West Egg in The Great Gatsby

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  • 0:03 ''The Great Gatsby''
  • 0:52 Synopsis
  • 2:35 West Egg
  • 4:07 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Dana Dance-Schissel

Dana teaches social sciences at the college level and English and psychology at the high school level. She has master's degrees in applied, clinical and community psychology.

The West Egg is one of the main locations found in 'The Great Gatsby,' a novel that examines the societal shifts that took place in 1920s America. In this lesson, you'll explore one of the characters who lives in the West Egg, as well as the location as a symbol for class and wealth.

The Great Gatsby

Many of us are familiar with the phrase 'location is everything.' Usually, it refers to the notion that identical houses in two different neighborhoods may not have identical values. For example, the one located in the more desirable spot may be more valuable. So, what makes one neighborhood better than another?

Think about your own city or town. Is there a wealthy area? How about a poor area? Do the residents have different political or religious views from those in a neighboring city or town; are they considered 'better' than their neighbors?

These are some of the questions raised in The Great Gatsby, by the American author F. Scott Fitzgerald. Although a work of fiction, its respective East Egg and West Egg locations are based on real-life peninsulas and towns on the North Shore of Long Island in New York State.

Synopsis

The Great Gatsby follows the lives of several characters on Long Island during the summer of 1922. The author uses the events depicted in the book to make a statement about the shifting moral attitudes that characterized 1920s America, a period often referred to as the Roaring 20s because of its dramatic cultural, economic, and political developments.

Jay Gatsby, the main character in the novel, is a man of great wealth who lives in a mansion in West Egg. His nemesis, Tom Buchanan, also a man of great wealth, lives in on an East Egg estate with his wife, Daisy, with whom Gatsby had once been involved and whom he hopes to win back. Tom Buchanan comes from a historically rich family, while Jay Gatsby comes from a very poor family. Tom Buchanan represents high society and class, while Jay Gatsby, a former bootlegger, creates the illusion of social standing, despite the fact that his wealth now rivals that of his nemesis.

These cosmetic differences have absolutely nothing to do with Gatsby's or Buchanan's moral character and everything to do with social class. For example, Tom Buchanan is a rather ruthless, immoral, and greedy man, while Gatsby is loyal, kind hearted, and tender. As such, the two men represent the harsh socioeconomic hierarchy that existed in America during the period. The differences between them play out as Daisy, whose heart belongs to Gatsby, sacrifices true love for the wealth and social standing that life as Tom Buchanan's wife provides.

In The Great Gatsby, Tom Buchanan's old money endowed him with a good name and status with which Jay Gatsby and his new money could not compete. Let's take a closer at the West Egg as a symbol of these divisions.

West Egg

East Egg, the Buchanan's home, is the land of the rich and famous; only the best of the best people live in East Egg. Sprawling lawns and magnificent estates sparkle and shine under the care of maids and butlers, while the extremely wealthy and important owners relax in style.

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