Across the courtesy bay the white palaces of fashionable East Egg glittered along the water, and the history of the summer really begins on the evening I drove over there to have dinner with the Tom Buchanans.

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

Meaning

A Bay of Separation
Gatsby’s home and the community on West Egg is distinguished from the homes in East Egg only in that a small “courtesy” body of water flows in the area between the two. This bay draws a line between two naturally equal land masses. The fact that the East Egg is preferred and more respected than the West Egg comes only from the societal opinion that it is superior.

Likewise, New Wealth differs from Old Wealth only in how long the money has been in the hands of the holders and how they obtained it. East Egg is viewed from the perspective of society as being more “fashionable” and as having “palaces”, while West Egg still has “mansions”, but is “less fashionable.”

In this cartoon, the people entering the party look exactly identical to the type of people inside of bouncer’s line. However, it is what the people say to the bouncer that would allow him to let them into the fun. It is an arbitrary distinction, but nonetheless an accepted and honored one.

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