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The Great Gatsby Setting
Transcript of The Great Gatsby Setting
The historical background is set right after WWI, during the Roaring 20's, during the Prohibition Era, when the consumption, production, or selling of alcoholic beverages was outlawed.
The story is set in Long Island, New York in the summer of 1922.
It is divided into the East Egg and the West Egg.
The East Egg is where the old aristocracy lives also known as the "old money".
The West Egg is where the "neauveaux riche" live.
The Valley of Ashes- " a fantastic farm where ashes grow like wheat into ridges and hills and grotesque gardens..." (Chapter 2)
Another contrast that Fitzgerald sets up is the difference between the East Egg and the West Egg.
The East Egg is the wealthier of the two.
Gatsby got bank
But because he lives in the West Egg he is looked down upon in society
City vs. Suburban Settings
Another contrast in the novel is the difference between the City scenes and the Suburban scenes. Only the men travel to the city which represents a gender barrier. Also, Gatsby, Nick, and Tom travel to the city to hide their actions from the suburbanites.
Maxwell E Perkins, 1924, in a letter to Fitzgerald
"...The description of the valley of the Valley of Ashes adjacent to the lovely country, the conversation and the action in Myrtle's apartment, the marvelous catalogue of those who come to Gatsby's house- these are such things that make a man famous. And all these things, the whole patheitc episode , you have given a place in time and space, for with the help of T.J. Eckleberg and by an occasional glance at the sky or sea, or the city, you have imparted a sort of sense of eternity."
Twentieth Century Literary Criticism- TCLC volume 6
Links with Other Novels
The Great Gatsby and the Poisonwood Bible both have an important role in the implication of setting, geographically and socially.
Gatsby- historical significance of post WWI, Prohibiton time period
Poisonwood-historical significance of the Congo in the time that Eisenhower was president
Setting, including historical setting plays a mojor role in the stories' events.
Gatsby is the Horatio Alger hero in his pure vision of the future that involves making alot of money. Gatsby's vision might have been a more plausible version and experience in an earlier simpler America... Yet in another sense, as Nick clearly sees the end of the novel, the dream Gatsby represents is flawed. Always impossible to achieve.
-Twentieth Century Literary Criticism, Vol 1
Setting antagozies major events throughout both novels
Gatsby-Distance between East Egg and West Egg, social differences between both areas
Poisonwood-Cultural differences in Congo, hardships that come with living in an undveloped country
Twentieth Century Literary Criticisms Volumes 1 & 6
The Roaring 20's
In 1919, the passage of the 18th amendment made selling, creating, and moving alcohol illegal in the United States. The amendment was created to lessen crime, instead it only created more. This is when people such as Al Capone appeared. And people created speakeasies.
In 1921 the first Miss America pageant took place with a total of eight contestants in Atlantic City, New Jersey. The winner was a 16 year old girl, Margaret Gorman, from Washington, DC.
In the 1920's "Flappers" came about, this was a term to describe young women who dressed in revealing clothing and had shorter hair styles. Could be also known as cigarette smokers.
Gatsby's House represents the typical start-up house of newly rich people because it is supposed to look as if it was built a long time ago. The fact that the spanking new walls are only very thinly covered with ivy shows the opposite and that Gatsby uses his home to show off. It is a status symbol for him and he wants to improve his prestige with it by pretending that he belongs to the aristocracy
In contrast to Gatsby’s house the Buchanans’ mansion at East Egg represents tradition, with fully ivy covered red and white brick walls and French windows.
Nick's house is a sort of middle-ground between the two. He lives in the West Egg, the "less fashionable of the two," and represents someone who is from a well-established, hard-working family, but without any ideas of overreaching grandeur or societal climbing. His home is described as a, "weather-beaten cardboard bungalow at eighty a month," and from it, he can see Gatsby's overgrown mansion.
Gatsby’s parties are typical for this time period. On his extravagant festivities “charm, notoriety [and] mere good manners weighted more than money as a social asset.” (p.3,3.paragraph). Proofs for this statement can be in all the gossip about Gatsby that is talked by his guests. Interesting at this point is that most of his guests do not even know him and spread rumours about him all the same. That’s how he got his notoriety: “I‘ll bet he killed a man.”(p.39,9). The good manners are reflected by gentlemen who always offer a helpful hand to charming ladies.
-How does the setting affect the overall plot of the book
-Do you think each house represented the characters well? Why or Why not?
-Would the events that occured during the novel be different if the novel were to take place in modern day time?
-How does the geography of the novel dictate its themes and characters?
-Do the settings in the novel, in the 1920’s, reflect current places in today’s society?
It aids the plot because a lot of Gatsby's plan to get Daisy's attention is helped by showing off material possessions like his house, the best dancers, alcohol and spoiling Daisy with gifts. Gatsby uses the attraction of these material things to get Daisy's attention because in the time period it is set in there is a large stress on the importance of material wealth.
Bootlegging is important to the setting because Gatsby always provides the guests of his parties with expensive champagnes and lots of alcohol. This shows that they had an attitude that because they were rich they could get away with it. Also one of various rumours of how Gatsby became so rich is his alleged involvement in the bootlegging ring .
Prohibition compliments the theme of the novel because without the influence of this historic event an important part of the plot that is Gatsby's parties wouldn't have been so special. Parties and alcohol are the main way Gatsby draws in the attention of Daisy and his parties are so popular because of his use of alcohol even during the prohibition.