“You can hide yourself, only to a point”. The well known novel, “The Great Gatsby” by F. Scott Fitzgerald, tells a story of a time where society was segregated in the 1920s. The book explores the idea of illusion and lies all packed into an eventful summer in New York. Fitzgerald uses 4 main settings to show the idea of the corruption of the American Dream. Through my analysis of these settings I will show that the corruption of the American Dream is existant in all three places and that each place.

The Valley Of Ashes represents the failure of the American dream. The Valley Of Ashes is situated on the way to New York, coming from West Egg. It shows the failure of the American dream because the people who live here, work hard for their money but never enjoy the pride or fortune of what they deserve. Whereas West Egg and East Egg shows the importance of social representation in the 1920s and how you were ranked depending on the amount of money you had, how you made it, where you lived and who you engaged with.

Statement: In the novel The Valley Of Ashes represents the corruption of the American Dream.

Explanation: The Valley Of Ashes is situated on the way to New York coming from West and East Egg. It  is a run down commercial place where the lower class and very hard working people live. The valley shows corruption of the American dream because everyone who lives here, works so hard for their money but don’t receive the pride or fortune they deserve. They are at the bottom of society that they lack equal opportunity to achieve success and receive the same opportunities. It is a place that represents poverty and hopelessness.

Example: The narrator describes the Valley of Ashes by saying, “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.

Explanation: The ashes also symbolise death, with more selfish people arising from them. Every generation the pile increasing representing the American Dream. It is also representing the moral and social factors decreasing, resulting from wealth as the rich remain self centred to pleasure themselves. This shows corruption of the American Dream because it is meant to represent the idea of discovering happiness, it is impossible to achieve happiness in the Valley. This is because this dream has turned into the idea of money bringing happiness and the desire for wealth. Which is impossible for people living here to be happy as they dont make the amount of money they deserve considering the time and effort they put in.

Example: 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.  “Works pretty slow, don’t he?   “No, he doesn’t,” said Tom coldly. “And if you feel that way about it, maybe I’d better sell it somewhere else after all.”  “I don’t mean that,” explained Wilson quickly.

Explanation: The confrontation of Tom and Wilson show how the rich look down on the poor because of the difference in their social status. It shows and represents how social decay and morals are hidden by the people living in West and East Egg. The valley is created through industrial dumping and both the environment and people are suffering. The American dream identifies how everyone should be equal, whereas this is a clear example that people like Tom who are at the top of society treat lower class people how they please and they use them for their cheap work. People who live in the valley wish to leave it, however they fail to do so. This is shown when Myrtle try’s running away from Wilson, running from the corruption of the american dream and her unhappiness. However she dies trying to leave, this illustrates how the American Dream is impossible to achieve.

Fitzgerald uses the Valley of Ashes to illustrate the corruption of the American Dream and social decay in society. To show that the American Dream is not existent in society only the corruption of it. There is no equalisation of opportunities and it is impossible for people who live in the valley to achieve happiness and their goals. This is simply because the American Dream represents the idea that anyone can live they type of life they wish for if they work hard to achieve their dreams. This idea is taken away from the people who live in the valley because they show hard work and determination to make money however they never and never will achieve their goals and dreams because of social classes and segregation. This idea was shown in another way in the South of America where racism was present from the 17th century to the 1960s. The American Dream also applies to the idea of negro men and women not having the same opportunities as white men and women. Different schools, toilets, workforces, places they live etc, the majority of African Americans worked very hard but didn’t receive the opportunities that work should of provided them with.

Statement: In the novel, East Egg represents the corruption of the American Dream

Explanation: East Egg represents old money, meaning the people who live here have inherited their money, everything in life has come easily and naturally served on a golden platter. This is what society accepts, people who have been at the top of society for a long time and haven’t had to work hard to get where they are. This instantly destroys the idea of the American Dream because these characters who live in East Egg haven’t made the opportunities for themselves, they have failed to work hard for their wealth and have continued to rely on other people.

Example: Nick describes the difference between West and East Egg by saying,“I lived at West Egg, the- well, the less fashionable of the two, though this is a most superficial tag to express the bizarre and not a little sinister contrast between them” and “Across the courtesy bay the white palaces of fashionable East Egg glittered along the water”.

Explanation: East Egg is seen as a magical place, the houses are referred to as palaces, whereas West Egg is looked on to be just ordinary yet there is still a lot of wealth. West Egg is only seen to be this great place with the most elite, famous people living there because they haven’t made their fortune by working or illegally. It shows that society has a different perspective than what the American Dream is trying to show. Society accepts people who have done nothing to earn their superior lives over people who are working immensely and focusing their lives hoping for a breakthrough, although they know there will never be one.

Example: Nick describes Gatsbys last moment as, “He must have looked up at an unfamiliar sky through frightening leaves and shivered as he found what a grotesque thing a rose is and how raw the sunlight was upon the scarcely created grass. A new world, material without being real, where poor ghosts, breathing dreams like air, drifted fortuitously about…”. 

Explanation: This quote shows how Gatsby realised what Daisys personality was truly like, the false, graceful mask she puts up just like other characters in East Egg was finally revealed. She appeared a beautiful person yet she was ugly inside, only after one thing and that was wealth. If someone was unable to give her what she wanted which was money she had no security. This relates back to the American Dream because it identifies people should be taking pride in what they work for. People like Daisy will never feel this self pride, they will forever be depending on someone else to provide them with what they cannot be bothered to earn themselves no matter how badly they are treated. Daisys husband was having an affair yet she stayed with him not for love but money.




the people are looked at as if they are graceful, influential people just like Gatsby who was from West Egg saw Daisy. However these people aren’t graceful, they are

Join the conversation! 2 Comments

  1. Peta, I want you to be more decisive in your essay. Above, you have written “secretive relationships that may and may not last.”
    Can you see how this sounds a little “wish-washy” to a reader?

    In todays lesson, you missed us looking at the “XE” stage of our paragraphs (example and explain).

    I have emailed you the link to the Prezi so you can have a look at it and give it a go yourself. My key piece of advice with the example is to “weave” your quotes into your writing. Blend them into the sentences so they become a seamless part of your work.

  2. Peta, I think it is a good idea that you have mapped out each section of your paragraph. Your next step is to think about the relevance of the comments you are making.

    Decide on the “point” you are trying to argue in each paragraph i.e. the Valley of Ashes represents how the American Dream is a failed ideal.
    Then select two pieces of evidence that help you to show this- what is it that supports this idea? Explain how that piece of evidence develops your selected idea.

    At the moment, your ideas are still scattered and I struggled to see the point you were trying to make. Don’t try and say too much in your essay. Focus in on several key ideas and analyse them well rather than trying to unpack the entire text.


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