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.
Shrink implies that the road wants to pull away from this area but can’t go far. It is “creeped” by it.
Desolate means “bleak emptiness” Not much happening, its unpleasant. This area doesn’t produce or grow.
Valley of Ashes – valley, hole-like, ashes/burnt out & dying. NY & surrounding areas dump their ashes.
Far, grow, garden, all imply life. However Fitzgerald states that “ashes” are growing into things you might normally find on a farm.
He also states that th garden is “grotesque” : ugly, disgusting
Ashes are forming everything, they are the things that are growing and therefore Fitzgerald is trying to illustrate that the feeling of being “burn out” has taken over this place.
Transcendent : beyond the range of normal human experience, otherworldly, supernatural.
These people live in a world where this ^ kind of effort is the norm.
Worn out, tired. already crumbling: you’re going to break.
Obscure: hidden from vision, unknown to those on the outside – which feeds the division between the rich and poor, the thriving and the crawling, those crumbling in the ashes and those dumping the ashes on them.