East and West have always been viewed in juxtaposition to each other whether it be in literature or throughout history. F. Scott Fitzgerald uses this motif in his novel The Great Gatsby to add to the symbolism and depth of the characters. East and West Egg are what separate Gatsby from his dream of being with Daisy.
The West Eggers are the ”new money” who have gained outrageous amounts of wealth and spend it in an outrageous manner. West Egg citizens are widely viewed as the young and immature lower class people living in a barbaric frontier. A prime example of the stereotypical West Egg immaturity is Dan Cody, the wealthy old man that turns James Gatz into Jay Gatsby. Cody owned a yacht, upon which he took young Jay sailing for five years and, inevitably, died after bunking with a strange news woman. “He knew women early and since they spoiled him he became contemptuous of them, of young virgins because they were ignorant, of the others because they were hysterical about things which in his overwhelming self-absorption he took for granted.” Cody, like many other West Eggers, was wrapped up in the idea of himself and became preoccupied by money and lavish living. Although they may seem content in their opulent life, the West Eggers’ emotional spectrum is constantly fluctuating. Both Gatsby and Cody were haunted by their lifestyle choices which ultimately led to their demise. Fitzgerald emphasizes this characteristic in Cody saying “…his heart was in a constant, turbulent riot. The most grotesque and fantastic conceits haunted him in his bed at night…for a while these reveries provided an outlet for his imagination.” Fitzgerald is saying that Cody’s fantasies are what fueled him, both negatively and positively, proving a hint of unreality in reality. His greed led him on money missions in search of his future glory. He had the ambition to make himself a millionaire yet he was “on the verge of soft mindedness.” Everything he did was to ensure “… that the rock of the world was founded securely on a fairy’s wing.” The West Eggers are compared to Dutch sailors at the end of the novel. They were both searching for “…a fresh, green breast of the new world,” hoping to create a new beginning for themselves.
“Old money” lives in East Egg. Their wealth has been inherited in some way and has been in their family for generations. East Egg resents West Egg for their behavior yet a profound lack of moral responsibility is present in the East. “Old money” believes that “new money” will cause the downfall of the aristocratic society. Nick begins to recap hs summer with imagery of “…the white palaces of fashionable East Egg glittering along the water.” The East is very materialistic and people are willing to go to great lengths to attain things that show off their affluence. For instance, all of Gatsby’s shirts are imported from London. Though he is not truly from the East, he strives to be, thus he has a very self-centered, shallow morality. He uses the expensive shirts to woo Daisy who is very obviously from the East. Those with “old money” are very set in their self-appointed prestige. They believe that they are better than “new money” and resent anyone who believes otherwise. Tom and Nick have a conversation and Nick tells Tom to stay in the East to be updated on his bond business. Tom replies as if he were alert for something more. “Oh, I’ll stay in the East, don’t you worry…I’d be a God Damned fool to live anywhere else.” This represents how superior East Eggers find themselves to be compared to everyone else. When Gatsby dies, Nick comes to realize that they were both just Westerners after all and could not adapt to the Eastern way of life.
Gatsby’s aspirations were formed based on the symbolism of East and West Egg. He wanted nothing more than to become part of Daisy’s East egg life, to live among the reputable and truly become the great Gatsby. His overwhelming pursuit of wealth corrupted his American dream and, iminently, led to his demise. His quest for such an intangible paradise was his way of becoming great but of course he could not obtain it. “He had come a long way to this blue lawn and his dream must have seemed so close that he could hardly fail to grasp it. He did not know that it was already behind him.”