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A Dream of Disillusionment - the Ashes of East and West Egg

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Kevin Chuang


A Dream of Disillusionment—The Ashes of East and West Egg

On the surface, “The Great Gatsby” was a portrayal of a young man in his tragic search for love and success. Yet in his pursuit of that “golden girl”, his American Dream, he reveals that the American Dream Fitzgerald portrayed was nothing more but an illusion that will never be—a light across the river that he could’ve never reached. This disillusionment with reality points towards the very reality that Fitzgerald wanted us to see-- the rather repulsive nature that lurks beneath the romance and glamour of the Jazz Age. In an age of unprecedented wealth and prosperity, Fitzgerald criticized the increasing economic disparities, the pursuit of senseless pleasure, and the moral decay hid beneath the glamour of the Roaring 20s.

 the symbolic locations of Long Island, New York, and The Valley of Ashes embodied how wealth or the lack of affect people of different social classes.  The Great Gatsby locations,

the interwoven narratives

the interwoven narratives regarding the effects of people.

While the the highly symbolic geographic vicinity of Long Island (East & West Egg), New York, and The Valley of Ashes, so as to criticize the very nature of American society as a whole.

After telling us about the “fine health to be pulled down out of the young breath-giving air” (1.12) ofWest Egg in Chapter 1, Nick shows us just how the glittering wealth of the nouveau riche who live there is accumulated. Much of it comes from industry: factories that pollute the area around them into a “grotesque” and “ghastly” version of a beautiful countryside. Instead of the bucolic, green image of a regular farm, here we have a “fantastic farm” (fantastic here means “something out of the realm of fantasy”) that grows ash instead of wheat and where pollution makes the water “foul” and the air “powdery.” This imagery of growth serves two purposes. First, it’s disturbing, as it’s clearly meant to be. The beauty of the natural world has been transformed into a horrible hellscape of gray ashes. Not only that, but it is turning regular humans into “ash-grey men” who “swarm” like insects around the factories and cargo trains (that’s the “line of grey cars”). These are the people who do not get to enjoy either the luxury of life out on Long Island, or the faster-paced anonymous fun that Nick finds himself enjoying in Manhattan. In the novel’s world of haves and have-nots, these are the have-nots. Second, the passage shows how disconnected the rich are from the source of their wealth. Nick is annoyed when he is a train passenger who has to wait for the drawbridge to lead barges through. But the barges are carrying the building products of the factories. Nick is a bond trader, and bonds are basically loans people give to companies (companies sell bond shares, use that money to grow, and then have to pay back that money to the people who bought the bonds). In the 1920s, the bond market was fueling the construction of skyscrapers, particularly in New York. In other words, the same construction boom that is making Queens into a valley of ashes is also buoying up the new moneyed class that populates West Egg.



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