F. Scott Fitzgerald illustrates what he saw as a dichotomy between the decadent rich and deprived poor in this description of the valley of ashes. The theme of polarity is evident in this passage. Fitzgerald’s juxtaposition of the wealthy and the needy demonstrates the apathy of the former and the ignorance of the latter. Fitzgerald uses simile to give the ashes life. He describes them as “growing like wheat.” Wheat is the cornerstone of civilization, a food product that humans have depended upon for centuries.
By comparing the ashes to wheat, Fitzgerald emphasizes the ashes’ importance.
Literally, the ash is present due to industrial waste. Corporations dump their toxic by-products in the valley of ashes, secure in their assumption that its poor residents cannot, or do not know how to, stop it. Fitzgerald’s tone in this part of the passage is sarcastic. He calls the valley a “fantastic farm” and “grotesque garden. ” This alliteration sounds playful and light while discussing a topic that is serious and heavy.
Fitzgerald is mocking the unconcerned attitude of the rich businessmen by taking their apathy to an extreme.
Fitzgerald characterizes the wealthy as unjust and indifferent to the plight of the poor. The ashes that make the valley so dark and dismal come to it through “obscure operations.” Once again, Fitzgerald uses alliteration to illustrate the underhandedness of the rich. His repetition of sarcastic alliteration re-enforces the idea that the affluent arrogantly disregard the suffering of the impoverished as unimportant.
Fitzgerald emphasizes the injustice of the aristocracy by invoking God.
The blue eyes of Doctor T. J.Eckleburg gaze through “a pair of enormous yellow spectacles” onto the valley of ashes. Although he never states it explicitly, Fitzgerald alludes to the divinity of the eyes. The imagery itself represents the heavens. The blue eyes and yellow glass are reminiscent of the sky on a clear day. There are no clear days in the valley of ashes, only gray ones. However, the billboard can be seen through the gray. This textual evidence leads the reader to conclude that, because God cannot watch over the valley from his perch in the sky, he views it from the billboard.
The eyes “brood over the solemn dumping ground,” condemning the obvious dichotomy. The billboard is for some “wild wag of an oculist” who wanted to “fatten his practice.” For the third time, Fitzgerald uses sarcastic alliteration to mock businessmen. Given the disdainful and sarcastic tone Fitzgerald uses in the previous paragraph to describe the rich, the reader can deduce that he sees the oculist as another apathetic wealthy man. Fitzgerald’s use of diction also gives the reader the impression that the doctor was a greedy man.
The word “fatten” has the connotation that, while the man already had enough business, he wanted even more so he could become richer and more decadent. This both disproves and supports the notion that the billboard is a metaphor for God. While God is obviously not an oculist, it is possible that the doctor represents both consumerism and divinity at once. The eyes symbolize the glorification of materialism. Fitzgerald characterizes the rich as apathetic and selfish. His juxtaposes the extreme waste of the rich with the extreme poverty of the underprivileged. In this passage, he illustrates the exploitation of the poor by the wealthy.