New York/Long Island

Photo of New York City circa 1920's

In the novel, New York represents a more vibrant, modern lifestyle. With a more shifting and varied population, moral values are much more lax than in the Midwest. In the 1920s it was the centre of the film industry which was associated with an 'anything goes' lifestyle.

At first, Nick Carraway embraces the freedom that life in New York seems to offer, but he later rejects it. In the final chapter he admits that '"even when the East excited me most... even then it had always for me a quality of distortion."

He describes a scene from one of his "fantastic dreams" in which four well-dressed men are carrying a stretcher on which lies a drunken woman in a white evening dress whose hand "sparkles cold with jewels". They take her to "the wrong house. But no one knows the woman's name and no one cares." This vision sums up the basic heartlessness of New York society in which Nick has detected a moral vacuum. This is the society which attends Gatsby's parties, but ignores his funeral.

quote
no one knows the woman's name and no one cares