In The Great Gatsby, how is the valley of ashes described?

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In The Great Gatsby, the valley of ashes is depicted as a bleak, desolate area, symbolizing the by-product of industrial wealth, a dumping ground for the city's furnace ashes. It is described as dusty, dirty, and hopeless, located between the affluent areas and the vibrant city of New York. The valley is filled with grey, powdery dust and is home to George Wilson's gas station. The decaying billboard with the eyes of T.J. Eckleburg, overlooking the valley, adds to its grim atmosphere.

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The valley of ashes symbolizes the by-product of industrial wealth. It represents a garbage dump, a place the wealthy can dispose of its sin and indiscretions.  It is a dirty,dusty, hopeless place that exists between the 'palaces' of the Eggs and the heavenly city of New York. What I think is most powerful regarding Fitzgerald's description of the valley is not just its physical appearance, but how George and Myrtle are treated by Tom and Daisy Buchanan. George and Myrtle are also the creation and the by-products of wealth, and in that sense can be used or discarded as the Buchanans see fit. The climax of Fitzgerald's commentary on the valley of ashes are those blind eyes that look down on the valley everyday but cannot see the destruction taking place right in front of their eyes.

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What Fitzgerald calls "the valley of ashes" is located midway between West Egg and New York. It is the dumping ground for the trains that bring furnace ashes out of the city. A "small foul river" borders one side of the site. This is a place of gray, powdery dust that fills the air and blots out the sun. Fitzgerald describes it as "a fantastic farm where ashes grow like wheat into ridges and hills and grotesque gardens," referring to the mountains of ash that have collected here after being dumped. He also describes the men who shovel the ashes out of the railroad cars:

Occasionally a line of grey [railroad] cars crawls along an invisible track, gives out a ghastly creak and comes to rest, and immediately the ash-grey men swarm up with leaden spades and stir up an impenetrable cloud which screens their obscure operations from your sight.

This place of industrial dust and grime stands in sharp contrast to the bright beauty of the homes in West Egg, and by inference, in East Egg. George Wilson's gas station is located here, as well as the decaying billboard with the eyes of T.J. Eckleburg watching over all.

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

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

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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Describe the "valley of ashes" in The Great Gatsby. What does it look like and what does it represent?

The Valley of Ashes, and its description at the beginning of Chapter 2, is Fitzgerald's way of describing the poor section of the city. This immediately follows Nick's dinner party with Tom, Daisy and Miss Baker in East Egg, an upper class area. There is a stark contrast between Gatsby, Tom and Daisy's world of East Egg and George and Myrtle Wilson's poorer world, dubbed by Fitzgerald, the "valley of ashes."

In Chapter 1, Tom's home is described like a palace, "the front was broken by a line French windows, glowing now with reflected gold, and wide open to the warm windy afternoon . . ." Their home in East Egg is gold and glowing while the valley is gray and ashen, being watched over by the uncaring god-like stare of Doctor Eckleburg's billboard.

Also note that Chapter 1 ends with the image of the green light. The green light symbolizes life, botanical flowering, and thus, compared to the gray of the valley of ashes, presents another contrast between life and decay, affluence and indigence. The green light is also a symbol for Daisy herself. For Gatsby, Daisy and the green light are both symbols for the American Dream. The images of dreams, light, money and superficial socialites all coalesce to form a general impression that the American Dream is full of light but also superficial; thus, an illusion or, at best, fraught with hypocrisy. The "valley of ashes" is equally paradoxical. The valley is gray but it is also described in agrarian terms like growth and wheat.

With East Egg and the Valley of Ashes, you have two landscapes with contradicting images. East Egg is lush and full of light but the characters that populate it (Tom, Daisy, and to a lesser extent, Gatsby) are morally flawed. The Valley of Ashes is gray and decaying but it contains the working class, struggling to survive like wheat in a desert: desolate but life still tries desperately to survive. Both areas are wastelands, meaning worlds of wasted opportunity. This is an allusion to T.S. Elliot's "The Waste Land," representing the wasted opportunity left in the wake of industrialization and subsequent alienation of the individual.

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Describe the "valley of ashes" in The Great Gatsby. What does it look like and what does it represent?

The Valley of Ashes is the section between East Egg and New York City.  It is described in Chapter 2 as Tom and Nick approach it on their way to pick up Myrtle Wilson at her husband’s garage.  The Valley of Ashes is described as being a dirty place with many factories and buildings.  The significance of this location seems to be the billboard that hangs over it – the billboard of Dr. TJ Eckleberg – which is an advertisement for an eye doctor and contains a picture of a pair of eyes within circular glasses.  Nick tells the reader that when looking at this billboard it is as if someone is watching over you (or what is happening in the Valley of Ashes).   

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Describe the "valley of ashes." What does it look like and what does it represent?

