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Describe the valley of ashes from The Great Gatsby.

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smoss123 | eNotes Newbie

Posted September 17, 2013 at 4:40 PM via web

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Describe the valley of ashes from The Great Gatsby.

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amarang9 | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted September 17, 2013 at 6:07 PM (Answer #1)

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In Chapter 1, Fitzgerald (Nick) gives the reader descriptions of Tom's and Daisy's comfortable life together (financially speaking) and the chapter ends with the symbol of hope and promise: the green light at the end of Daisy's dock. Chapter 2 begins in stark contrast to those wealthy and hopeful images with the description of the valley of ashes. This juxtaposition of wealth and wasteland is done on purpose to show how the American Dream is achievable only for some. The valley of ashes is described as a wasteland but in terms of plant life, as if to say the "valley" can grow or recede. The valley is: 

. . . a fantastic farm where ashes grow like wheat into ridges and hills and grotesque gardens; where ashes take the forms of houses and chimneys and rising smoke and, finally, with a transcendent effort, of men who move dimly and already crumbling through the powdery air. 

A billboard shows Doctor T. J. Eckleberg, who watches over the valley of ashes like a forgetful god. This dismal scene represents America's lost opportunities, a scene where most people would rather look away. George Wilson's shop is located here. The shop is "unprosperous and bare" - a failing, desolate business, like the landscape. 

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