, the peninsulas of Cow Neck and Great Neck on Long Island, approximately 30 miles from New York City. Nick describes West Egg as 'the less fashionable of the two, though this is a most superficial tag to express the bizarre and not a little sinister contrast between them.'

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