On Earth As It Is In Hell Essay

On Earth As It Is In Hell

On Earth as it is in Hell

Many times we hear of society?s affect on people; society influencing the way people think
and act. Hardly mentioned is the reverse: peoples? actions and lifestyles affecting
society as a whole and how it is characterized. Thus, society is a reflection of its
inhabitants and in The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald, it is a wasteland described
as the “valley of ashes.” Since the characters of this novel make up this wasteland,
aren?t they the waste? Symbolically, this waste represents the lack of ethics of the
1920?s society and civilization?s decay. In The Great Gatsby, morals deficiencies such as
a lack of God, selfishness, and idleness are reflective of a society doomed as “the
valley of ashes.”

The worldliness of the 1920?s society contributes to the image of the wasteland as
“hell-like” and deprived of God. The “valley of ashes” symbolizes a society which has
forgotten the importance of God, who takes a back seat to profane desires. A lack of
seriousness towards God is evident in this corrupt society when Gatsby uses God?s name in
a lie, declaring ?”I?ll tell you God?s truth.? His right hand suddenly orders divine
retribution to stand by. ?I am the son of some wealthy people in the middle West- all dead

now.?” (p.65) During the Puritan era, this would be considered blasphemous in contrast
with the moral standards of the 1920?s society. A backwards people have dethroned God,
replacing him with false gods of pleasure, greed and money relating to the Latin phrase
Deus Absconditus,

equivalent of “God has departed.” Although the “valley of ashes” is hell- like and
without a solid foundation of God, people still cling onto the idea that there is a god.
Wilson, questioning his wife?s fidelity, warns her that “God sees everything.” (p.167)
Though he speaks of God, his god is in the form of a billboard for an oculist named Doctor
T.J. Eckleburg. He is unable to distinguish God from false idols. Perhaps the society is
so far astray from God that they no longer can rectify their immoral ways. After all, the
wasteland is like hell, and there?s no turning back.

Selfishness is a vice that contributes to New York?s image as “a valley of ashes.” This
egocentrism is commonplace in the characters of The Great Gatsby and gives the impression
of a society where people have adopted the “me first” rationale and a carelessness for
altruism. Gatsby?s relationship with Nick first started out that way. Gatsby became
friends with Nick so that “he could ?come over? some afternoon to [ Nick?s ] garden”
(p.83) and catch a glimpse of Daisy whom he had waited five years for. Gatsby was using
Nick to see her. His friendship with Nick became secondary to his passion for Daisy. Had
Gatsby not loved her, he would have never been friends with Nick because he would not have
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