Discuss Fitzgerald’s presentation of the valley of ashes. What comparisons can you make between this setting and the place The Hollow Men inhabit?
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. Fitzgerald portrays this imagery by the use of “Ashes grow like wheat” suggesting the growth of people who inhabit the valleys realisation of their broken dreams. By the use of “growth” Fitzgerald portrays how the ashes symbolise how the people of the valleys dreams are slowing fading away into ash, the longer they inhabit the valley. The valley of ashes symbolises the moral decay hidden by the beautiful facades of the Eggs, and suggests that beneath the ornamentation of West Egg and the mannered charm of East Egg lies the same ugliness as in the valley. The men who live there work at shoveling up the ashes. In the novel the valley of ashes is described as, “a fantastic farm where ashes grow like wheat into ridges and hills and grotesque gardens; where ashes take forms of houses and chimneys and rising smoke and finally, with a transcendent effort, of men who move dimly and already crumbling through the powdery air” The valley of ashes resembles something lifeless and dark. It symbolises poverty and the moral decay hidden by the beauty of East Egg and West Egg. The people who live here basically have no prospects for future and nothing they can be proud of from their lives. Fitzgerald symbolises this through the interior of Wilsons house “The interior was unprosperous and bare; the only car visible was the dust covered wreck of a ford” Fitzgerald portrays the imagery of an old, decaying car, which is a symbol of Wilson himself. This can be compared with the renowned poem by T.S. Eliot “The Hollow Men” as he illustrates “Shape without form, shade without colour, paralysed force” here Eliot is illustrating how the men...
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