East Egg is located in Long Island, New York and is across the bay from West Egg. The only distinguishable difference between each peninsula is that East Egg is home to the “old money” upperclassmen and West Egg is for the “new money” upperclassmen. “Across the courtesy bay the white palaces of fashionable East Egg glittered along the water.” Living in East Egg is a way of the old money families making sure that they are always considered to be the very best, which is another reason why Gatsby was so desperate to be with Daisy, so he could be part of her “secret society”.
West Egg is also located in Long Island, New York across the bay from East Egg. Both Nick and Gatsby live in the “new money” with all other upperclassmen who have made their own money and are living the “American Dream.” The people there have clawed their way through the social ladder, not caring who got clawed in the process and came out on top of the dog pile. After all their hard work, the people of West Egg just want to relax and party, relishing in their new found freedom. However, for Gatsby, that’s not enough, for he knows the truth. It’s not just water separating East and West Egg, its class.
The Valley of Ashes is located between West Egg, East Egg and New York which forces the characters to drive through “a fantastic farm where ashes grow like wheat into ridges and hills and grotesque gardens; where ashes take the forms of houses and chimneys and rising smoke…” The Valley of Ashes is a direct comparison to West Egg, which can be considered the success of the “American Dream” as the Valley of Ashes showcases the truth of society. People work all day, every single day of the year and never do they get rewarded for it. “…ash-grey men, who move dimly and already crumbling through the powdery air.” For them, life is already over they will never be able to climb there way from the bottom of the dog pile others call social classes to the top.
New York is an escape for the characters, it is a place for secret affairs and illegal businesses. Each character uses New York for a different reason, for Tom, New York is a place for him to spend time with Myrtle in their apartment. The apartment gives off the illusion that Tom and Myrtle could be happy, that what they are doing isn’t wrong. Gatsby uses New York as a cover for his illegal businesses that he exploited to rise through the social classes. For Nick, New York is a place where he doesn’t have to keep secrets, in New York Nick can be free.
“Across the courtesy bay, the white palaces of fashionable East Egg glittered along the water.” East Egg gives off the facade of being the perfect place to live with its enormous mansions oozing class and sophistication but behind the manicured hedges and trimmed lawns, white palaces stand bland and lifeless. East Egg is an illusion because it is perceived to be an extravagant place where the wealthy live luxurious lives, but behind their money, there are people who are unhappy and empty. They have nothing to really live for, they have boring lives that hold no meaning.
The Valley of Ashes helps the reader understand illusion in the novel, as it provides the honest situation of most people’s lives in New York. It shows how the “American Dream” failed the real people, “The American Dream is that dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement.” This is not true, the only ones who received opportunities are those that lied and tricked their way through the social classes into West Egg, those who work hard received nothing for their sacrifices.