The Houses of The Great Gatsby: Functional and Symbolic
Present within many novels that deal with class are intricate descriptions of the homes, the grounds, and even the neighborhoods that the characters live in and aspire to live within. While the descriptions are often lyrical their presence is far from superfluous. The estates in such novels nearly always have specific functions that are integral to the narrative and just as often serve a symbolic purpose. The novels we considered this semester are not exempt from this assertion, in fact, one illustrates the principle precisely. The novel that exemplifies the concept is The Great Gatsby. F. Scott Fitzgerald gives us exhaustive ...view middle of the document...
Isn't that just as their home is described? (Even the word home seems too warm a descriptor to use surrounding the Buchanans). A lawn, lush and manicured (especially in the summer), that begins at the beach and is spotted with ornamentation and molded into areas for leisure may have visual appeal but is in no way organic or natural. Their house: Georgian; classical, but the many windows only reflect the golden sunshine of the outdoors. They are not transparent and the implication is that there is nothing behind them of substance to see anyway, if they were. As we come to know, within the Buchanan's house (or within the Buchanans themselves) there is no substantive warmth, love or familial relationships which one might expect to see evidence of upon peering through the windows of a home. In describing their estate, Fitzgerald alerts the reader early on seamlessly, subtly, completely incorporated within the plot and structure, to the true character of the Buchanans. Additionally, the house is a symbol of the Buchanan's social standing. Its location in East Egg (the more fashionable and "old monied" side of the bay) and the fact that even for East Egg it is expansive and impressive speaks to the high social standing Tom and Daisy Buchanan enjoy, regardless of the state of their character.
Of Jay Gatsby's house the most meticulous description is given:
The one on my right was a colossal affair by any standard - it was a factual imitation of some Hotel de Ville in Normandy, with a tower on one side, spanking new under a thin beard of raw ivy, and a marble swimming pool, and more than forty acres of lawn and garden. It was Gatsby's mansion. Or, rather, as I didn't know Mr. Gatsby, it was a mansion inhabited by a gentleman of that name. (5)
Fitzgerald eludes to Gatsby's ostentatiousness in this passage, but more subtly Gatsby's self-constructionism, and his "new money" status are revealed to the reader as well. The fact that the house is a copy of a French hotel speaks to Gatsby selecting and donning scraps of history in an effort to cover his true background while simultaneously constructing his false one. We encounter this again in the following passage:
And inside, as we wandered through Marie Antoinette music-rooms and Restoration salons, I felt that there were guests concealed behind every couch and table, under orders to be breathlessly silent until we had passed through. As Gatsby closed the door of "the Merton College Library." I...