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?
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