This is a valley of ashes--a fantastic farm where ashes grow like wheat into ridges and hills and grotesque gardens; where ashes take the forms of houses and chimneys and rising smoke and, finally, with a transcendent effort, of men who move dimly and already crumbling through the powdery air. Occasionally a line of gray cars crawls along an invisible track, gives out a ghastly creak, and comes to rest, and immediately the ash-gray men swarm up with leaden spades and stir up an impenetrable cloud, which screens their obscure operations from your sight. (Fitzgerald 27).
The valley of ashes mentioned in this quote from the novel The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald refers to a long stretch of land between West Egg and New York, which is soiled by the dumping of industrial ashes. The valley of ashes symbolizes the moral and social decay that results from the pursuit of wealth. The rich have misguided values and have no regard for the less fortunate; and the poor who live among the ashes lose any self dignity, vitality and motivation they once may of had. The valley of ashes serves more than one purpose. It is a symbol that represents the separation of the classes, helps shape the characters, and forges a major theme in the novel; the decline of the American dream. In The Great Gatsby there is a clear separation of classes in which the valley of ashes plays a large role. Socially, the wealthy look down upon the less fortunate. They degrade the occupants of the valley of ashes in the way they communicate with them. In the following quote Tom Buchanan is passing through the valley of ashes on his way to New York when he decides to stop by George Wilson's garage: .
"Hello Wilson, old man,' said Tom, slapping him jovially on the shoulder. 'How's business?" .
"I can't complain," answered Wilson unconvincingly. 'When are you going to sell me that car?".
"Next week; I've got my man working on it now.