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What does the Valley of Ashes symbolize?

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foreigner | Student, Grade 11 | eNotes Newbie

Posted February 25, 2009 at 8:21 PM via web

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What does the Valley of Ashes symbolize?

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jefe64 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Adjunct Educator

Posted February 25, 2009 at 9:20 PM (Answer #1)

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Before considering the figurative meaning of the ash heaps, one must define what they are:  the by-product of the industrial age, specifically the coal ash left from coal-burning factories.  The valley of ashes in 'Gatsby' lies between the affluent refuge of the Eggs (Long Island's Hamptons) and the busy excitement of Manhattan, signifying the human misery--think of the Wilsons--and environmental cost of the machinery that creates fantastic wealth for a few--people like Tom and Daisy--but leaves most choking on ashes.  The valley, therefore, is meant as a sobering foil to the dreamy opulence of the Eggs, but also as an omen for Myrtle and Gatsby--two doomed characters who pay the price for reaching for the dream

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gio41 | Student | eNotes Newbie

Posted June 14, 2012 at 11:57 PM (Answer #2)

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First introduced in Chapter 2, the valley of ashes between West Egg and New York City consists of a long stretch of desolate land created by the dumping of industrial ashes. It represents the moral and social decay that results from the uninhibited pursuit of wealth, as the rich indulge themselves with regard for nothing but their own pleasure. The valley of ashes also symbolizes the plight of the poor, like George Wilson, who live among the dirty ashes and lose their vitality as a result.

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udonbutterfly | TA , College Freshman | Valedictorian

Posted August 15, 2014 at 5:40 AM (Answer #3)

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In my opinion the Valley of Ashes represented where dreams when to die. Especially since it lies between East Egg and West Egg it almost as if this desolate land is just an emotional dump full of people who gave up on life because they failed to achieve higher. These are the people that make people from the East Egg and West Egg rich.

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