Corruption of Wealth and Society through Geography in The Great Gatsby Essay

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Throughout The Great Gatsby, various locations are introduced that correlate to specific types of inhabitants. The geography of the novel is primarily comprised of four scenes: East Egg, West Egg, the valley of the ashes, and New York City. Although all of the localities are situated in the East, Nick muses at the end of the novel that the story is, in actuality, “of the West” (Fitzgerald 176). This discovery insinuates that the materialisms of the East besmirched the characters of the West, symbolizing the deteriorating effects the quest for riches has on traditional values. Employing the four major settings, Fitzgerald is able to translate the moral and social corruption of society which dramatically contrasts with the conventional ethics of the West. F. Scott Fitzgerald utilizes setting and its inhabitants in order to represent the theme of artificiality as well as the corrupt nature of the materialistic pursuit of wealth.
In the beginning of the novel, Nick establishes residence in one “of the two formations of land” which “extends itself due east of New York” (4). These land configurations resemble “a pair of enormous eggs” and are consequently referred to as East Egg and West Egg (4). Each society is characterized by the distinct origins of the wealth of their inhabitants. East Egg is based on familial wealth, and therefore values a prestigious family name. Despite being “fashionable” and glitzy, East Egg becomes notorious for harboring bullies as represented by Tom and Daisy Buchanan (5). Physically, Tom is “enormous” and powerful, which translates into his internal psyche (7). He is portrayed as cruel and unthinking throughout the novel, later causing murder by blaming Myrtle’s death on Gatsby, thereby compelling Wilson...

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... inhabitants to symbolize the corrupt nature of the pursuit of wealth as well as artificiality. Both West and East Egg hide their flaws beneath glamour and extravagance, connected in their artificiality despite distinct differences in the origins of their money. The valley of the ashes is a symbol of the corrupt nature of wealth and its accumulation, relentlessly under the watchful eyes of Dr. T.J. Eckleburg, or God himself. New York City veils its corruption and shady criminals under an atmosphere of chaos and restiveness, artificially hiding the moral decomposition at its core. All in all, the geography of The Great Gatsby significantly illustrates the decay of America’s central values; symbolizing that the American dream is more than the accumulation of wealth and prestige.

Works Cited

Fitzgerald, F. Scott. The Great Gatsby. New York: Scribner, 2004. Print.

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