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The Great Gatsby. Chapter 2. The Valley of Ashes. Chapter 1 (Eggs = wealth) juxtaposed with Chapter 2 (Valley of Ashes = poverty) The Valley of Ashes = The American Nightmare

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the valley of ashes
The Valley of Ashes
  • Chapter 1 (Eggs = wealth) juxtaposed with Chapter 2 (Valley of Ashes = poverty)
  • The Valley of Ashes = The American Nightmare
    • “a fantastic farm where ashes grow like wheat into ridges and hills and grotesque gardens, where ashes take the 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” (27).
      • Ashes = industrial waste (bi-product of the rich/extravagant lifestyle)
      • Grey – color motif (lifeless/poverty)
      • “Men” implies working class individuals
      • Beaten down by the drudgery of day-to-day physical labor
the diction of failure
The Diction of Failure:
  • Diction (negative)
    • Desolate
    • Grotesque
    • Dimly
    • Crumbling
    • Ghastly
    • Impenetrable
    • Obscure
dr t j eckleburg
Dr. T.J. Eckleburg
  • The eyes of Doctor T.J. Eckleburg (motif – disapproval)
    • Billboard/Painting/Advertisment -“his eyes, dimmed a little by many paintless days under the sun and rain” (28)
      • “some wild wag of an oculist set them there to fatten his practice in the borough of Queens” (28)
      • Man’s face (w/ glasses) that “brood” (dwell with morbid persistence)
        • Negative connotation
        • Disapproval in what he sees?
          • “Doctor Eckleburg’s persistent stare”(28)
          • Tom “exchanges a frown with Doctor Eckleburg”
        • Later compared to “the eyes of God” by Wilson – moral decay as well as physical?
  • Bridge/River
    • “The valley of ashes is bounded on one side by a small foul river…”(28)
    • Allusion to the River Styx – Greek Mythology
      • a river in Hades across which Charon carried dead souls
        • insinuates view from outsiders (in this case Nick)
tom and nick
Tom and Nick
  • Nick’s introduction to Myrtle via Tom
    • “I want you to meet my girl” (28)
      • Tom – possessive? Indication of Myrtle as a possession?
    • “His determination to have my company bordered on violence […] the supercilious assumption was that on Sunday afternoon I had nothing better to do” (28).
      • Second use of supercilious (haughtily disdainful or contemptuous, as a person or a facial expression) to describe Tom’s behavior.
      • Again, Tom’s need for approval from Nick
wilson s shop
Wilson’s Shop
  • Wilson’s shop
    • “…a garage-Repairs. GEORGE B. WILSON. Cars Bought and Sold” (29)
    • Description of shop indicates poor financial returns
      • “the interior was unprosperous and bare; the only car visible was the dust-covered wreck of a Ford which crouched in a dim corner”(29)
        • Car Motif
          • Jordan/Baker
          • Ford (American car) destroyed, old, not working
            • Cars in the 1920s = status symbol = wealth
            • Symbolic of the American Dream
            • Wilson’s dream has been metaphorically “put aside” and as a result is subject to decay
  • Wilson = negative of Tom (poverty vs. wealth)
    • Blond/spiritless/anemic faintly handsome
    • “A white ashen dust veiled his dark suit and his pale hair as it veiled everything in the vicinity” (30).
      • “faintly” suggest something that is past its glory similar to Wilson and his business
      • Wilson answers “unconvincingly” when asked about the state of affairs by Tom
      • Ignored by his wife
        • “She smiled slowly and walking through her husband as if he were a ghost” (30)
        • “Wilson…mingling immediately with the cement color of the walls” (30).
      • Tom and Wilson
        • Friendly with veiled antagonism (Tom)
          • Car discussion
          • “…maybe I’d better sell it somewhere else after all” (29)
        • Tom, like so many others he dismisses, also does not think highly of Wilson:
          • “He’s so dumb he doesn’t know he’s alive” (30)
  • Myrtle – finds Tom’s wealth appealing (foil of Daisy?)
      • Thickishfigure
      • Mid-thirties
      • Faintly stout
      • Sensual
      • No facet or gleam of beauty (face)
      • Vitality/smoldering
    • Materialistic
      • Attempts to elevate her social status through her relationship with Tom
        • Purchases: “Town Tattle”, moving picture magazine, cold cream, small flask of perfume, and a dog
        • Keeps an apartment in the city with Tom: “long white cake of apartment houses” (32)
          • Diction of superiority
            • Throws a “regal” (kingly) glance (33)
            • She enters “haughtily” (33)
par tay

Party at the apartment – “the bottle of whiskey – a second one- was now in constant demand by all present” (39) – drunken atmosphere = moral confusion

