The Great Gatsby Chapter 2

The Great Gatsby Chapter 2

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Rhiannon Edwards C6AP
Chapter Two
Nick meets Tom's mistress Myrtle and her husband, George. They own a garage on the edge
of the Valley of Ashes between West Egg and New York.
Myrtle agrees to go to New York with Nick and Tom.
Myrtle hosts an impromptu party in Tom's New York apartment. She invites her sister and the
McKees, who live in the apartment below.
They all get drunk. Tom and Myrtle argue and he breaks her nose.
1) The "valley of ashes" is a place of poverty that is used as a dumping ground for all the waste
produced by the city - it's the ugly by-product of consumerism that is forgotten by the
wealthy Egg communities.
2) Fitzgerald makes reference to T.S. Elliot's the Waste Land, and both present their readers
with images of a barren landscape, where nothing grows. Eliot's poem responds to the
horrific violence of the First World War but also to the spread of materialistic, consumerist
values in modern society. The Valley of Ashes seems to be watched over, but the eyes are
not the eyes of God, just an abandoned advertisement, a symbol of materialism. Similarly,
the Son of Man is neglected in Eliot's waste land where there is only `a heap of broken
images', suggesting discarded idols. Both worlds are spiritually dead and there is only `fear in
a handful of dust'. Fitzgerald sometimes refers to the ash as dust and it echoes God's words
to Adam and Eve; "Dust thou art and to dust thou shalt return". Neither writer seems to
interpret this as fear of death; it is rather a fear of meaningless life.
3) It is based on the area around Flashing Creek that had been acquired by the Brooklyn Ash
Removal Company which turned the salt marshes into a landfill site for garbage from the city
and ashes from coal-burning furnaces.
4) The valley is close to the lines of communication between the homes of the rich and the city,
but the trains pass straight through, although forced to stop when barges are moving on the
creek. Ironically this `dumping ground' is the inevitable end of the material possessions of the
5) Its bleak and barren nature provides a contrast to the loudness and brightness of New York
and the beautiful exterior of the two Eggs- but also symbolises the moral decay and ugliness
hidden underneath their surfaces. T.J. Eckleburg's advertisement looks out indifferently at
the desolation.
6) The advertisement is a realistic detail from the consumer culture of the 1920s, and a visual
advertisement of this kind had the additional merit of being comprehensible to immigrants
with little or no grasp of English. On another level, the eyes provide a striking focal point for
the books thematic concern with vision - poetic significance at the end of the novel when
Wilson mistakes the eyes for those of an omniscient God. Fitzgerald seems to suggest that
consumerism and materialism have taken the place of spiritual values in modern America and
have become persuasive.
7) The upper classes try to ignore the reality of the valley, e.g. Nick imagines that there are
"romantic apartments concealed overhead", but actually the entire garage is "unprosperous
and bare".

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Rhiannon Edwards C6AP
8) CONTRASTS - "wheat" and "garden" are associated with life and nature. "Ashes" are dead
and depressing. Combining them shows tat beauty has been destroyed.
9) IMAGERY - The image of a "transcendent effort" shows how all the men's energy is taken up
in just existing. But despite their struggle to survive, they're "already crumbling".
10) LISTS - Fitzgerald gives long lists of all the objects made from ash to emphasise the scale of
decay.…read more

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Rhiannon Edwards C6AP
Mr McKee has photographed his wife "a hundred and twenty seven times" which could
suggest that he's obsessed with her as a visual object, rather than an individual.
Their lack of communication reinforces this - he ignores Mrs McKee for most of the party,
shushing her at one point and only acknowledging her by nodding "in a bored way".…read more

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Rhiannon Edwards C6AP
Fitzgerald's negative portrayal of alcohol affects the reader's reaction to Gatsby later in the
novel. The fact that he's a bootlegger links him to the corrupting influence of alcohol, which
seems to be part of life in New York.
1) Nick describes Tom as having "tanked up" and was forcing him to accompany him comparing
him to a car with a large capacity and are very powerful, the use of slang suggests contempt
from the sober Nick.…read more


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