What is in the "Valley of Ashes"?

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Chapter 2 opens with Nick Carraway's description of a desolate stretch about halfway from West Egg to New York. Near where the railroad tracks and the road intersect is the the bleak tract that Nick has named the valley of ashes, comparing it to

a farm where ashes grow...

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Chapter 2 opens with Nick Carraway's description of a desolate stretch about halfway from West Egg to New York. Near where the railroad tracks and the road intersect is the the bleak tract that Nick has named the valley of ashes, comparing it to

a farm where ashes grow like wheat into ridges and hills and grotesque gardens; where ashes take the forms of houses and chimneys and rising smoke and, finally, with a transcendent effort, of men who move dimly and already crumbling through the powdery air.

When gray cars come along the railroad track, "ash-gray men" come up and do obscure things with tools, out of clear sight.

It is above this solemn scene that a giant pair of billboard glasses, the brooding "eyes of Dr. T.J. Eckleburg," look down.

This long set-up precedes Nick's statement that it was near there that he met Myrtle Wilson, Tom Buchanan's mistress, one afternoon when Tom pulled him off the train and led him along the tracks. Near the ash piles, by the edge of the "wasteland," was the street with three small brick buildings; one of them was her husband George's garage. Otherwise the area was almost devoid of buildings.

T.S. Eliot's poem "The Waste Land," had been published in 1922, so Nick could be deliberately invoking it.

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