What is the "valley of ashes" in The Great Gatsby?

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stolperia eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The valley of ashes is an area of land located between West Egg and New York City. The area is along the train track and the road into the city, with a "small foul river" along another side of the area.

The area is named for the coating of ash that covers everything with an unbroken pall of lifeless, hopeless gray.

ashes grow like wheat into ridges and hills and grotesque gardens; where ashes take the forms of houses and chimneys and rising smoke...gray cars...ash-gray men

The only other colors in the surroundings are the "enormous yellow spectacles" with the blue eyes staring out over the scene, advertising the long-since defunct business of Dr. T. J. Eckleburg.

This powerless environment was the business location of the garage owned and operated by George B. Wilson.