East vs. West in The Great Gatsby


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F. Scott Fitzgerald tends to write with a very poetic style in his otherwise prose novels. The Great Gatsby is no exception. In the novel, Fitzgerald takes an obscure and rather insightful look on basic issues of the 1920’s. One of those issues is that of east vs. west. The 1920’s were a time of booming youthful energy in the east and of age-old tradition in the west. Fitzgerald uses a somewhat naturalistic approach when he suggests that people belong to one or the other and cannot function in the wrong one. The character of Daisy Buchanan in the novel The Great Gatsby illustrates the defining differences between the east and the west and the people who belong in each place.
All the main characters of this novel originated in the west and Daisy was no exception. She grew up in the west and spent her entire single life there living in the mansion of her wealthy parents. The west represented everything that was formal and proper. Daisy went to fancy balls in wealthy country clubs and was courted by gentlemen. Everyone in the west got married happily, or at least pretended to, and never had affairs. The west was morality and formality, but more than that, it was perfection. “For Daisy was young and her artificial world was redolent of orchids and pleasant, cheerful snobbery and orchestras which set the rhythm of the year, summing up the sadness and suggestiveness of life in new tunes.” (p. 158) Daisy grew up in a life of too perfect happiness and comfort. Romance also prevailed in the sweetly proper courtship of the west. “There was a ripe mystery about it, a hint of bedrooms upstairs more beautiful and cool than other bedrooms, of gay and radiant activities taking place through its corridors and of romances that were not musty and laid away already in lavender but fresh and breathing and redolent of this year’s shining motor cars and of dances whose flowers were scarcely withered.” (p. 155-156) Daisy represented mysterious love and passion in all her western ideals to all men who happened upon her innocent trap of obsession.
Daisy gave up on her true love for Gatsby in exchange for the new, rich, and exciting Tom Buchanan, who swept down from Chicago to steal Daisy away. They ran off to the east together in search of excitement.

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What they got instead was more than what they bargained for. The east was a place bursting with new life and energy that was not for the faint of heart. The east was crazy, spontaneous, crude, and immoral, a vast contrast to the settled western life both Daisy and Tom came from. It was in the west that Daisy again stumbled on Gatsby, but in this new location, away from the perfect romance of the west, their relationship could not survive. They were awkward at their first meeting in Nick’s house. “For half a minute there wasn’t a sound. Then from the living room I heard a sort of choking murmur and part of a laugh followed by Daisy’s voice on a clear artificial note.” (p. 91) Gatsby, who longed so much to see Daisy once more, even admitted that it wasn’t the same. “’This is a terrible mistake,’ he said, shaking his head from side to side, ‘a terrible, terrible, mistake.’” (p.92) This lustful romance should have been allowed to die then and there, but unfortunately both Daisy and Gatsby were persistently stubborn and pursued their affair. This only led to confusion for Daisy. “’Oh, you want too much!’ she cried to Gatsby, ‘I love you now – isn’t that enough? I can’t help what’s past.’ She began to sob helplessly. ‘I did love [Tom] once – but I loved you too.’” (p. 139-140) When faced with a decision between the two, Daisy was conflicted. The relationship with Gatsby should have been left in the dusty past of the west and never brought into the obscure and blurred morals of the east.
The chaos and destruction of the east and Daisy and Tom’s presence there finally escalated to a murderous and crazed height with the death of both lovers, Myrtle and Gatsby. Tom and Daisy took a deep breath and re-examined their dedication and love for one another. They packed up suddenly and left, perhaps finally realizing that the east was not for them. “But [Daisy] and Tom had gone away early that afternoon, and taken baggage with them.” (p. 172) Fitzgerald leaves no certain destination for Tom and Daisy. It can only be hoped that they finally realized that the west was where they belonged and returned there. It was no surprise that they left because of what Nick observed about their lifestyle. “[They] drifted here and there unrestfully wherever people played polo and were rich together. This was a permanent move, said Daisy over the telephone, but I didn’t believe it – I had no sight into Daisy’s heart but I felt that Tom would drift on forever seeking a little wistfully for the dramatic turbulence of some irrecoverable football game.” (p. 10) Tom and Daisy drifted because they needed to find a place of belonging, where everyone else upheld the same richly snobbish lifestyle. That place could only be found in their return to the prim west.
In the novel The Great Gatsby the character of Daisy showed how different the lifestyles of the east and west were and the tragedies that occurred when they were mixed. The loss of life that occurred as a result of Daisy’s presence in the east should have been avoided. Fitzgerald’s naturalistic intent on this matter is clear. Only in the west could the natural westerners of The Great Gatsby survive and prosper in happiness.


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