Analyze Fitzgerald's conception of the American Dream. Does he view it as totally dead, or is it possible to revive it?
Is Nick a reliable narrator? How does his point of view color the reality of the novel, and what facts or occurences would he have a vested interest in obscuring?
Trace the use of the color white in the novel. When does it falsify a sense of innocence? When does it symbolize true innocence?
Do a close reading of the description of the "valley of ashes." How does Fitzgerald use religious imagery in this section of the novel?
What does the green light symbolize to Gatsby? To Nick?
How does Fitzgerald juxtapose the different regions of America? Does he write more positively about the East or the Midwest?
What is the distinction between East and West Egg? How does one bridge the gap between the two?
In what ways are Wilson and Gatsby similar? Disimilar? Who is Nick more sympathetic to?
How does Fitzgerald treat New York City? What is permissable in the urban space that is taboo on the Eggs?
Is Tom most responsible for Gatsby's death? Daisy? Myrtle? Gatsby himself? Give reasons why or why not each character is implicated in the murder.
The Valley of Ashes as Metaphor in The Great Gatsby Essay
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The Valley of Ashes as Metaphor in The Great Gatsby
Throughout F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby, location is a critical motif. The contrasts between East and West, East Egg and West Egg, and the two Eggs and New York serve important thematic roles and provide the backdrops for the main conflict. Yet, there needs to be a middle ground between each of these sites, a buffer zone, as it were; there is the great distance that separates East from West; there is the bay that separates East Egg from West Egg; and, there is the Valley of Ashes that separates Long Island from New York. The last of these is probably the most striking. Yet, the traditional literal interpretation does not serve Fitzgerald's theme as well as a more…show more content…
If it is remembered that ashes circa the turn of the century often referred to garbage, then it is possible to interpret the "valley of ashes" as a "dumping ground." (23) The ash heaps, then, are piles of garbage, and the repeated references to "waste land," as opposed to "wasteland," now make more sense, as does George Wilson's use of "a piece of waste" to wipe his hands. (24-5) For Fitzgerald, the American dream is to get rich and become socially acceptable; Wilson, who has failed, has "wasted" his life, and is now "down in the dumps." He has been cast away by society, just like the rest of the refuse that surrounds him. This, then, seems to be the fate of middle-class dreams--despite being conceived in a land filled with opportunity, they all end up in the landfill.
Yet, there are still inconsistencies with this interpretation, which also apply to the stricter literal view; where does the "gray, scrawny Italian child" down the road by the railroad tracks come from? (26) Where do the workmen come from? (137) If the valley is so isolated and desolate how could Nick even imagine there would be an old man regaling little boys with the story of Myrtle's death? (156) How does such a crowd accumulate next to a dumping ground? (156-7) Why would Dr. T. J. Eckleburg advertise there, train delays notwithstanding? (23) These concerns cannot be fully explained away by the