Chapter 2 is the chapter in which Tom takes Nick to meet his lover Myrtle; they meet in the Valley of Ashes which is home to Myrtle and George. The Chapter then changes scene to New York where Nick attends a party; during this party Tom breaks Myrtle’s nose by punching her. The Chapter is used to portray the true colours of Tom Buchanan and to emphasis the mystery surrounding Gatsby. The narrative voice in the chapter is Nick; Fitzgerald has presented Nick as a retrospective first person narrator which creates a number of effects on the novel.
The reader will only see Nick’s view point on things, however Fitzgerald tries to present Nick as an impartial narrator. The reader gains certain opinions on character for example the aggressive nature of Tom “his determination to have my company bordered on violence”. As Nick is a retrospective narrator it is clear that he is aware of the outcome of the events of the novel, the fact that he chooses when and when not to inform the reader of certain information implies that he is withholding key points about certain characters.
Fitzgerald presents Nick as withholding information as this gives the reader the chance to find out information in the same order Nick would have done; thus creating a more trusting bond between the narrator and reader. Fitzgerald’s descriptions of the settings in chapter 2 also help to tell the story. Two main settings feature in this chapter; the valley of ashes and Myrtle’s apartment. Fitzgerald describes the valley of ashes as ‘a certain desolate area of land’ and ‘a fantastic farm where ashes grow like wheat into ridges and hills and grotesque gardens’.
... and that Fitzgerald intended no simple identification either between the narrator and himself or the narrator and his reader; others have ... of the dream. Just as Daisy’s voice held Nick spellbound in chapter 1, it is commensurate also with Gatsby’s ... before a disagreeable conversation; Daisy and her “sophistication”; Tom expounding a stupid racism or swinging his forearms like ...
The valley of ashes is significant in this chapter, and in the whole novel, as it symbolises the huge contrast between the rich and the poor in American society. The Valley of Ashes symbolises the loss of the “American dream” for so many. There is a strong contrast between The Valley of Ashes and Myrtles apartment; her apartment symbolising the wealth and extravagance of New York. The use of the contrasting setting highlights the divide in American society at the time the novel is set in. The Valley of Ashes is different to other settings in the book; the valley of ashes is a picture of absolute desolation and poverty.
It lacks a glamorous surface and lies fallow and grey halfway between West Egg and New York. New York City, is in every way the opposite of the valley of ashes—it is loud, garish, abundant, and glittering. Symbols are used in this chapter; one of the most iconic symbols would be the eyes of Doctor T. J. Eckleburg; “blue and gigantic- their retinas are one yard high. ” These eyes seem to watch other the Valley of Ashes and have an almost God like presence about them; Fitzgerald uses the eyes to represent the judgement and conviction surrounding the Valley of Ashes.
The eyes are used to show the damnation of all those who have been caught up in the destruction of The Valley of Ashes. It is important that the reader is able to pick up on the desperation of those in The Valley of Ashes in order to have a better understanding of the rest of the novel; Dr T. J. Eckleburg’s eyes help to do this. The symbolic value of the eyes have been left open to interpretations however is possible that they represent the eyes of God, staring down at the moral decay of the 1920s. The faded paint of the eyes can be seen as symbolizing the extent to which humanity has lost its connection to God.