The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

February 27, 2008
By Erin Roark, Mason, OH

Different from the lifestyle of the blue bloods and nouveau-riche, the middle-class dwellers of the Valley of Ashes fall short of reaching the American Dream.

Myrtle Wilson lives in the Valley of Ashes, yet has dreams of becoming part of the upper class. Unhappy from the beginning with her husband George, “The only crazy I was was when I married him. I knew right away I made a mistake” (39). She seeks to fix her mistake by having an affair with Tom to gain social status. Myrtle realizes she might not have another chance at living luxuriously and “all [she] kept thinking about, over and over, was ‘You can't live forever; you can't live forever” (40). Unable to divorce and leave George, Myrtle lives and dies at the place of the unreached American Dream.

George, the husband of Myrtle, also experiences a lost dream. He lives with her above a car garage and is naïve to her unfaithfulness. Not only is he losing his wife to riches but his possessions are also controlled by those with money. At one point, George anxiously queries about a potential car sale from Tom. Toying with his wishes, Tom tells George, “And if you feel that way about it, maybe I'd better sell it somewhere else after all” (29). When it is revealed Myrtle is committing adultery, George's health deteriorates and Myrtle is murdered. George eventually takes his own life, never reaching his dream of the perfect family.

The Valley of Ashes is a place “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” (27). It is away from the glitz and glamour of the nouveau-riche and a pathetic dumping site for the middle class who have lost their own American Dream.

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