The Great Gatsby
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Transcript of The Great Gatsby
The Great GatsbyChapter Two
Learning IntentionsUnderstand the importance of the second major setting The valley of the AshesIdentify the further use of symbolism in Gatsby which increases your understanding of the major themesLearn about the two new characters we meet in this chapter and think about their importance to the plot
Chapter SummaryIntroduced to a third setting The Valley of Ashes. This shows a darker side to the American Dream and demonstrates what happens if you work hard but dont achieve what you want. Meet George and Myrtle Wilson, the only impoverished characters in the novel and they live in the Valley of the Ashes.Find out that Tom and Myrtle are having an affair and Myrtle has aspirations to leave the ash pit. She sees Tom as her ticket out and does not accept that there is no chance of a permanent relationship between the two.Shown the contrasts between Daisy and Myrtle.Move to another setting Manhattan, New York. Tom, Nick, Myrtle and other people through a small party and we see a darker side to Toms character as he punches Myrtle when she insults Daisy. The theme of artifice and reality is explored in this chapter.
SettingWe are quickly introduced to a further setting in chapter two called the Valley of the Ashes. Lying halfway between the eggs and New York itself, the Valley of Ashes symbolises the edge of society.
Main Images and IdeasASH Think about:The connotation of this wordWhat this tells you about the settingThe type of people who live thereThe lives the leadLACK OF COLOUR AND DEFINITION Think about:What this tells you about society and how they are viewed by othersHow this relates to the American DreamThe connotations of the colour grey
The Valley of the AshesThe Valley of Ashes between West Egg and New York City consists of a long stretch of desolate land created by the dumping of industrial ashes. Represents a kind of purgatory a place in limbo but also symbolises the shameful underbelly of American capitalism. These men are devoid of colour, working ceaselessly to maintain the status quo of the Tom Buchanans who dont seem to work at all. It represents the moral and social decay that results from the uninhibited pursuit of wealth, as the rich indulge themselves with regard for nothing but their own pleasure. The Valley of Ashes also symbolizes the plight of the poor, like George Wilson, who live among the dirty ashes and lose their vitality as a result.
The Valley of Ashes
Ash: has a traditionally negative association with decay/waste/dirt think of crematoriums, ashes to ashes dust to dust, cigarette trays. But it has positive connotations too the phoenix rising from the ashes for example. This can perhaps symbolise the redemptive nature of humanity the ability of men to pull through circumstances of great hardship and suffering. The ash-grey men at work in this place symbolise the downtrodden working class chained forever to industry and monotony. They move dimly and already crumbling through the powdery air;. Living out a mere half-life, a million miles from the splendour and indulgence of the Buchanans environment.
The Valley of Ashes Lack of Colour and Definition in the LandscapeA line of grey cards crawls along an invisible track immediately the ash-grey men swarm up with leaden spades and stir up an impenetrable cloud, which screens their obscure operations from your sight.This perhaps represents the idea that this section of society is deliberate hidden from view (notice how the train curls away from the Valley, as if it shrinks away from having to confront it.) In modern industrial society, the polarisation between the haves and have-nots, between the slaves and the masters, grows ever stronger. By repeating images of greyness, obscuring cloud and blindness, Fitzgerald emphasises the tendency of the privileged to casually overlook the reality of hellholes such as these.
The Eyes of Dr T.J. Ecklebergabove the grey land and the spasms of bleak dust which drift endlessly over it, you perceive, after a moment, the eyes of Doctor T. J. Eckleberg[his] eyesare blue and gigantic their retinas are one yard high. They look out of no face, but, instead, from a pair of enormous yellow spectacles which pass over a non-existent nosehis eyes, dimmed a little by many paintless days, under sun and rain, brood on over the solemn dumping group.
The sign on the hill is ambiguous Fitzgerald gives no overt explanation of its relevance in the move and yet it pervades the consciousness of the reader as we pass through the Valley of Ashes into the life of the Wilsons.
