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 equal opportunities for all, associated with the New World.

The valley is described as a “desolate” place where “ashes grow like wheat into ridges and hills into grotesque gardens”. (21) Ashes that dominate the area take the shape of natural greenery. The term “grotesque gardens” uses alliteration, with juxtaposition; to highlight the odd pairing of ashes and greenery. Ashes are associated with death while ridges and “gardens” represent the potential to flourish and grow in the promise and ideal of equality as in “the trees that had made way for Gatsby’s house, had once pandered in whispers to the last and greatest of all human dreams.” (143) The trees that once stood here were able to speak to man’s dreams, which allude to America, the land able to speak to man’s dreams and capacity for wonder. All this is replaced by grey ash that suffocates the inhabitants, restricting them to their social class. This presents a bleak image of hopelessness that surrounds the valley.

Similarly, ashes take the form “of ash-grey men, who moved dimly and already crumbling through the powdery air”. (21) The stiff, weak movements show its inhabitants to be barely alive. These men have the same lack of life and vitality as their surroundings do. This is seen in the inhabitants of the valley. George Wilson, who represents the working class, is seen to be “mingling immediately with the cement colour of the walls” (23), blending in with the background. This gives the impression that he is unimportant, having little influence. The disparity between social classes is seen by Tom Buchanan’s impression of George. Tom says about George, “He’s so dumb he doesn’t even know he’s alive.” (23) This emphasizes how George is barely alive and unaware about the affair between his wife and Tom, which Tom blatantly lies about and carries out behind George’s back.

The working class provides service to the rich; hence, the livelihood of the working class depends on the treatment of the rich. George complains to Tom about the time Tom’s car is taking to be ready for sale, to which Tom replies coldly that he could sell it someplace else instead. George quickly corrects himself. (22) From this, it is seen that the working class have limited influence and the rich’s decisions are ultimate. The working class is clearly of a lower social standing and their compliant, unassertive nature could be due to their dependence on the rich, for income.

The submissive nature of George is of a stark contrast to Tom, with his harsh, domineering character. Even as...

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