  • In reference to Katherine (her sister): “She’s said to be very beautiful by people who ought to know”
  • Changes her dress 3 times in Ch. 2 – changing audience and attitude
    • “The intense vitality that had been so remarkable in the garage was converted into impressive hauteur (arrogance)
    • Note: darker muddy colors in comparison to Daisy’s light and airy presentation
      • #1 –dark blue crepe-de-chine (no facet of gleam or beauty) at home in her garage
      • #2 – brown figured muslin, tight over her hips
      • #3 – elaborate afternoon dress of cream colored chiffron
  • At the party: “Her laughter, her gestures, her assertions became more violently affected moment by moment…” (35).
  • Also: “I’ve got to make a list of all the things I’ve got to get. A massage and a wave and a collar for the dog and one of those cute little ash trays…” (41).
who s all there
“Who’s all there?”
  • Guests:
    • Catherine – Myrtle’s sister
      • Slender and worldly
      • 30
      • Stick bob of red hair
      • “powdered milky white complexion” (34)
      • “proprietary haste”
      • Possessive
      • Reveals her attempt to be higher class (similar to her sister) with her Monte Carlo story (38).
      • Knows of Gatsby (again, notoriety?) – “Really, I was down there at a party about a month ago. At a man named Gatsby’s. Do you know him?” (36-37).
        • Rumor: Gatsby’s supposed relationship (cousin) with Kaiser Wilhelm
          • Note Keiser Wilhelm – Prussian (German) emperor often noted as the protagonist t of WWI
      • Informs Nick how neither (Myrtle or Tom) can stand the person they are married to (George or Daisy)
the mckees
The McKees
  • Mr. McKee – self-absorbed with own accomplishments in photography
    • Pale feminine man
    • In the “artistic game” (photography)
    • Respectful and polite
  • Mrs. McKee – “I almost married a kyke who’d been after me for years. I knew he was below me” (38).
    • Shrill
    • Languid
    • Handsome
    • Horrible
nick gets wasted hilarity ensues
Nick gets wasted…hilarity ensues.
    • Nick
      • Unreliable in opinion vs. action, now completely so as a result of his inebriated state?
        • “I have been drunk just twice in my life and the second time was that afternoon, so everything that happened has a dim hazy cast over it although until after eight o’ clock the apartment was full of cheerful sun” (33).
      • Recognizes his awkward attendance of the situation
        • “I wanted to get out and walk eastward toward the park through the soft twilight…”(40)
          • Indication of Nick’s love for country/nature
          • Distinctively “mid-western” in thought
      • Still reserves judgment in the end in his action of remaining at the party insteadof leaving in disgust
  • Myrtle uses the party as a platform to “show off” her wealthy relationship to Tom in front of the guests.
    • Myrtle’s relationship (her p.o.v.) simply exists to elevate her status over her current life with George
      • Irony/Hypocrisy – “My dear, most of these fellas will cheat you every time. All they think of is money” (35).
these people
“These people!”
    • Again, an attempt to appear educated: “appendicitis” (35) is used in the incorrect way.
    • Dismisses comment on dress
      • “This crazy old thing, I just slip it on sometimes when I don’t care what I feel like” (35).
        • Intentionally wore
        • Rejects compliment in order to be accepted
        • In reality (garage) never would have owned the dress
    • Verbal animosity toward blue collar/servant class (note: that of herself and husband)
      • “These people! You have to keep after them all of the time” (36).
  • Tom = visible indication of the party as a distraction (beneath his lofty expectations?)
    • “Tom Buchanan yawned audibly and got to his feet” (36).
    • “Two what?” – disinterest in Mr. McKee’s photography
    • Insinuates his disgust of Myrtle’s (true) lifestyle with his comment to Mr. McKee:
      • “George B. Wilson at the gas pump, or something like that” (37).
  • Continues pattern of disrespect toward women
    • Orders Myrtle: “Get some more ice and mineral water” (36).
    • Later, physically hits her (41).
your tragic fate is looking so clear it s your nightmare
“Your tragic fate is looking so clear. It’s’ your nightmare!”
  • Myrtle’s “American Nightmare
    • Myrtle struggles to escape her current situation
      • Marriage to Wilson
        • Perception of superiority
          • “I married him because I thought he was a gentleman. I thought he was fit for breeding, but he wasn’t fit to lick my shoe!” (39).
        • Materialism
          • “He borrowed somebody’s best suit to get married in and never even told me about it…and I lay down and cried to beat the band all afternoon” (39).
      • Living in the Valley of Ashes
        • “They’ve been living over that garage for eleven years” (39).
      • Blue collar (poverty?) lifestyle
    • Pines for the life of the rich and famous
      • Uses Tom ($)
    • Refuses to face reality
      • Tom will never marry her despite what he says:
romantic idealism
Romantic Idealism
  • Indication of (false) romantic idealism – story of how she met Tom (40).
    • Irony = attracted to Tom’s appearance, like her husband when she first me him
  • Give Myrtle the excuse (via Catherine to Nick) that he cannot divorce Daisy because she is Catholic
    • Catholics do not believe in divorce
    • “Daisy was not Catholic and I was a little shocked at the elaborateness of the lie” (38).
  • Attempts to (incorrectly) put herself on the same social level as Tom (and by association, Daisy)
    • “Daisy, Daisy, Daisy I’ll say it whenever I want to!” (41).
  • Tom recognizes this disrespect, and similar to his emotional control over Daisy, uses his physicality to control Myrtle
    • “Making a short deft movement Tom Buchanan broke her nose with his open hand” (41).
  • At the onset of violence, the social air of the scene dissipates revealing the façade:
    • “women’s voices scolding”
    • Mr. McKee awoke from a doze and stared in a daze toward the door”
    • “…trying to spread a copy of “Town Tattle” over the tapestry scenes of Versailles”
bow chica wow wha
  • Nick’s post-party excursion (drunk misadventures?)
    • Ends up in the elevator with Mr. Mckee
      • Returns to his apartment with him (both men drunk)
        • “I was standing beside his bed and he was sitting up between the sheets, clad in his underwear, with a great portfolio in his hands” (41).
      • Wakes up in Pennsylvania station (little recollection of how he arrived).