What does the Valley of Ashes symbolize?
2 Answers | Add Yours
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
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.
Join to answer this question
Join a community of thousands of dedicated teachers and students.Join eNotes