Throughout the story, the idea of the failure of the American dream is shown through the Valley of Ashes, a place where people chase the unrealistic dream. “The Amercian dream is that dream of a land where life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement.” – James Truslow Adams. The Valley of Ashes is one of the four settings used in the story, where people work hard because they believe that they can reach the top through the eyes of Dr. T.J Eckelburg (a successful musician, poet, and producer), but the dream constantly fails them.
The first time we perceive the idea of the failed dream is when Nick and Tom drive through the Valley when heading for Manhattan . Nick describes the place as “A fantastic farm where ashes grow like wheat into ridges and hills and grotesque gardens” He uses the technique of a simile, whereby he illustrates the idea that ashes grow like wheat, even though the ashes are dead and symbolize death. This shows the extent to which the people there are working in order to pursue the American Dream. He also describes the place where wheat grows as “Grotesque Gardens”. Grotesque means repulsively ugly or distorted. Even though wheat is living and symbolizes success and life, Nick still describes it as an ugly place. I think that this is because he is so utterly amazed by that fact that there are so many people wanting to pursue this dream, that he finds it awful that the dream keeps failing them.
Another example of when Nick shows the already fading dream is through this quote “Of men who move dimly and already crumbling through the powdery air”. Nick describes the men working there as moving dimly through the air. He uses the word dimly to show that there is no light, or a faded light, which shows to us the failed or faded dream. He also described the men as crumbling. This gives the idea of the men slowly turning into the ashes that make up the Valley, showing death or failure of the American Dream. The powdery air is also used to give the image that the people working there cannot see the result of there hard work and that they rely solely on the dream to drive them.