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The Great Gatsby and the Valley of Ashes

The Great Gatsby and the Valley of Ashes

Many times we hear of society’s affect on people; society influencing the way people think and act. Hardly mentioned is the reverse: peoples’ actions and lifestyles affecting society as a whole and how it is characterized. Thus, society is a reflection of its inhabitants and in The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald, it is a wasteland described as the “valley of ashes.” Since the characters of this novel make up this wasteland, aren’t they the waste? Symbolically, this waste represents the lack of ethics of the 1920’s society and civilization’s decay. In The Great Gatsby, morals deficiencies such as a lack of God, selfishness, and idleness are reflective of a society as doomed as “the valley of ashes.”

The worldliness of the 1920’s society contributes to the image of the wasteland as “hell-like” and deprived of God. The “valley of ashes” symbolizes a society, which has forgotten the importance of God, who takes a back seat to profane desires. A lack of seriousness towards God is evident in this corrupt society when Gatsby uses God’s name in a lie, declaring ‘”I’ll tell you God’s truth.’ His right hand suddenly orders divine retribution to stand by. ‘I am the son of some wealthy people in the middle West- all dead now” (65). During the Puritan era, this would be considered blasphemous in contrast with the moral standards of the 1920’s society. A backwards people have dethroned God, replacing him with false gods of pleasure, greed and money relating to the Latin phrase Deus Absconditus, equivalent of “God has departed.” Although the “valley of ashes” is hell- like and without a solid foundation of God, people still cling onto the idea that there is a god….

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…ald.” Critical Essays on Scott Fitzgerald’s “Great Gatsby.” Ed. Scott Donaldson. Boston: Hall, 1984. 13-20.

Teahers Comments:

You have a clear thesis statement and you stick to that thesis statement throughout your paper. You also have a strong conclusion, bringing all of your ideas together and wrapping them up. When quoting, the final punctuation should come after the parentheses instead of inside the quotation marks. When quoting someone’s speech you do not need to use both the quotation mark and the comma. So at the beginning or the end of the quote, the extra comma is not needed. The comma is only used to separate the speech from someone else’s speech or from the text. If you are interested in the “valley of the ashes” and the wasteland theme of the early 1900’s I would suggest reading T. S. Eliot’s poems, “J. Alfred Prufrock” and the Wasteland.

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