New York City is the heart of the action. It is
mentioned often as being the hub of where people
meet, fight, and go for entertainment. This setting is
vital to the plot of the story as it hosts a venue for
many of the influential moments in this novel.
New York City undoubtedly plays a big
role in this story, and its significance is
huge. Many important things happen in
this city. Listed in chronological order,
•Gatsby meets Meyer Wolfshiem in New York
•Nick, Tom, Myrtle, Catherine, and the Mckee
couple have a small party in a NYC apartment.
This is where Tom slaps Myrtle.
•Gatsby drives Nick to New York City for lunch
and reveals much of his past.
•Meyer Wolfsheim, a con-artist, is introduced as
Gatsby‟s partner, which leads one to suspect
Gatsby‟s finances are derived by illegal means.
•Jordan Baker reveals the romantic history of Daisy
and Gatsby to Nick. This is where Gatsby asks Nick
indirectly through Jordan to arrange a meeting for
himself and Daisy. Nick agrees.
•Tom, Daisy, Gatsby, Nick and Jordan go to NYC for
the afternoon. They rent a suite at the Plaza Hotel
which is where Tom confronts Gatsby about his
knowledge of his affair with Daisy.
•Nick and Jordan break up over the phone. Nick is in
his work office in NYC.
•Nick tries to find Gatsby‟s friends for his funeral,
specifically he visits Wolfshiem. He denies the funeral
Through the chapters, it
has been demonstrated
that in New York,
anything can happen,
dreams can come true,
and you can always beat
any social norms that are
stacked against you. The
characters in „The Great
Gatsby‟ have realized
this, so they make use of
NYC, visiting it often for
any important matters
that need to be dealt
•On pg 19, we find out that Tom met his mistress, Myrtle, on a train to
New York City. He also smacks her in the face at a party in NYC on pg
41. On top of this, When Myrtle leaves her husband to visit Tom, NYC
acts as her alibi, although we all know she isn‟t actually going to visit
•On pg 80 we learn more about Daisys past. “There were wild
rumours circulating about her-how her mother had found her packing
her bag one winter night to go to New York and say goodbye to a
soldier who was going overseas.” At this time Jordan and Nick are at
the Plaza Hotel, conveniently located in NYC.
•On the hottest day of summer, Jordan, Nick, Gatsby, Daisy and Tom
decide to go into the city as a means of something to do. This
eventually leads to an intense dispute between Tom and Jay,
ultimately ending all the fantasies Gatsby had about reliving the past
Which encourages this theme statement...
Those who understand the basic lifestyle of New York City are
therefore able to comprehend that in this metropole, you are capable
of accomplishing everything you could ever dream of while also
defeating any social norms, even if the odds are stacked against you.
Basically, the people that are able to embrace the eccentricities and uniqueness
of the city also understand that the dreams and challenges of many others are
what creates that sense of being unordinary. For example, on pg 73, Gatsby and
Nick drive by a limousine that is part of a funeral procession. Inside this
limousine is a white chauffeur driving around three black people. Seeing such
a thing is bizarre and very out of the ordinary, but Nick laughs aloud and
thinks to himself “Anything can happen now that we‟ve slid over this bridge,
anything at all...” Nick understands that perhaps, at some point in time, the
black people had all sorts of odds stacked against their favour, but
nonetheless they are now sitting inside a limousine being chauffeured around
by a white man, likely the same race that stacked those odds into a sky-high
tower. Perhaps all the towers of the very famous skyline of New York City are
reminders of situations where someone has defeated the social norms stacked
This idea is further supported by much of the imagery awarded to the City of New York:
•pg 32 “We drove over Fifth avenue, so warm and soft, almost pastoral, on the summer
Sunday afternoon that I wouldn‟t have been surprised to see a great flock of white sheep
turn the corner.”
pg 38 “The late afternoon sky bloomed in the window for a moment like the blue honey of
•pg 40 “I wanted to get out and walk eastward toward the park through the soft twilight.”
•pg 61 “I began to like New York, the racy, adventurous feel of it at night.” “I liked to pick
out romantic women from the enchanted crowd”
pg 73 “Over the great bridge, with the sunlight through the girders making a constant
flicker upon the moving cars, with the city rising up across the river in white heaps and
sugar lumps all built with a wish out of a non-olfactory money. The city seen from the
Queensboro Bridge is always the city seen for the first time, in its first wild promise of all
the mystery and the beauty in the world.”
The mood of this novel
is heavily influenced
by numerous counts
Depending on the
intended mood, the
imagery that was used
took on a slightly
gloomier feel, as
demonstrated in certain
•pg 40 “Yet high over the city our line of yellow windows must have
contributed to their share of human secrecy to the casual watcher in the
pg 61 “I lunched with them in dark crowded restaurants.” “For some
reason it was the gloomiest event of my day.” “In the metropolitan
twilight I felt a haunting loneliness sometimes.”
pg 62 “When the dark lanes of the Forties were five deep with
throbbing taxi cabs, I felt a sinking in my heart.”
pg 72 “We passed Port Roosevelt, where there was a glimpse of res-
belted ocean-going ships, and sped along a cobbled slum lined with
the dark, undeserted saloons of the faded gilt ninteen hundreds.”
pg 143 “His voice was as remote from Jordan and me as the
foreign clamour on the sidewalk or the tumult of the
elevated overhead. Human sympathy has its limits and we
were content to let all their tragic arguments fade with the
city lights behind.” “We passed over the dark bridge,
driving on towards death through the cooling twilight.”
Motifs are used in ‘The Great Gatsby’ in regards to New
York City in order to highlight certain characteristics
that would further enhance the way Scott Fitzgerald
wanted the reader to think about the extravagant city.
The idea of carelessness is another
recurring motif in New York City.
Examples of such include:
•On pg 63 Jordan is driving with Nick
through the city when she almost
collides with a pedestrian. She is to
blame, as she was being careless, but she
then goes on to state that she hates
•On pg 75, Meyer Wolfshiem explains
how his friend Rosys carelessness ended
up leading to his ultimate demise, being
shot on the streets of New York.
Alcohol is a motif that we see a lot of
throughout this novel, specifically:
•At the small party in NYC in chapter
• When Tom confronts Jay about his
cheating with Daisy in chapter 7, there
is a bottle of whiskey that he had
brought along for the trip.
Ultimately, motifs are used in this story to draw your attention to
specific characteristics of the individuals in ‘The Great Gatsby’.
The constant displays of carelessness also tells
us that some of the characters think they are
better than most people, thanks to their social
standing. They feel that they should be able to
do whatever they please, whenever they please.
The use of motifs in this novel are constantly employed
to add an array of elements to the characters that
Fitzgerald has created.
The references to alcohol demonstrate
that the characters don‟t follow rules
because they think they are above the
law (alcohol was banned due to
prohibition at this time)and are
Scott Fitzgerald uses a delicately balanced combination of significance, imagery
and motif to sculpt his masterpiece of a novel „The Great Gatsby‟. New York
City plays a large part, I believe, done purposely in order to add equal parts of
glamour, mystery and excitement to this timeless novel about the ultimate
perils and successes of an elite group of New York‟s finest.