Two prevalent themes portrayed in The Great Gatsby are money and social status, both which coincide with the novel’s four settings: East Egg, West Egg, the Valley of Ashes, and New York. As Natania stated, these different locations are used to “show the absurdities of modern life,” as well as to dictate social class from the upper royal status of the East Egg community to the common folk of New York. Fitzgerald uses these settings and the actions of characters within them to define and set boundaries between financial and social status of the roaring 20’s.
An example of Fitzgerald’s technique lies in the comparison of Myrtle Wilson’s party in her New York apartment to one of Gatsby’s many summer parties in his West Egg mansion. Through descriptions of guests coming and going frequently, and the obnoxious drinking and wild conversation going on at the New York and West Egg parties, the reader can conclude that neither of these locations are above the social standing of an upper class party of East Egg, such as one at Tom and Daisy Buchanan’s without the slight insanity of their dysfunctional family.
However, the differences between Myrtle and Gatsby’s parties are great and relevant to Fitzgerald’s theme. For example, the physical description of guests attending the party in New York gives knowledge to the reader of their lower class standing. Myrtle’s sister arrives with a “sticky bob of red hair” and wild, unnatural eyebrows and makeup, and Mr. McKee with lather showing on his cheekbone. His wife is described as “shrill, languid, handsome, and horrible,” quite the opposite of guests attending Gatsby’s party, and even the host himself.
Fitzgerald describes Gatsby as a very clean cut, proud postured, gentlemanly looking man with hair which looks like it “were trimmed every day,” just as a stereotypical member of the social upper class should appear. Myrtle’s party included obnoxious, almost insane guests who were quick to speak their rude, blunt opinions and provide proof to Jordan Baker’s statement that “at small parties there isn’t any privacy. ” In fact, Tom Buchanan was so uncivilized a guest as to punch Myrtle, his lover and the party’s hostess, and cause a bloody mess.
This scene would never be een at Gatsby’s mansion, for it proved to be a truly sophisticated gathering including a complete orchestra, a mammoth buffet of food including two formal suppers, as well as champagne and many different liquors. All Myrtle had to offer her guests was oversized furniture in a small apartment and bottomless bottles of whiskey, which seemed to fit the guest list’s requests perfectly. Therefore, through descriptive analysis of the characters and locations in The Great Gatsby, Fitzgerald supports his theme of the importance of financial and social status of the roaring 20’s.