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The Valley of Ashes as Metaphor in The Great Gatsby

The Valley of Ashes as Metaphor in The Great Gatsby

Throughout F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, location is a critical motif. The contrasts between East and West, East Egg and West Egg, and the two Eggs and New York serve important thematic roles and provide the backdrops for the main conflict. Yet, there needs to be a middle ground between each of these sites, a buffer zone, as it were; there is the great distance that separates East from West; there is the bay that separates East Egg from West Egg; and, there is the Valley of Ashes that separates Long Island from New York. The last of these is probably the most striking. Yet, the traditional literal interpretation does not serve Fitzgerald’s theme as well as a more figurative one would–the “Valley of Ashes” is not literally a valley of ashes, but is rather a figurative description of the middle-class values and suburbia that clash with those of New York as well as East and West Egg.

Supposing that the valley of ashes is literally a valley strewn with ashes, there arise certain technical concerns. Ashes are light and easily blown about—a Sahara-like desert is expected, yet the dust storms Nick describes are rather tame, conjuring up very familiar human images (23); even those that Wilson sees are gentle and “fantastic.” (160) Perhaps this doldrum-like state might emphasize the lack of change, but would still fail to account for the lack of effect rain has. Rain would wash away the ashes, or at least make a mess, but it fails to do so; the valley of ashes remains, neither blown nor washed away–weathering of some sort would have to eventually purge the valley of its ashes, if a strict literal interpretation is held to. Clearly, it is imprudent to take Fitzg…

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…ting in the Novels of Francis Scott Fitzgerald. Bern: Herbert Lang, 1974.

Miller, James E. Jr. “Fitzgerald’s Gatsby: The World as Ash Heap.” In Critical Essays on Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby.

edited by Scott Donaldson. Boston, Massachusetts: G.K. Hall

Shakespeare’s Othello – Why did Othello Marry?

Why did Othello Marry?

Why did Othello marry is a complex question, the obvious answer would be that he loves Desdemona, but why does he love her and why does his love turn to hate so quickly in Act III scene 3 requires much thought and consideration. Othello likes people to be plain and open because that is what he himself is, he has grown to become his image, he is only on the surface, he hides nothing because that is his image, to only have one side, the military side. Thus Desdemona also seems to him very open, he likes her because he thinks she is like him however when he finds that she might be hiding something from him then he stops loving her. At the same time Othello needs a wife to complete his image, she is the proof that he is a successful general and Christian and he can show her off as such.

Othello loves or thinks he loves Desdemona for many reasons, not least because he thinks she is like him. He thinks it will be a good relationship because she seems to be in his eyes just like a soldier thus like him so that he attracted her while telling her tales of his battles as seen in Act I scene 3: “She loved me for the dangers I has passed”. He talks to her as he talks to a soldier using images of war and might:

“May the winds blow till they have wakened death,

And let the labouring bark climb hills of seas”.

Because she comes with him to the wars, she becomes even more in his mind one of his soldiers so that after he comes back to Cyprus he greets her with: “O, my fair warrior”. Othello can not cope with anybody who is different from him, who he cannot understand so that because he sees so much of himself in Desdemona he loves her. She is his “hard bright surface” because she reflects his image when he looks at her. She is commanding, smart and self-confident which he sees as his own best qualities. She shows how commanding and smart she is when she first answers her father in Act I scene 3:

To you I am bound for life and education;

My life and education both do learn me

How to respect you.

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