I have to write an essay on The Great Gatsby using the symbols of the valley of ashes, Doctor TJ billboard, and Wilson's garage. How do I organize that while connecting all of them to the same...

I have to write an essay on The Great Gatsby using the symbols of the valley of ashes, Doctor TJ billboard, and Wilson's garage. How do I organize that while connecting all of them to the same theme/author message? 

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Here is a thesis that incorporates the three symbols:

  • In his satire of the corrupted American Dream, F. Scott Fitzgerald employs the symbols of the Valley of Ashes, the billboard of T.J.Eckleburg, and Wilson's garage to develop the themes of the loss of true values, the immorality of wanton materialism, and the resulting isolation and loss of humanity that is the product of greed and pleasure. 

The body of the essay can use each symbol as the topic of separate paragraphs. For instance, a first body paragraph can include such ideas as how Nick rides with Tom out of the fabricated world of wealth of East Egg and they pass through the Valley of Ashes, a wasteland of their spiritual values where the ashes of materialism fall in misshapen hills. It is a visible symbol of the corruption of the false values given material possession that leaves only an emptiness of the soul, a place where God has been replaced by the grime of immorality, dishonesty, and selfishness and greed.

Here is the significance of the other symbols of the billboard and Wilson's garage:

The billboard of T.J. Eckleburg is symbolic of spiritual corruption as the eyes ("windows to the soul") are hollow and faded. These eyes overlook the piles of ashes and witness the loss of values with the growing commercialism of America. "But his eyes, dimmed a little by many paintless days under sun and rain, brood over the solemn dumping ground." Fitzgerald also describes the billboard as having eyes that seem to frown upon Tom as he drives through the valley.

The eyes of Doctor T. J. Eckleburg....look out of no face, but, instead, from a pair of enormous yellow spectacles which pass over a nonexistent nose." (yellow is always the color that symbolizes evil and corruption)

Further, Wilson tells his friend that God has been watching his garage and has seen Myrtle and "sees everything." But, if this is so, God has been replaced by materialism, too, for He is manifested in a billboard, an advertisement of capitalism.  Certainly, poor Wilson's dream of escape from the Valley has been but a hollow dream as was Myrtle's dream of marriage to Tom.

The dream of material gain is a corrupt, decaying, wasteful, barren dream lacking any spirituality, housed in a gray building in a gray land like Wilson's garage in the Valley of Ashes. Like the billboard of T.J. Eckleburg, Wilson is a "blonde spiritless man" who is "unprosperous and bare." He is the human representation of the Valley of Ashes, the Wasteland. It is fitting then, that he becomes the killer of the fatuous dreams of Jay Gatsby who also has worshipped at the altar of materialism.

Sources:

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