Great texts use imagery to make us examine ourselves-question
The american dream is corrupted by the human condition - thesis statement
A source of imagery used in the novel that reflects our own society and human issues is the grey and dusty ‘valley of ashes’ located in New York City between Long Island and the Golden Gate bridge. The valley is described by Nick during his first venture through it as ‘a solemn dumping ground’ that is bound on one side by a small foul river and provides a dismal scene for passengers awaiting trains. It is a place of failure and disarray, where dreams and people go to die. Nick points out an old advertisement board whose business had obviously seen better days. “Evidently some wild wag of an occultist set them there to fatten his practice in the borough of queens, and then sank down himself into eternal blindness, or forgot them and moved away. This use of imagery highlights the failure and poverty of the area. It is a place where people and things are discarded and forgotten about. the use of the words ‘solemn’ and ‘foul’ helps the reader to understand how dark and lifeless the valley is and how dreams decay and are lost once exposed to the filth of their society.this introduces the reader to the poor and unglamorous side of New York and gives them a physical place in the novel to associate with the filth of society and the failure of the american dream.
It appears that the valley of ashes is an area of hopelessness and destruction and encourages the people who reside there into a life of such. The first exposure of this idea comes when Nick meets Tom Buchanan’s mistress, Myrtle Wilson, there on his way with Tom to New York. The encounter quickly descends into a night of violence and destruction fueled by tension surrounding the subject of Tom’s wife, Daisy whose lifestyle is in complete contrast with Myrtle’s. “Then the valley of ashes opened up on both sides of us, and I had a glimpse of Mrs Wilson straining at the garage pump with panting vitality as we passed by.” this use of imagery points out how different the lifestyles of daisy and myrtle are as daisy is often described as resting or in a peaceful state as she is privileged and can afford to lay around and do nothing with herself all day, every day if she so wishes. Myrtle, on the other hand, has not had the same lavish lifestyle and has fallen victim to the poverty and sense of hopelessness that the valley of ashes advertises. The difference in lifestyles between Myrtle and daisy is clearly highlighted here and shows how the lower class are stuck in an endless cycle of poverty and will not fulfill their dreams due to the nature of the environment they live in and the mindset that it provides for its residents. Myrtle Wilson is one of the many characters that Fitzgerald uses to show how the american dream is corrupted by the human condition.
Gatsbys home does not serve its purpose. Gatsby builds his mansion in order to please and protect both himself and Daisy and much like the rest of his dream, it fails if one piece of the puzzle does not fit. this idea comes from a comment that Jordan Baker, Nick’s love interest makes during a meet up with nick. “He wants her to see his house, and your house is right next door.” Jordan, and now Nick are both well aware of the fact that Gatsby will do anything to please the girl of his dreams even if it means needing to use his friends or acquaintances to get there. Later on it becomes very clear to the reader that Gatsby bases his self worth from Daisy’s reactions to his achievements and will stop at nothing to ensure his dream is fulfilled. In this aspect, he is a victim of his own ambition and cannot see the line that separates a simple and acceptable gift from an excessive and obsessive attempt to gain the favour of others. Jordans’ quote is very direct and she gets her point across. There is no room for misinterpretation and Gatsby will get what he wants one way or another. this shows how gatsby uses material things such as his house, cars and money to attract the people he desires. Although the mansion is enough for daisy for a little while, she is consumed by the human condition and always wants more. Therefore the house cannot truly serve its purpose.