The “West Egg” Debate: Great Neck’s famed correlation to F. Scott’s Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby

Authored by Brittany E. Partinico

Following F. Scott Fitzgerald’s two-year residency in Great Neck, Long island, this 1926 news article from “The Great Neck News” editorial references to the highly debated discussion as to which part of the North or South shore of Long Island, New York was loosely based on and inspired F. Scott Fitzgerald’s depiction of the infamous “West Egg”. This part of New York known as “West Egg” was mentioned in his famous modernist novel “The Great Gatsby,” which was released in 1925.

On March 13, 1926, the “Great Neck News” editorial first addressed the allegations present in Owen Davis’s playwright depiction of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby,” where critics surmised that the peninsula of Great Neck was loosely based on his fictionalized “West Egg” (Lanigan 1926, 18). Fitzgerald’s literary masterpiece, not only sparked enlightenment in American culture and addressed the “American Dream” regarding cumulative wealth, but also sparked a debate amongst New Yorkers and Long Islanders as to whom was synonymously represented as the infamous “gaudy, West Egg” (Pumphrey 2011, 115-119). The presumptions of critics did not sit well with Great Neck residents, with feelings that the correlation to the novel would evoke preconceptions and undesirable impressions of Great Neck. Great Neck residents felt the “unfair” symposium by critics was presumptuous based on the lack of factual evidence present in the novel as well as the bias being reflected merely on Fitzgerald’s short-lived residency in Great Neck (Lanigan 1926, 18).

As stated by Gabrielle Lipton (2013), “the difference is at a societal level. Great Neck has a greater number of ethnicities and newly built homes. Manhasset is only slightly wealthier, but it is much more traditional in the privatized way that often accompanies circles with longstanding histories and inheritances,” thus addressing the harmful reputation placed upon the community solely on presumptions and theory of obtainable wealth (Lipton 2013, 3). The debate between the fictional locations of the “East Egg” and the “West Egg” in retrospect to their real-life counterparts, brings up not only issues in regard to social hierarchy of wealth and consumerism, but also the social injustice, misconceptions, and harm to community perspective these allegations can present. A statement referenced in the book by Daisy’s perspective of “West Egg” as “the too obtrusive fate that herded its inhabitants along a shortcut from nothing to nothing,” also alludes to this negative perception of the environment associated with the community (Hitchens 2008, 4).

This feeling of misrepresentation of Great Neck in correlation with the infamous “West Egg” is still an issue in modern judgments, as stated in the article by Dr. Tom Ferraro (2016) “There is nothing new money about the place. All the streets have old shaded oak and sycamore trees that provide a glorious and safe feeling.…I just hope that all the lucky and proud residents of Great Neck realize that they are living the American Dream each and every day,” which relates to the Vincentian perspective of truth (2-3).

By reflecting on the statement by Dr. Tom Ferraro (2016) in regards to our missions goal to “preserve and enhance an atmosphere in which scholarly research, imaginative methodology, global awareness, and an enthusiastic quest for truth,” the main concept is to present accurate cultural heritage representations in institutions to reflect these societal improprieties (St. John’s University 2015, para. 1). Society must negate from deciding fact based on fictional theory to “develop the ethical and aesthetic values to imagine and help realize what might be,” by conceptually creating an atmosphere in which we devote our abilities and resources to prevalent societal injustices by embodying the spirit of compassionate concern for our communities (St. John’s University 2015, para. 1).

References

Lanigan, Hal W. 1926. “West Egg Not Us.” The Great Neck News Editorial, no. 2(1):1-18, March 13,1926.

Pumphrey, Kimberly. 2011. “God Bless America, Land of The Consumer: Fitzgerald’s Critique of the American Dream.” Undergraduate Review, no. 7(22): 115-120. https://vc.bridgew.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1197&context=undergrad_rev

Rumsey, Spencer. 2013. “From Great Neck to Great Gatsby: F. Scott Fitzgerald’s LI. Journey.” Long Island Press (blog), June 5, 2013. https://www.longislandpress.com/2013/06/05/from-great-neck-to-great-gatsby-f-scott-fitzgeralds-l-i-journey/.

Lipton, Gabrielle. 2013. “Where Is Jay Gatsby’s Mansion?” The Slate Group, May 6, 2013. http://www.slate.com/articles/arts/culturebox/2013/05/where_is_the_real_jay_gatsby_mansion_from_f_scott_fitzgerald_s_the_great.html.

Hitchens, Christopher. 2008. “The Road to West Egg.” Vanity Fair, July 7, 2008. https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2000/05/hitchens200005.

Ferraro, Tom. 2016. “Our Town: Great Neck Embodies American Dream.” The Island Now (blog), December 31, 2016. https://theislandnow.com/uncategorized/our-town-great-neck-embodies-american-dream/.

St. John’s University. 2015. “Our Mission.” Last modified 2020. https://www.stjohns.edu/about/history-and-facts/our-mission.

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