Great Gatsby. Comment on the setting and the depiction of the characters in Chapter 2

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Comment on the setting and the depiction of the characters in Chapter 2 extract.

        In the second chapter of ‘The Great Gatsby’, Fitzgerald introduced a new setting, the ‘valley of ashes’ to the novel. Unlike other settings of the book which is often linked to wealth and prosperity, the ‘valley of ashes’ is a depiction of poverty and desolation. This can be seen by the Fitzgerald’s description of the place itself as ‘a fantastic farm where ashes grow like wheat into ridges and hills and grotesque gardens’. The setting itself also reflects on the heavy pollution which is evidently a consequence of capitalism, the so-called American way of living. This further delves into the era of the book whereby the industrial revolution played a huge role in the capitalist economies. The use of phrases such as ‘powdery air’, ‘ash-grey men’ and ‘impenetrable cloud’ portrays the high degree of pollution within the setting itself. The setting is also the home to the only poor characters in the novel.

        The ‘valley of ashes’ as a setting has a symbolical meaning to it. The setting contrasts with the wealthy and affluent lifestyles of the East Egg and the West Egg which were both introduced in the previous chapter. The West Egg and East Egg was described to have glorious and grandiose mansions while the ‘valley of ashes’ was depicted as desolate and filled with pollution. From the passage, it states that the area is located half way between the West Egg and New York. The West Egg represents the ‘new money’ which shows the social climbers within society. Similarly, New York City represents the quest to achieve the American Dream where one baths in pleasure and wealth. However, right in the middle between the two, lies the ‘valley of ashes’, representing moral decadence hidden beneath the façade of wealth and the American Dream itself. The setting emphasizes on the immorality involved in the achieving of the American Dream and its corruption. It also symbolizes the immoral journey that social climbers take to achieve their wealth.

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        In the ‘valley of ashes’, a huge billboard of Dr. T.J. Eckleburg peering over the area with his gargantuan blue bespectacled eyes strikes a sense of enigma in the readers’ heart about the place itself. The monstrous eyes ‘brood on over the solemn dumping ground’ probably represents society’s judgmental observations on the corrupt natures within society itself. The brooding eyes may also symbolize God looking down at the moral decadence rooted in the 1920s with dismay. The phrase ‘But his eyes, dimmed a little by many paintless days, under sun and rain’ place emphasis on how men had pushed away ...

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