The Valley Of Ashes As Metaphor In The Great Gatsby

1994 words - 8 pages

The Valley of Ashes as Metaphor in The Great Gatsby

 
    Throughout F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby, location is a critical motif. The contrasts between East and West, East Egg and West Egg, and the two Eggs and New York serve important thematic roles and provide the backdrops for the main conflict. Yet, there needs to be a middle ground between each of these sites, a buffer zone, as it were; there is the great distance that separates East from West; there is the bay that separates East Egg from West Egg; and, there is the Valley of Ashes that separates Long Island from New York. The last of these is probably the most striking. Yet, the traditional literal interpretation does not serve Fitzgerald's theme as well as a more figurative one would--the "Valley of Ashes" is not literally a valley of ashes, but is rather a figurative description of the middle-class values and suburbia that clash with those of New York as well as East and West Egg.

Supposing that the valley of ashes is literally a valley strewn with ashes, there arise certain technical concerns. Ashes are light and easily blown about—a Sahara-like desert is expected, yet the dust storms Nick describes are rather tame, conjuring up very familiar human images (23); even those that Wilson sees are gentle and "fantastic." (160) Perhaps this doldrum-like state might emphasize the lack of change, but would still fail to account for the lack of effect rain has. Rain would wash away the ashes, or at least make a mess, but it fails to do so; the valley of ashes remains, neither blown nor washed away--weathering of some sort would have to eventually purge the valley of its ashes, if a strict literal interpretation is held to. Clearly, it is imprudent to take Fitzgerald at face value here--there is something deeper going on.

Between the literal "valley of ashes" and the other extreme interpretation of a suburb, there is a perhaps more feasible middle ground. If it is remembered that ashes circa the turn of the century often referred to garbage, then it is possible to interpret the "valley of ashes" as a "dumping ground." (23) The ash heaps, then, are piles of garbage, and the repeated references to "waste land," as opposed to "wasteland," now make more sense, as does George Wilson's use of "a piece of waste" to wipe his hands. (24-5) For Fitzgerald, the American dream is to get rich and become socially acceptable; Wilson, who has failed, has "wasted" his life, and is now "down in the dumps." He has been cast away by society, just like the rest of the refuse that surrounds him. This, then, seems to be the fate of middle-class dreams--despite being conceived in a land filled with opportunity, they all end up in the landfill.

Yet, there are still inconsistencies with this interpretation, which also apply to the stricter literal view; where does the "gray, scrawny Italian child" down the road by the railroad tracks come from? (26) Where do the workmen come from? (137) If the...

Find Another Essay On The Valley of Ashes as Metaphor in The Great Gatsby

Gatsby As A Fake, Desperate Hero In The Great Gatsby

1726 words - 7 pages lives and breathes for Daisy, the “nice” girl he loves, even though she is married to Tom Buchanan. Gatsby`s love may sound dedicated, but it is more obsessive because he lives in his dreams and will literally do anything to win Daisy`s heart. In Fitzgerald's novel The Great Gatsby, Gatsby is not portrayed as being a romantic hero due to his attempts in trying to be someone he is not by faking his identity, by his selfish acts in desperation for

Jay Gatsby as Tragic Hero of Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby

971 words - 4 pages . Gatsby believes in The Great American Dream, for that is where the basis for his ideal originated. Later, the concept develops into an obsession with money and more so, Daisy.       Gatsby's tragic flaw lies within his inability to see that the real and the ideal cannot coexist. Gatsby's ideal is Daisy. He sees her as perfect and worthy of all his affections and praise. In reality she is undeserving and through her actions, proves she is

"Great" As Displayed by Fitzgerald in The Great Gatsby

999 words - 4 pages expectations when it came to money. He asked Ginevra to marry him, but she replied that “poor boys don’t marry rich girls”. Another woman named Zelda would only marry Fitzgerald after the success of his first novel This Side of Paradise. Fitzgerald defines great as an undying motivation to never lose hope on dreams and aspirations, which will enable success in the end. This was displayed in his novel The Great Gatsby, his short

Cutie as a Metaphor of the Mind in Asimov's Reason

1121 words - 4 pages Cutie as a Metaphor of the Mind in Asimov's Reason    Using one's reason to the highest ability is considered to be a virtue in our society. Reason and logic have a lucid quality that is reassuring to human interaction. Ultimately, humanity prizes itself for its ability to logically explain our observations by using reason. Another facet of the human mind is to be inquisitive, to constantly ask questions about our

Causes of the Great Depression as Depicted in the Great Gatsby

1522 words - 6 pages where flashy cars, big houses and gigantic parties dominated the scene. Americans in this time period had no idea that the next decade would be marked with poverty and homelessness, a decade forever known in history as the Great Depression. This book contains key reasons as to why this all happened. Causes of the Great Depression as described in The Great Gatsby and through historical documentation, include the mentality of the American people

