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Nick imagines a green, lush, fertile land full of hope and possibilities for the Dutch sailors. The environment in the novel, however, is characterized by the gray Valley of Ashes where the only thing that grows is piles of ashes; This location between the "Eggs" and New York is symbolic of the desolation and sterility of modern life.
No longer does Long Island offer the same hope and freshness it did in earlier times. The lives led by most of the characters as well have been corrupted and wasted just as the land has.
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