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The Great Gatsby and the Valley of Ashes Essay

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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
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Eckleburg. He is unable to distinguish God from false idols. Perhaps the society is so far astray from God that they no longer can rectify their immoral ways. After all, the wasteland is like hell, and there's no turning back.

Selfishness is a vice that contributes to New York's image as "a valley of ashes." This egocentrism is commonplace in the characters of The Great Gatsby and gives the impression of a society where people have adopted the "me first" rationale and a carelessness for altruism. Gatsby's relationship with Nick first started out that way. Gatsby became friends with Nick so that "he could 'come over' some afternoon to [Nick's] garden" (83) and catch a glimpse of Daisy whom he had waited five years for. Gatsby was using Nick to see her. His friendship with Nick became secondary to his passion for Daisy. Had Gatsby not loved her, he would have never been a friend with Nick because he would not have someone to use. This selfish behavior is also present in Klipspringer, Gatsby's houseguest, when he replies to Nick with uncertainty about his presence at Gatsby's funeral, "Well, I'll try. I'm staying with some people in Greenwich and there's a picnic or something. What I called up about was a pair of shoes I left [at Gatsby's house]" (177). Klipspringer takes Gatsby's death with such levity, implying that the funeral is on the same plane of insignificance
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