Compare the use of location and the environment in The Great Gatsby and The Go-Between
F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby and L.P. Hartley’s The Go-Between are two novels set in very different places in the world, but both show how love between different classes is doomed to failure. The environment is used to depict the lives of the people around it, such as the opulence and decadence in East Egg, and a dull, lifeless place in the valley of ashes. Both Fitzgerald and Hartley use the environment and location to show how the class system and the American dream have failed. Despite, 1920’s America being seen as free, it is also seen as being morally corrupt, with parties celebrating sumptuousness. A key idea of The Great Gatsby is how despite the wonderful settings Gatsby and Myrtle (sometimes) live in; they are still no way near achieving the dream life the Buchanans have.
Fitzgerald opens The Great Gatsby with his overriding point about the failure of the American dream. This is symbolized with the stark contrast between East and West Egg; East Egg represents aristocracy, and leisure with the old money, while West Egg represents ostentation, garishness, and the flashy manners of the new money. Although separated by a small expanse of water, East Egg is the glitzier one with “white palaces”, whilst Nick’s own house in West Egg is described as a “small eyesore”. The ironic description of “white palaces” is particularly important throughout the novel because the inhabitants of East Egg are anything but pure and innocent, highlighted by the Bucahnan’s and Jordan. The difference between the fictitious places in New York and real locations is also partly interesting as in the ordinary world the east end is usually the poorer side, which suggests that Fitzgerald believes that it makes no difference either way.
The Maudsley residence “Brandham Hall” in The Go-Between is depicted as the upper-middle class “Georgian mansion”, however the architectural style is described as “over-plain”. This is a criticism, by Hartley of the Maudsley’s lifestyle having little substance, much like the Buchanan’s and the manner in which their life is conducted. “Court Place”, the home of Leo’s is described as “ordinary”, with Marcus rather snobbishly presumes this to show grandeur, a further indication that the Maudsley’s are not a family to look up to. Leo’s home is much the same to him as Nick’s “small eyesore” is to him, loved by the inhabitant.
The Valley of Ashes in The Great Gatsby is depicted as a soulless, “desolate” piece of land. Fitzgerald uses juxtaposition for irony, to depict the area as “ a fantastic farm, where ashes grow like wheat.” This emphasizes Fitzgerald’s point that the area is dead and will always be dead, as the crop that grows is already burnt out and worthless. The “ashes” are a metaphor for the people who live in the valley of ashes, as they have no hope of becoming anything, despite the hope of the American dream. ”The eyes of Doctor T.J. Eckleburg” are the most haunting and resilient symbol in the novel, symbolizing the hopelessness in the novel for all the characters. Wilson’s perspective that the eyes are those of an omniscient God, could suggest that the billboard is a parody of God, as the people are still struggling to live. The colour of “Doctor T.J. Eckleburg’s” eyes are particularly poignant, with the combination of the “blue and gigantic” eyes with “enormous yellow spectacles”, with the blue highlighting the sadness of the residents and the yellow almost mocking them, showing the bright, vibrant life the upper classes have. The billboard symbolizes the fallible American dream, in that it is old and decaying and the Valley is almost forgotten by the entrepreneurs. The American dream is about discovery, individualism and the pursuit of happiness. The Great Gatsby shows that in the 1920’s the ‘old money’ and relaxed social values have corrupted the dream, especially on the east coast,...
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