“All men are created equal” Was proclaimed within the declaration of independence and is the basis of the so called “american dream”. Fitzgerald critiques the idea of the american dream and it’s unrealistic approach to society of the time. Fitzgerald uses his novel “The Great Gatsby” to portray the failure of the dream through his use of literary devices. One of many of these included the settings which Nick finds himself within the novel. Through this device F. Scott Fitzgerald truly personified the repulsive inequality of New York and its surroundings. I will now talk about 3 different important settings visited during the text.
First of all the home of the newly rich, West egg. Earned money is almost looked down upon in this absurd situation which goes against the whole point of the american dream about equal opportunity. West egg represents a barrier keeping the upper class from the middle class and from the poor. As hard as the people of West egg might try they will never reach the status of East egg due to the people of East egg feeding into the disconnect in status and between the two eggs. Such a disconnect can be proved through the quote: (Chapter 1 Page 9 ”I lived at West Egg, the—well, 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”) This quote shows that no matter the circumstances, those born into nobility are simply more privileged than those who might have once known what it is like to be poor.
On the subject of being poor, this brings me to the next symbolic setting; The valley of ashes. “About half way between West Egg and New York the motor-road hastily joins the railroad and runs beside it for a quarter of a mile, so as to shrink away from a certain desolate area of land”. I believe F. Scott Fitzgerald uses the introduction of this depressing setting at the outset of chapter as a reality check of the fact that only a minority are truly living the american dream and behind is the blood and sweat of many workers. The valley is a prison, figuratively, where the lower class of New York state will remain forever trapped in a vicious financial cycle with no option to rise above or make any impact. The power manufactured from these coal burning factories only profit a minority.
For Nick, New York city is place of opportunity for Nick where he believes he can try his luck at making a fortune i the bonds business. For Tom, New York is an escape from the monotony of his life. Here Tom can be with his mistress Myrtle as well as being a place in which he can be uncaring and delinquent. Both of these qualities are that of the american dream. For Fitzgerald NYC is where people go to feed into their illusion of the american dream. When F. Scott fitzgerald talks of New York he talks with experience. After one of the legendary, Gatsby-like parties he attended Fitzgerald wrote.“I remember riding in a taxi one afternoon between very tall buildings under a mauve and rosy sky, I began to bawl because I had everything I wanted and knew I would never be so happy again.”
Although the city is crawling with people it is still a somewhat lonely place to some, as Nick reflects by looking out the window of the apartment during chapter 2. New York crowded loneliness is similar in many ways to gatsby’s parties as he hosts enormous parties and he seems eager to hang out with Nick.
In conclusion, all three of these settings each symbolize a different aspect of the american dream to show the lack of equality and injustices of society. Fitzgerald did a great job of using figurative language to represent the falsity of the american dream.