On Earth as it is in Hell
Many times we hear of societys 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, arent they the waste? Symbolically, this waste represents the lack of ethics of the 1920s society and civilizations decay. In The Great Gatsby, morals deficiencies such as a lack of God, selfishness, and idleness are reflective of a society doomed as "the valley of ashes."
The worldliness of the 1920s society contributes to the image of the wasteland as "hell-like" and deprived of God. The "valley of ashes" symbolizes a society which has forgotten the importance of God, who takes a back seat to profane desires. A lack of seriousness towards God is evident in this corrupt society when Gatsby uses Gods name in a lie, declaring "Ill tell you Gods truth. His right hand suddenly orders divine retribution to stand by. I am the son of some wealthy people in the middle West- all dead now." (p.65) During the Puritan era, this would be considered blasphemous in contrast with the moral standards of the 1920s society. A backwards people have dethroned God, replacing him with false gods of pleasure, greed and money relating to the Latin phrase Deus Absconditus,
equivalent of "God has departed." Although the "valley of ashes" is hell- like and without a solid foundation of God, people still cling onto the idea that there is a god. Wilson, questioning his wifes fidelity, warns her that "God sees everything." (p.167) Though he speaks of God, his god is in the form of a billboard for an oculist named Doctor T.J. 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 theres no turning back.
Selfishness is a vice that contributes to New Yorks 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. Gatsbys relationship with Nick first started out that way. Gatsby became friends with Nick so tha...