Close Analysis of the Beginning of Chapter 2 of 'the Great Gatsby'

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The valley of ashes

This close analysis is based around the passage at the beginning of chapter II of The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald.

The word ‘Egg’ in West Egg symbolises new life and renewal, the word ‘New’ in New York also symbolises similar ideas of a young, modernistic place. This is appropriate as the valley of ashes is the geographic midpoint between the suburbs and the city, between the two yet not part of either; as it is the home of the people left behind in the Roaring Twenties.

The sentence ‘the motor road hastily joins… land’ suggests the Valley of ashes is is home to the sorts of people the wealthy are content to overlook. This can also be seen : ‘men swarm up’, likening people to insects, implying they are less than human. The description ‘farm where ashes grow like wheat’ this oxymoron contrasts the ideas of a farm where dead things grow – setting the valley as an unnatural, lifeless place. This is added to with: ‘with a transcendent effort… dimly and already crumbling through the powdery air’ –gives a lethargic tone to the location, and words ‘ash’, ‘crumbling’ and ‘powdery’ indicating lack of moisture, the basis for life being missing from the location.

The colour grey is repeatedly mentioned: ‘ash-grey’, ‘grey cars’, ‘grey land’ and the name valley of ‘ashes’ makes the reader imagine this colour. The contrast with chapter one, at Tom and Daisy Buchanan’s house, is clear: ‘a cheerful red-and-white … glowing now with reflected gold’ – the constant mention of bright, vibrant colour and light implies how different the two places, and also the two different types of people are.

The eyes of Doctor T. J. Eckleburg are ‘above’ the grey land, giving the impression of the eyes watching over the scene. It is significant that these eyes are in the valley of ashes, symbolizing the corruption of America’s people. The eyes of Dr. T.J. Eckleburg stare down on Tom and Nick as they pass underneath the billboard on their way into New York...
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