The Valley of Ashes — The Great Gatsby

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The Valley of Ashes, the billboard advertising Dr. T.J. Eckleburg, and Wilson's garage are haunting symbols that F. Scott Fitzgerald uses to bring into focus the dark side of the American Dream. A resource from the PBS American Masters series asks readers to examine these carefully chosen symbols.

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CCSS: Designed
Instructional Ideas
  • For those who live in homes not heated by coal furnaces, explain that on the literal level the ashes are produced by the coal furnaces used to heat homes and buildings in New York City and Long Island
  • As homework, ask class members to draw a map of the setting of the novel including East and West Egg, the Valley of Ashes, the billboard, Wilson's garage, Gatsby's mansion, and Nick's house. Then have them compare their maps with their classmates.
Classroom Considerations
  • Comes with a warning that the materials "may be sensitive for some students;" therefore, preview the video to determine if appropriate for your classes
  • One of five resources designed to be used with a reading of The Great Gatsby
Pros
  • The resource includes discussion questions, teaching tips, and handouts
Cons
  • The video focused on the billboard of Dr. T.J. Eckleburg rather than on the literal and symbolic meanings of the Valley of Ashes, the billboard, Wilson's garage, Gatsby's mansion, and Nick's house