The Roaring Twenties Unveiled: The Settings of ‘The Great Gatsby’

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F. Scott Fitzgerald’s magnum opus, “The Great Gatsby,” is often lauded for its intricate characterizations and incisive critique of the American Dream. However, the novel’s settings — from the bustling streets of New York to the contrasting neighborhoods of West Egg and East Egg — play an equally pivotal role in painting a vivid picture of the Roaring Twenties. The backdrop against which the story unfolds isn’t merely passive; it actively contributes to the narrative, offering readers insights into the societal dichotomies and the overarching decadence of the era.

West Egg – The New Rich

Home to Jay Gatsby’s grandiose mansion, West Egg symbolizes the nouveau riche, those who have recently acquired their wealth and are yet to be accepted by old-money families. The extravagant parties thrown by Gatsby, filled with jazz, dance, and free-flowing alcohol, exemplify the ostentatious nature of the new rich and their relentless pursuit of recognition.

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In contrast, East Egg, where Daisy Buchanan and Tom Buchanan reside, epitomizes the old-money aristocracy. The residents here are refined, sophisticated, and look down upon the ostentation of West Egg. Fitzgerald’s delineation of East Egg underscores the shallowness and moral decay beneath the polished exterior of the American elite.

The Valley of Ashes – Desolation and Disillusionment. Situated between the city and the Eggs, the Valley of Ashes stands as a stark embodiment of decay and desolation. Representing the moral and social decay of the society chasing after the elusive American Dream, it is also home to characters like George and Myrtle Wilson, symbolizing the many who are left behind, trampled by the heedless pursuit of wealth and pleasure.

New York City – The Playground of Temptation. The bustling metropolis is the arena for many of the novel’s significant events, from Tom’s affair with Myrtle to Gatsby’s confrontations. It stands as a place of anonymity, a playground where societal norms are challenged and where characters indulge their hedonistic desires, far from the prying eyes of their communities.

Gatsby’s Mansion – Monument to Unfulfilled Love

Beyond its representation of wealth, Gatsby’s mansion is a monument built for Daisy, a symbol of his undying love and the lengths he’s willing to go to win her back. Every detail, from its location to its opulence, is designed to attract her attention, underscoring Gatsby’s fixation and the hollowness of his aspirations.


In “The Great Gatsby,” settings are more than mere backdrops; they’re instrumental in conveying the complexities of the Jazz Age. From the contrasting Eggs to the wasteland of the Valley of Ashes and the frenzied streets of New York, Fitzgerald uses these locales to delve deep into the disparities of class, the superficiality of newfound wealth, and the unyielding grip of past loves. The settings, in all their glory and decay, encapsulate the tumultuous spirit of the 1920s, adding layers of meaning to a narrative that dissects the very heart of the American Dream.


  1. Fitzgerald, F. Scott. “The Great Gatsby.” Scribner, 1925.
  2. Bruccoli, Matthew J. “F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby: A Literary Reference.” Carroll & Graf, 2000.
  3. Prigozy, Ruth, ed. “The Cambridge Companion to F. Scott Fitzgerald.” Cambridge University Press, 2002.

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The Roaring Twenties Unveiled: The Settings of ‘The Great Gatsby’. (2023, Aug 09). Retrieved from

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