In The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, the valley of ashes and the extravagant celebrations of the elite illustrate the modernist theme, the disintegration of society. Fitzgerald first describes the valley of ashes as a "desolate area of land" where "ashes take the forms of houses and chimneys and rising smoke and, finally, with transcendent effort, of men who move dimly and already crumbling through the powdery air" (p 23). This dreary area depicts the harsh impact of modern industrialism. The people perish in their poverty and struggle to escape. Eventually their efforts become trivial because the men "crumble" with the land around them while they helplessly watch the rich get richer. In contrast, right next to this lonely valley is the exclusive community of the high society. In a scene at Gatsby's lavish home, "the bar is in full swing, and floating rounds of cocktails permeate the garden outside, until the air is alive with the chatter and laughter, and casual innuendo and introductions forgotten on the spot, and enthusiastic meetings between women who never knew each other's names" (p 40). This scene is a dismal look at the corruption that threatens to conquer these high society people. As shallow acquaintances, everyone is being corrupted by the culture of wealth and opulence, steadily succumbing to the empty pursuit of pleasure. Though these two groups seem contrary, in the face of a disintegrating society, they are actually complementary. The economic hardships that the poverty-stricken class have to face are parallel to the seductive allures of materialism that the privileged are losing their values to. There seems to be a bleak outlook everyone.
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