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What is the symbolic meaning of  "The Valley of Ashes" in The Great Gatsby mean ?...

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andrea2012 | Student, Grade 11 | eNotes Newbie

Posted August 19, 2010 at 9:11 AM via web

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What is the symbolic meaning of  "The Valley of Ashes" in The Great Gatsby mean ? (as a symbol)

F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby

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Lori Steinbach | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted August 19, 2010 at 10:25 AM (Answer #1)

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The ash heaps in The Great Gatsby is a place which is a marked contrast to the world of the ultra rich as represented by East and West Egg.  It runs parallel to the railroad tracks; at some point, even the tracks veer away from the depressing place.  This is the location of George and Myrtle Wilson's Garage, and it's a place as gray and lifeless as the name "ash heaps" implies.  Conventional wisdom says the rich people who have everything are the "good" people--moral, upstanding, classy--and the poor people are "bad"--cheating, lying, low-class.  As you've probably already discovered in your reading, though, those lines are effectively blurred in this novel.  The point here is that place--neither the ash heaps nor the Eggs--has a monopoly on class and morality and good behavior.  The ash heaps are a symbolic juxtaposition (contrast) to the opulence and wealth of Gatsby's world.

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted August 19, 2010 at 1:32 PM (Answer #2)

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As a symbol, the Valley of Ashes in The Great Gatsby represents the corruption of the Jazz Age with its lack of morality and hollowness that results from the relentless pursuit of money.  This valley symbolizes the moral decay of the newly rich who indulge themselves, disregarding all others and anything that interferes in their pleasure.

The Valley of Ashes also represents the poor, who must "live lives of quiet desperation" outside the pleasure and brightness of life.  George Wilson represents such a person, faded and faint, he has lost all vitality from living in this moral wasteland.  Fitzgerald describes him as "a spiritless man" who has "white ashen dust" that veils his dark suit; however, his wife Myrtle is enlivened when she dons a new suit or dress .

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kekoa1013 | Student, Grade 11 | eNotes Newbie

Posted February 28, 2013 at 7:27 AM (Answer #4)

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Well the 'Valley of Ashes', the name pretty much says it all. It's symbolic meaning is akin to burning a piece of paper or a body that is cramated. What once was whole and alive is now dead and lifeless. The ashes of the burnt paper would be of no use to you, as the dead body has no liffe to carry on living. It symbolises the empty people. Keep in mind that the Valley of ashes is a dumping ground for rubbish, so the pople who have lost hope are dwelling there.

 

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I can maybe see that, a manifestation of Gatsby's facade. But I'd say that it is a by-product of the moral decay of the generation in the "Roaring 20s" (e.g. bootlegggers, promiscuity, superflious wealth); the moral decay being evident in the faded billboard, TJ Eckleburg's eyes watching the ash heap. Also, the fact that only Nick and Wilson seem to conciously give any thought to Eckleburg is very telling (i.e. two "redeemable" characters notice the eyes of a judgemental diety, and deep-down know that the other character's are immoral). At least that's my take 

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purple-quill | Student, Grade 11 | eNotes Newbie

Posted January 22, 2011 at 1:21 PM (Answer #3)

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Well the 'Valley of Ashes', the name pretty much says it all. It's symbolic meaning is akin to burning a piece of paper or a body that is cramated. What once was whole and alive is now dead and lifeless. The ashes of the burnt paper would be of no use to you, as the dead body has no liffe to carry on living. It symbolises the empty people. Keep in mind that the Valley of ashes is a dumping ground for rubbish, so the pople who have lost hope are dwelling there.

 

Hope this helps!

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