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Old 03-07-2010, 09:44 PM
Charter Member
Join Date: Aug 2002
Location: Portland, Oregon
Posts: 1,775
What are the ash heaps in The Great Gatsby?

Scott spends a lot of time describing them. What are they? Do they actually exist on Long Island? (Or did they once upon a time?)

Bonus question: Nick is from the middle west...that's not the mid-west, right? He's from the west coast, but somewhere in the middle?
Old 03-07-2010, 09:58 PM
Join Date: Aug 2001
Location: The other Long Beach.
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I believe the ash piles refer to the landfills at Flushing Meadows, land reclaimed for use in the 1939-40 and 1964-64 World's Fairs.
Old 03-08-2010, 01:42 AM
Join Date: Oct 2008
Location: Stars Hollow
Posts: 3,358
I found this online about Flushing Meadows:

"As coal use had increased during the 19th century, the existing wetlands, as well as the creek that flowed from Flushing Bay, were filled to facilitate the site's use as a dump. But Tammany Hall stalwart Fishhooks McCarthy was given sole use of the grounds, and at one point, his Brooklyn Ash Removal Company was unloading 110 railroad carloads of garbage a day to be burned."

Another site says that the ash mounds may have reached 90 feet in height in some places. Sounds like a lovely place.

At any rate, the train from West Egg (or was it East Egg?) to Manhattan would pass right by Flushing.

Also, Googling reveals that Nick was supposed to be from Minnesota.
Old 03-08-2010, 02:00 AM
Join Date: Apr 2000
Location: America's Dairyland
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From a 1937 article in The New York Times about preparing the site in Queens, New York for the 1939 World's Fair:
The ash heaps towered as high as 90 feet above the earth before the city picked the Flushing park meadows as the site for the fair. The place was just a swampy dump heap then, with the neighbors complaining of dog-sized rats and mosquitos with pneumatic drill stingers.

Last edited by Walloon; 03-08-2010 at 02:01 AM.
Old 03-08-2010, 02:49 AM
Join Date: Jan 2010
Posts: 1,201
I can remember in my childhood, older people referring to garbage cans as "ashcans", and among regular household garbage, ashes were likely thrown out as well. Many homes relied on stoves of some sort to supply household heat and a cooking surface, and in many cases, these were powered by burning wood, the results of which would have been ash.

Ash heaps are definitely garbage dumps.
Old 03-08-2010, 06:59 AM
Join Date: Oct 2000
Location: The Empire State
Posts: 6,670
The middle west is a synonym for the midwest - you don't hear it as much these days, but it was a common term that wouldn't need any explanation when Fitzgerald was writing.
Old 03-08-2010, 09:07 AM
Join Date: Mar 2002
Posts: 18,476
I have a different question: the optometrist's sign (with the big glasses) is mentioned several times..what is the it the conscience (that nobody save Nick Carraway seems to have?)

Old 03-08-2010, 09:10 AM
I Am the One Who Bans
Join Date: Apr 2002
Location: Brooklyn
Posts: 78,234
Dr. Eckleburg's eyes represent God.
Old 03-08-2010, 09:53 AM
Join Date: May 2009
Location: New England
Posts: 5,253
Or more specifically, God's unwavering observation and judgment. One of the nice things about Gatsby is that it's a good entry-level introduction to literary symbolism, fit for high schoolers. So in case you might have trouble deducing the meaning of the eyes, someone in the book actually spells it out for you (I can't remember who...I wrote a paper 30 years ago on it and that part stuck in my head).
Old 03-08-2010, 10:56 AM
Join Date: Apr 2000
Location: America's Dairyland
Posts: 12,780
As Nick, Tom and Jordan drive into Manhattan:
"Listen, Tom. If you're such a snob, why did you invite him [Gatsby] to lunch?" demanded Jordan crossly.

"Daisy invited him; she knew him before we were married God knows where!" We were all irritable now with the fading ale, and aware of it we drove for a while in silence. Then as Doctor T. J. Eckleburg's faded eyes came into sight down the road, I remembered Gatsby's caution about gasoline.
After Myrtle Wilson's death, her husband grieves:
Wilson's glazed eyes turned out to the ashheaps, where small gray clouds took on fantastic shape and scurried here and there in the faint dawn wind.

"I spoke to her," he muttered, after a long silence.

"I told her she might fool me but she couldn't fool God. I took her to the window" with an effort he got up and walked to the rear window and leaned with his face pressed against it "and I said 'God knows what you've been doing, everything you've been doing. You may fool me, but you can't fool God!'" Standing behind him, Michaelis saw with a shock that he was looking at the eyes of Doctor T.

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