Fitzgerald weaves social commentary into this novel about the wealthy classes. Some people may live in grand houses like Gatsby's and the Buchanan's in West Egg and enjoy the high life in New York City, but Fitzgerald doesn't ignore the life of the lower classes. The Valley of Ashes represents the poorer side of life. It is a gray environment, a place that accumulates the waste of wealthy society. Fitzgerald describes it as a

desolate area of land. This is a valley of ashes—a fantastic farm where ashes grow like wheat into ridges and hills and grotesque gardens . . .

The valley is watched over by the giant eyes of Doctor T. J. Eckleburg in a billboard. Dr. Eckleburg wears a pair of giant yellow glasses and seems to represent the all-seeing eyes of God. Like the owl-eyed man who attends Gatsby's party, he represents the eyes of those who perceive the injustice of what is really going on in society.

The Wilsons live in the Valley of Ashes and struggle to survive. They are the underclass, people that Tom Buchanan uses and throws away like the ashes that represent the trash of industrial society.

As a side note, the Valley of Ashes, halfway between West Egg and Manhattan, is based on the real Corona Ash dump, where coal ash waste was dumped in the 1920s.

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Describe the "valley of ashes." What does it look like and what does it represent?

The valley of ashes is a desolate area that exists between West Egg and New York City where everything seems covered in ashes. In fact, such a thick layer of ashes sits atop everything that it seems as if everything were actually made of ashes: the houses, hills, cars—even men. On one side, there's a small and dirty river where people who get stuck at the drawbridge are forced to look at the "dismal scene" for thirty minutes. This sad area seems to symbolize a loss of life—consider how ashes are associated with death—the loss of vitality and vibrancy in someone like George Wilson or the other ash men who live in poverty there. Further, we could interpret the area as symbolic of the moral corruption or decay that results when individuals live only to accumulate wealth. Think of how close the riches of West Egg, East Egg, and New York City are: it's as though the valley of ashes is the dark and sordid underbelly of all that accumulation and materialism.

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What does the Valley of Ashes symbolize in The Great Gatsby by Fitzgerald?

The Valley of Ashes, which is the dumping ground of industrial waste, represents a moral wasteland.

This valley, hidden between the city of New York and West and East Eggs, symbolizes the moral decay of the nouveau-riche, who indulge themselves in material pleasures with no regard for others or anything else that interferes with this enjoyment.

Furthermore, the valley of waste and corruption is "bounded on one side by a small foul river." This polluted river represents, too, the moral pollution of the souls of the reckless, "careless people" such as Tom Buchanan, who exploits other people, like George Wilson, as well as his wife Daisy, who recklessly wastes the life of Myrtle Wilson.

In addition, the Valley of Ashes signifies the "dead end" in which its residents live. For instance, Wilson himself has lost vitality from residing in the moral wasteland. Described as "a spiritless man" who is anemic and moves around with "white ashen dust" covering his pale hair and clothes, he holds the desperate hope that Buchanan will make a business deal with him that will elevate his condition some. Likewise, his wife Myrtle becomes the mistress of Tom in the hopes that he will bring her joy and take her out of this death-invoking valley where men crumble just as the industrial waste turns to ashes. 

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In The Great Gatsby, what is the "valley of ashes"?

The valley of ashes in this novel is both a literal place and a symbolic one. Nick begins his description of it as follows:

This is a valley of ashes – a fantastic 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 ash-grey men, who move dimly and already crumbling through the powdery air.

This is a striking description, giving the sense of a strange place which sports unhealthy, even monstrous growth; the ashes are compared to wheat. The very houses, and indeed even the people appeared to be composed of ash. 

The place is some kind of huge dumping ground, where the poor and the dispossessed live, like the Wilsons. It forms a conscious contrast with the wealthy resorts of East and West Egg, and serves as a grim reminder of the underbelly of society. Literally and symbolically it is the place of the hopeless. The image of ashes also has connotations of fragility; the people who live here have no real substance to their lives, as the reference to them 'crumbling' emphasizes. Their surroundings are the visible sign of their despair.

However, the Valley of Ashes does not simply represent poverty and despair, it can also be said to symbolize the corruption of society as a whole. Wealth in this novel is generally shown to be founded upon materialism, greed, excess, and not on anything worthwhile or truly fulfilling, leading to problems and divisions both in society and also in individuals. The Valley of Ashes, then, can also be taken to represent the moral decay, the spiritual emptiness, of modern urban society. It denotes a kind of spiritual and cultural wasteland - to borrow the title of T.S. Eliot’s famous poem on the same theme.

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What is the valley of ashes in The Great Gatsby? How did it become this way?

We first see this phrase in Chapter 2:

"...certain desolate area of land. This is a valley of ashes — a fantastic 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. Occasionally a line of gray cars crawls along an invisible track, gives out a ghastly creak, and comes to rest, and immediately the ash-gray men swarm up with leaden spades and stir up an impenetrable cloud, which screens their obscure operations from your sight."

The area is bordered by a "foul" river. The whole description should seem to you very gross and creepy, and you might suspect that there's a good thematic reason why the author bothered to describe it in such detail.