The Eyes of Dr T. J. EcklebergReminds us by its sheer size and the incongruity of its surroundings of the importance and influence of advertising in modern culture. These eyes have no natural place on the hillside, and yet they dominate the landscape, being its most prominent feature.Fitzgerald has deliberately chosen an advert for optometry in order to point out the modern mans inability to see the corruption of our society and environment. This lack of vision applies to all of the characters in the book, each of all fail to see the basic futility of their hopes and dreams. The billboard shows how consumerism and materialism has taken the place of traditional spiritual values.
Myrtle and George WilsonThe only impoverished characters in the novel live in the Valley of the Ashes. Notably their home is made of yellow brick. Again the symbolism of colour is both complex and revealing.
What do you think the colour yellow could symbolise?
Myrtle and George WilsonJust like the yellow brick road in L Frank Baum's 1900 classic The Wizard of Oz, the faade of the Wilsons home is a symbol of false promise in the midst of despair. We know Myrtle has aspirations beyond the ash heap despite the impossibility of any permanent match between them, she sees Tom Buchanan has her ticket to a lifelong party; by contrast, George is one of the ash-grey men, and his only source of joy is, ironically, the wife who is cheating on him:
A white ashen dust veiled his dark suit and his pale hair as it veiled everything in his vicinity except his wife, who moved close to Tom.
Myrtle WilsonMyrtle represents the idea of escape in the novel, but like other characters, her dream is false and filled with illusion. Both she and her ghost-like husband are locked to the Valley of the Ashes by the very nature of their impoverishment. Thus, the yellowness of their home could also suggest decay and atrophy.
MyrtleShe initially displays a robust sexuality and the reader can see why Tom is attracted to her she is the opposite from the pure, delicate and insubstantial Daisy.
carried her flesh sensuallycontinually smouldering wet her lipssoft, course voiceDescriptions become less flattering:rather wide hips bought cold cream, perfumeI want one of those dogs Becomes a consumer,materialistic ironic as she is the one being bought.her personality has also undergone a change intense vitalityconverted his hauteurviolently affected high mincing shout
MyrtleMyrtles transformation emphasises her desire to be accepted into Toms world. She believes in illusion and in looking the part, yet this existence is a faade. The irony is she metamorphoses into her interpretation of an East Egger but she becomes more grotesque until eventually she is little more than a ridiculous parody of herself.
Daisy and MyrtleWe are presented with a great contrast between Daisy and Myrtle. Whereas Daisy is presented as faintly ephemeral. Dressed in pale pastels with her low, thrilling voice, Myrtle is charged with sensual and verbal energy. When she comes down the stairs, Nick notes her immediate perceptible vitality as if her nerves were continually smouldering.Unlike Daisy, she wears bold, saturated colours to reveal her hot-blooded temperament and her robust femininity. She is straight forward, commanding and overtly sexual, licking her lips at Tom as she approaches him. It is only when she changed her dress that her character alters as Nick observes through a drunken surreal haze.
MyrtleMrs Wilson was now attired in an elaborate afternoon dress of cream coloured chiffon with the influence of the dress, her personality had also undergone a change. The intense vitality was covered into impressive hauteur. Her laughter, her gestures, her assertions become more violently affected and as she expanded the room grew smaller around her, until she seemed to be revolving on a noisy, creaking pivot through the smoky air.
Myrtles TransformationThe change of dress is symbolic of the nature of falsity and pretence that pervades the whole novel. Her movement from her real self (represented by the full-blooded blue of her previous dress) to her desired self (seen in the pastel cream of a dress which might be worn by Daisy) is indicative of her inability to face the truth about her life. She is pretending to be the one person in the world who she cannot hope to emulate her lover's wife.
Artifice and RealityLie told by Myrtle about the reason Tom cannot divorce Daisy.The abundance of alcohol serves as a reminder of the characters need to fill their leisure time with artificial stimulants.Myrtles discussion of her own marriage reveals her own superficiality: the fact that she was appalled by George borrowing a suit for the ceremony really only tells us that she is the one who cannot see beyond surface reality. Her husband dumbly adores her, but his status in society is the only thing that matters in her materialistic, greedy world.
RealityThe characters are forced out of their drunken stupor and back to harsh reality with the sound of Myrtles nose being