Analysis of the Valley of Ashes Symbolism

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There is something quite interesting when people talk about the American Dream. Gatsby spends his whole life trying to work hard to get money and the girl. Daisy on the other hand has everything handed to her and didn’t want someone with no money. F. Scott Fitzgerald uses symbols such as the valley of ashes, the green light, and the eyes of Dr. T.J. Eckleburg to indicate how greed, materialism, and the loss of moral values in society contributed to the unattainability and corruption of the American Dream.

The valley of ashes symbolizes the consequences and corruption of materialism in America. Its occupants represent those confined in their pursuit of the American Dream meanwhile the rich enjoy their wealth and success in East and West egg. In reality, the valley of ashes is described as a grey, desolate, and filthy motor road, lodged between west egg and the rest of New York. “This is the valley of ashes- a fantastic farm where ashes grow like wheat into ridges and hills and grotesque gardens …”(Fitzgerald 21). This description shows the repercussion of moral and societal decay in the American Dream. This embodies the American Dream and when Myrtle died, Fitzgerald’s construction of her death scene in the valley symbolizes how impossible the American Dream is and its corruption by the rich in the “Roaring 20s”. Also, people in the valley of ashes were very hardworking people, “But above the gray land and the spasm of bleak dust which drift endlessly over it …”(Fitzgerald 23). Even though the working class contributes to the success of the working city, their work is forgotten behind “the spasm of bleak dust”. The valley of ashes symbolizing the miserable lives of its inhabitants strongly implies that due to society’s extreme materialism, the American Dream has been unattainable.

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The green light at the end of Daisy’s dock symbolizes the impossibility of the American Dream and society’s materialistic and immoral desires. The green light at Buchanan’s dock symbolizes Gatsby’s American Dream which is winning back Daisy’s love and in doing so that will completing his American Dream. “He stretched out his arms towards the dark water in a curious way …”(Fitzgerald 20). This is the scene where Gatsby looks across Daisy’s life in East egg, an island that represents old money in America. The green light on Daisy’s dock symbolizes how riches and social work have socially and morally corrupted the American Dream. This quote makes it evident to the reader that the green light symbolizes the impossibility of the American Dream, and it is situated on Daisy’s dock symbolizes the people who have morally corrupted it. Another quote that supports this interpretation of the green light is “Gatsby believed in the green light”(Fitzgerald 259). Gatsby still lives in the past and still believes in the uncorrupted American Dream, where people’s morals conquer materialism. The green color represents Gatsby’s obsession with Daisy, who embodies his American Dream as well as his devotion to love. Gatsby’s catastrophic pursuit of the green light symbolizes how America’s materialistic values corrupted the American Dream and made it impossible to achieve.

The eyes of Dr. T.J. Eckleburg emulate the corruption of materialism of the 1920s American Dream; furthermore, their eyes symbolically watch and frown upon society’s loss of moral values in the pursuit of wealth and success. Dr. T.J. Ecklerburg’s billboard promotes the business of a successful oculist clinic in NYC. The ad watches over the desolate and endless valley of ashes. The eyes of the rich oculist symbolize those hopelessly trapped in the valley, taunted by the alluring American Dream and its wealth and happiness. “But above the gray …”(Fitzgerald 37). This quote shows that the yes, purposely looking over the poor inhabitants' desire, that is the American Dream. “I told her she might fool me but she couldn’t fool God …”(Fitzgerald 229). George Wilson connects the eyes of Dr. T.J. Eckleburg to the eyes of God. This allusion epitomizes the loss of religious and moral values in America, as their God has been reduced to an oculist’s billboard watching over an industrial wasteland inhabited by those left out of the American Dream.

Fitzgerald portrayed the American Dream using the valley of ashes, the green light, and Dr. T.J.Eckleburg. He showed some belief in the idea and supported the theory that no matter what class anyone comes from, it is always possible for them to try and achieve success in the American Dream.

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Analysis of the Valley of Ashes Symbolism. (2023, March 01). Edubirdie. Retrieved April 18, 2024, from
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