An important setting that Fitzgerald uses to illustrate an aspect of the American Dream, is the Valley of Ashes. This “desolate area of land” lies between West Egg and New York City, it’s inhabitants are people who work with a “transcendent effort” but despite this, will never gain the prosperity that reflects the immensity of their work. The term ‘American Dream’ was first used by James Truslow Adams to describe the hope that any person, no matter their beginnings, could gain the¬†prosperity and wealth that reflected their effort and accomplishment. Fitzgerald uses the Valley of Ashes to reveal the failure of the American Dream, this setting displays the way many people truly experienced it and the reality that they live. Fitzgerald describes the Valley of Ashes as a “fantastic farm where ashes grow like wheat into ridges and hills and grotesque gardens.” The use of “fantastic farms” indicates thriving growth, it then however, implies that ashes are all that is growing in the place of wheat; ashes, where it should be prosperity and life. This is referring to the American Dream and the way that, despite their effort and what they “should” be getting in return, the people living in the Valley of Ashes never gain the riches that reflect their labour and exhaustion. This directly opposes the idea of the American Dream. The description “grotesque gardens” metaphorizes the idea that, to the people in the Valley of Ashes, the dream is grotesque and warped, they experience a distorted version of it as all that grows from their work, is ashes. Fitzgerald uses is writing to skillfully intertwine and suggest his ideas about life, humanity and society. His views on the American Dream and its failure are distinctly presented throughout his work through his descriptions of settings, like the Valley of Ashes and the characters in them.

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  1. Hey Siena,

    This is a neatly organized and clear paragraph. It builds a point concisely and your quotations are effectively woven into your paragraph.

    I want to challenge you, as it is clear you have a solid understanding of the ideas in the text, to develop the writing. Now that you know what you want to say, look towards HOW you say it. Think about how to include your own figurative language to develop or clarify your point. Consider the use of transitional phrases to move between and connect your ideas. Develop more control with your syntax- you want to think about how the type of sentence you use has an impact on the presentation of an idea.

    Cut loose a little with it!

    Mrs. P


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