I can't understand the beginning of Chapter 2 in The Great Gatsby. Can someone help me?

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Susan Hurn eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Glad to help!

The Valley of the Ashes is a poor industrial area about half way between West Egg and New York City. To get to New York from West Egg, the characters have to drive through this place. Fitzgerald calls it the Valley of the Ashes because it is the place where all the furnace ashes from the city are delivered by train boxcars and then dumped. (At this time, people heated their homes and apartments with coal furnaces which produced a lot of ashes when the coal was burned.) When Fitzgerald talks about "a fantastic farm where ashes grow like wheat into ridges and hills," he is describing the ashes that have been dumped and formed mountains of ash over time. This place is gray and dusty, very dirty and unpleasant.

There is a big billboard that has been worn away so that the only picture left on it is the image of a huge pair of eyes behind yellow eyeglass frames. It had once been an advertisement for an eye doctor named T.J. Eckleburg. The sign becomes a symbol in the novel. See the eNotes links below for more information about Chapter 2 and the novel as a whole.

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The Great Gatsby

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