Describe the Portrayal of Setting in Chapter 2 and the Juxtaposition of Wilson and His Wife. What Do They Reveal About the Place?

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Describe the portrayal of setting in Chapter 2 and the juxtaposition of Wilson and his wife. What do they reveal about the place?

Unlike the other settings in the book, the valley of ashes is a picture of absolute desolation and poverty. It lacks a glamorous surface and lays fallow and grey halfway between West Egg and New York. The valley of ashes symbolises the moral decay hidden by the beautiful facades of the Eggs, and suggests that beneath the adornment of West Egg and the mannered charm of East Egg lies the same ugliness as in the valley. The valley is created by industrial dumping and is therefore a by-product of capitalism. It is the home to the only poor characters in the novel.

The undefined significance of Doctor T. J. Eckleburg's monstrous, bespectacled eyes gazing down from their billboard makes them troubling to the reader: in this chapter, Fitzgerald preserves their mystery, giving them no fixed symbolic value. Mysteriously, the eyes simply "brood on over the solemn dumping ground." Perhaps the most persuasive reading of the eyes at this point in the novel is that they represent the eyes of God, staring down at the moral decay of the 1920s. The faded paint of the eyes can be seen as symbolizing the extent to which humanity has lost its connection to God. This reading, however, is merely suggested by the arrangement of the novel's symbols; Nick does not directly explain the symbol in this way, leaving the reader to interpret it.

The fourth and final setting of the novel, New York City, is in every way the opposite of the valley of ashes—it is loud, garish, abundant, and glittering. To Nick, New York is simultaneously fascinating and repulsive, thrillingly fast-paced and dazzling to look at but lacking a moral centre. While Tom is forced to keep his affair with Myrtle relatively discreet in the valley of the ashes, in New York he can appear with her in public, even among his acquaintances, without causing a scandal. Even Nick, despite being...
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