The Great Gatsby


F. Scott Fitzgerald

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East and West Symbol Icon
Nick describes the novel as a book about Westerners, a "story of the West." Tom, Daisy, Jordan, Gatsby, and Nick all hail from places other than the East. The romanticized American idea of going West to seek and make one's fortune on the frontier turned on its ear in the 1920's stock boom; now those seeking their fortune headed back East to cash in. But while Gatsby suggests there was a kind of honor in the hard work of making a fortune and building a life on the frontier, the quest for money in the East is nothing more than that: a hollow quest for money. The split between the eastern and western regions of the United States is mirrored in Gatsby by the divide between East Egg and West Egg: once again the West is the frontier of people making their fortunes, but these "Westerners" are as hollow and corrupt inside as the "Easterners."

East and West Quotes in The Great Gatsby

The The Great Gatsby quotes below all refer to the symbol of East and West. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
The Roaring Twenties Theme Icon
Chapter 1 Quotes
My family have been prominent, well-to-do people in this middle-western city for three generations. The Carraways are something of a clan and we have a tradition that we’re descended from the Dukes of Buccleuch, but the actual founder of my line was my grandfather’s brother who came here in fifty-one, sent a substitute to the Civil War and started the wholesale hardware business that my father carries on today. […] Instead of being the warm center of the world the middle-west now seemed like the ragged edge of the universe—so I decided to go east and learn the bond business.
Related Characters: Nick Carraway (speaker)
Related Symbols: East and West
Page Number: 3
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 5 Quotes
“If it wasn’t for the mist we could see your home across the bay,” said Gatsby. “You always have a green light that burns all night at the end of your dock.”

Daisy put her arm through his abruptly but he seemed absorbed in what he had just said. Possibly it had occurred to him that the colossal significance of that light had now vanished forever. Compared to the great distance that had separated him from Daisy it had seemed very near to her, almost touching her. It had seemed as close as a star to the moon. Now it was again a green light on a dock. His count of enchanted objects had diminished by one.
Related Characters: Jay Gatsby (speaker), Nick Carraway (speaker), Daisy Buchanan
Related Symbols: The Green Light and the Color Green, East and West, Gatsby's Mansion
Page Number: 93
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 9 Quotes
That's my Middle West . . . the street lamps and sleigh bells in the frosty dark. . . . I see now that this has been a story of the West, after all—Tom and Gatsby, Daisy and Jordan and I, were all Westerners, and perhaps we possessed some deficiency in common which made us subtly unadaptable to Eastern life.
Related Characters: Nick Carraway (speaker), Jay Gatsby, Daisy Buchanan, Tom Buchanan, Jordan Baker
Related Symbols: East and West
Related Literary Devices:
Page Number: 176
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire The Great Gatsby LitChart as a printable PDF.
The Great Gatsby PDF

East and West Symbol Timeline in The Great Gatsby

The timeline below shows where the symbol East and West appears in The Great Gatsby. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1
The Roaring Twenties Theme Icon
Class (Old Money, New Money, No Money) Theme Icon
...service in World War I, an experience that left him feeling restless in the dull Midwest. (full context)
Chapter 4
The American Dream Theme Icon
Class (Old Money, New Money, No Money) Theme Icon
Past and Future Theme Icon
...Nick about his past. Gatsby claims to be the son of wealthy parents from the "Midwest" town of San Francisco, to have graduated from Oxford, been a noted jewel collector in... (full context)
Chapter 7
The American Dream Theme Icon to resell it. He says he's trying to raise money to finance the move west that he has planned for him and his wife Myrtle. Tom is startled at the... (full context)
The American Dream Theme Icon
...heard Myrtle struggling upstairs. Wilson told him he had locked her up until they moved west the following day. (full context)
Chapter 9
The American Dream Theme Icon
Nick now describes The Great Gatsby as a story of the West since many of the key characters (Daisy, Tom, Nick, Jordan, Gatsby) involved were not from... (full context)