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A question about ashes Seeing the narrator describe how “ashes” grow and take different types of shapes, I first thought the word meant trees. But then I got confused when I saw the word “ash” used in “ash-gray man.” The mention of “gray land” and “the spasms of bleak dust” made me think I might be wrong. Are they ash trees growing in polluted air? Excerpt: About half way between West Egg and New York the motor road hastily joins the railroad and runs beside it for a quarter of a mile, so as to shrink away from a certain desolate area of land. 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. But above the gray land and the spasms of bleak dust which drift endlessly over it, you perceive, after a moment, the eyes of Doctor T. J. Eckleburg. -- The Great Gatsby ch. 2
Nov 1, 2012 3:19 PM
Answers · 1
I read this book a few years ago and I think here "ashes" are used in a non-literal way. It is trying to describe how everything blended together in the landscape, as one big "pile of ashes"= gray dull lifeless area (it is a metaphor, not an actually land covered in ashes). Here, the main point is to show that above everything in the landscape that appears bland and "gray as ashes", the eyes of the doctor shine through. (the rich successful man from a rich city) - Because ashes are gray and dull, he is showing a contrast between the rich West Egg and the poor towns (that are gray like ashes (lacking life). So he uses this image of everything "being covered by ashes" to describe how dull this valley was compared to the rich glittering cities. I hope this helps! if you have questions, feel free to message me :)
November 1, 2012
Language Skills
Chinese (Mandarin), English
Learning Language