The American Dream as Shown in The Novels The Grapes of Wrath and The Great Gatsby

572 words - 2 pages America: a land of endless wealth, and the dream; a dream of endless opportunity, is not depicted as such in the books The Grapes of Wrath and The Great Gatsby. The Dream is instead portrayed as hypocritical in the assumption that spiritual satisfaction is always accompanied material gain.In The Great Gatsby America is shown as a land of dreams that is undeniably corrupted by materialism to such a degree that even the image of god (the blue eyes

The Great Gatsby as an Exploration of the American Dream

2053 words - 8 pages The Great Gatsby as an Exploration of the American Dream         The American Dream lies deeply rooted in the American cultural imagination. The idea behind the Dream is that if an individual is sufficiently determined, he or she has a fair chance of achieving wealth, and the freedom and happiness that go with it. Essentially, it offers the opportunity of achieving spiritual and material fulfillment. "Although these ideals can be traced

A discussion of the american dream as represented in "American Beauty" and "The Great Gatsby"

1491 words - 6 pages illusion" (101).Gatsby is not in a speaking role until chapter three. By delaying the character revelation of Gatsby, his aura and reputation precedes him. He is spoken of by many, accused o=f being both great and having the gift of hope, to being a cousin of Wilhelm. This follows the theme of illusion versus reality, where it is difficult to tell who, and why Gatsby is. Gatsby dislikes poverty and reinvents himself by losing his last name Gatz

Views on the role of Nick as a narrator in the Great Gatsby have

2241 words - 9 pages Views on the role of Nick as a narrator in the Great Gatsby have varied greatly. How do the views of Arthur Mizener and Gary J. Scrimgeour relate to your own view of Nick's function in the novel? Published in 1925, and written by F. Scott Fitzgerald, 'The Great Gatsby' is a brilliant and scathing illustration of life among the new rich during the 1920s; people who had recently amassed a great deal of wealth but had no corresponding

Nick Carraway as Honest Liar in Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby

1323 words - 5 pages Nick Carraway as Honest Liar in Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby        "Everyone suspects himself of at least one of the cardinal virtues, and this is mine: I am one of the few honest people that I have ever known" (Fitzgerald Gatsby 64). So writes Nick Carraway in F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby, characterizing himself in opposition to the great masses of humanity as a perfectly honest man. The honesty that Nick attributes to himself

Importance of Myrtle in The Great Gatsby

1199 words - 5 pages     Many of the occurrences in The Great Gatsby produced far-reaching effects for several of the characters.  Of these occurrences, one of the most influential and important incidents was the death of Myrtle Wilson.  While her life and death greatly affected the lives of all of the main and supporting characters, her death had a very significant effect on the lives of Tom, Daisy, and Gatsby.             Tom knew Myrtle better than any of

Similar Essays

The Valley Of The Ashes In The Great Gatsby

1405 words - 6 pages Discuss the role played by the Valley of the Ashes. In The Great Gatsby, the Valley of the Ashes illustrate the inequality between its inhabitants and that of West Egg and East Egg, in terms of social standing and income, as well as the hopelessness of poverty resulting from the inability of its inhabitants to rise up the socio-economic ladder. Thus, the valley represents the failure of the Dream that America promises, which is the ideal of

The Great Gatsby: Symbolism In The Valley Of Ashes.

892 words - 4 pages atmosphere of the Eggs. This contrast is also very notable in today's society. There is still such a gap between our wealthiest and poorest peoples, that the valley of ashes is as much a symbol of our time, as it is of the 1920's. You can read the vividly depicted scenes of the valley of ashes and make connections to similar experiences in your own life.The Great Gatsby can be enjoyed by anyone. It's use of simple symbolism, such as the colour

Use Of Metaphor, Symbols And Symbolism In The Great Gatsby

1327 words - 5 pages Use of Metaphor and Symbolism in The Great Gatsby       Some novels have more of an impact in modern society than when they were originally written. This is especially true with Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. Modern society can be termed corrupt, complete with tainted morals and an overemphasis on the acquisition of money and friends. Fitzgerald seeks the root of the problem and wants the reader to ponder whether he or she wants money and

Symbols, Symbolism, And Metaphor In The Great Gatsby

851 words - 3 pages been his life's aspiration, and he had always one day dreamed of being with her once more. She didn't stay with Gatsby in that earlier part of their lives because he wasn't wealthy, and couldn't completely pamper her every need.  As he matured, he understood that because of her upbringing as the town "southern bell", and being very spoiled, to win her heart, he must too become a man of great wealth.  This is where the