Instead of being the warm centre of the world, the Middle West now seemed like the ragged edge of the universe — so I decided to go East and learn the bond business.

from F. Scott Fitzgerald – The Great Gatsby (Chapter I) on Rap Genius

Meaning

These lines concisely sum up Nick’s personalized version of the American Dream: in the Midwest, he is far away from the area of America that is going through rapid social and economic development, which was the East, and so he heads out in order to make a name for himself. Like him, many thousands of people left small towns for big cities to see if they could make more money, as money became a sizable factor in measuring success from one generation to the next.

Note the prominent role of the Great War in spurring Nick to go East. By traveling to Europe, Nick came to appreciate that his native region was not very worldly or important, which made him impatient to go East. But remember that the novel will end with Nick going back to his home in Ohio, rejecting the values of the busy and important world he finds in New York.

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