This "valley of ashes" is mentioned again in Chapter 4:

"...as we neared the city. We passed Port Roosevelt, where there was a glimpse of red-belted ocean-going ships, and sped along a cobbled slum lined with the dark, undeserted saloons of the faded-gilt nineteen-hundreds. Then the valley of ashes opened out on both sides of us, and I had a glimpse of Mrs. Wilson straining at the garage pump with panting vitality as we went by."

This second passage seems to suggest that the valley of ashes is also the "cobbled slum" filled with "dark" businesses clinging to the figurative layer of gold that characterized the 1900's. And though the "valley of ashes" is an actual place in the novel's setting, a dirty place where everything is literally and figuratively foul, some readers also interpret this "valley" more broadly and symbolically as a place where American values and morals have gone to die, and/or as a place where poverty and hopelessness are made manifest.

Why did it get this way, though? It's basically a heap of polluted air and land and water, a byproduct of industry. This makes sense thematically, too: the wealthy industrialists in the early 1900's seemed to care only about creating products in the quickest, cheapest ways so that they could earn the most money. They disregarded both the environment and the lower classes by allowing their factories to pollute the river and the valley. Because this is how the "valley of ashes" got this way, you can see how its interpretation as a symbol of social and moral decay is even more apposite.

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What does the valley of ashes represent in The Great Gatsby?

Considering the misery of the people who live in the valley of ashes (Myrtle Wilson, who has an affair with Tom Buchanan because she desperately wants to get away from the valley and her husband, and George Wilson, who is constantly worried about money and is later made sick by the knowledge that his wife has been cheating on him) as well as the fact that the ashes are produced by industry (the industry that makes many others filthy rich), the valley of ashes -- with its location so near the two Eggs -- seems to symbolize the miserable position of the poor, working class during this era. 

Judging by the Eggs, East and West, the wealthy are only getting richer and richer while the valley implies that the poor remain stuck, used up, and burned out.  The valley also helps to show the huge discrepancy between the haves and have nots, the impossibility of the American Dream for some.  A few, perhaps, those who live in West Egg, have achieved the Dream: the idea that through hard work, a person can achieve success and prosper.  However, George Wilson works very hard, and it seems to have no effect whatsoever on his livelihood.  He remains poor and unhappy, despite his hard work and initiative (when he speaks to Tom over and over about buying his car).  Wilson cannot reach the American Dream; it is simply unavailable to everyone, and the valley symbolizes this corruption of the dream as well.

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

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.

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Describe the valley of ashes in The Great Gatsby.

Nick describes the valley of ashes as being about equidistant between West Egg and New York City. He calls it

a fantastic 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.

Thus, we can imagine a place where everything is gray and ashen, covered with the detritus of industry. Moreover, everything is covered in the ash: cars, people, homes, the land, everything.

In addition, there is an old, dilapidated billboard, advertising the practice of one Doctor T.J. Eckleburg. As he is some kind of eye doctor, the billboard takes the shape of a giant pair of eyes. They are "blue and gigantic—their retinas are one yard high." They wear a pair of glasses, but no more of the face is represented. Nick speculates that the practice is long-closed and that the billboard has been forgotten.

Moreover, on one side of the valley, there is a "small foul river," and when barges go through, drivers on the road can be detained for several minutes at the drawbridge, allowing them to take in the depressing and gloomy scene. Finally, it is here, in the valley, where he meets Tom Buchanan's mistress, Myrtle Wilson, whose husband owns a gas station and car repairs business.

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Describe the valley of ashes in The Great Gatsby.

The valley of ashes is an area one has to pass through to get between Manhattan and Long Island. It is the terminal for freight trains that carry cars filled with ash from the coal furnaces that power the buildings of Manhattan. The ash is shoveled from the cars into a dumping ground there. It is also a place where the working poor reside. George and Myrtle Wilson and their gas station/ auto repair shop and Michaelis and his coffee shop are there, along with the billboard that advertises the defunct medical practice of Dr. T.J. Eckleburg. 

The valley of ashes stands as an unfortunate contrast to the wealthy communities of Long Island and the excitement and opportunity of Manhattan that abut it (even though you'd also have to pass through Queens before reaching Manhattan). It represents a place from which people long to escape; it is an industrial wasteland that serves only to support the lifestyles of people fortunate enough to live elsewhere.

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Describe the valley of ashes from The Great Gatsby.

In Chapter 1, Fitzgerald (Nick) gives the reader descriptions of Tom's and Daisy's comfortable life together (financially speaking) and the chapter ends with the symbol of hope and promise: the green light at the end of Daisy's dock. Chapter 2 begins in stark contrast to those wealthy and hopeful images with the description of the valley of ashes. This juxtaposition of wealth and wasteland is done on purpose to show how the American Dream is achievable only for some. The valley of ashes is described as a wasteland but in terms of plant life, as if to say the "valley" can grow or recede. The valley is: 

. . . a fantastic 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. 

A billboard shows Doctor T. J. Eckleberg, who watches over the valley of ashes like a forgetful god. This dismal scene represents America's lost opportunities, a scene where most people would rather look away. George Wilson's shop is located here. The shop is "unprosperous and bare" - a failing, desolate business, like the landscape. 

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