Chapter 2 begins with Fitzgerald setting the unpredictable change in scenery, from the Buchanan’s house with its “bright rosy coloured space,” to the Valley of Ashes, where Nick is about to be introduced to Tom’s mistress, Myrtle. Once arriving in the Valley of Ashes, it is clear to Nick that the Wilson’s do not withhold such a high social or financial status as himself or the Buchanan’s and we know this by the way Nick describes the place as being a “desolate area of land” and “where ashes take the forms of houses and chimneys and rising smoke”. The valley of ashes, although extremely close to West Egg and New York does not appear to uphold the expectations of “the Jazz age” as you would think. This raises the question of why Tom Buchanan, an ostentatiously wealthy and attractive man, would have a mistress that lived in such a pauperized place.
Fitzgerald uses pathetic fallacy at the beginning of chapter 2 in order to reflect Nick’s feelings towards meeting Tom’s mistress and his disinterest towards spending time with Tom, but when Nick is describing his surroundings with words such as; “paintless days” and “dismal scene” his mood changes once he meets Myrtle Wilson and he becomes curious to know more about her, we know this from reading Nick’s description of Myrtle that he is intrigued. This greatly affects the reader because the only opinions and feelings we hold are the ones that Nick translates to us, therefore our opinion is biased.
Another technique that Fitzgerald uses in Chapter 2 is symbolism, when Nick notices “above the grey land and spasms of bleak dust” the eyes of T.J. Eckleberg the character splashed across a huge billboard in the Valley of Ashes. “A pair of enormous yellow spectacles which pass over a non-existent nose.” Nick appears to feel intimidated, as though Doctor Eckleberg is an authoritative figure looking down on society. By mentioning Doctor T.J Eckleberg, Fitzgerald seems to be making a point of Nick being disloyal to Daisy by playing a part in Tom’s adultery. However the Doctor is not a real character in the book, just a mere name which allows the reader to learn more about Nick and his opinions on what is right and wrong.
Fitzgerald then moves the setting to Manhattan, which again, juxtaposes with the Valley of Ashes. This is because we are introduced to the corrupt within New York when Myrtle buys, what she is told, is an Airedale dog from a “greying old man”. Shortly after we are introduced to Tom and Myrtle’s apartment, fully exposing their affair as having no emotional bond but Tom seems to possess Myrtle through material like the dog he bought her and the small apartment they share. When Nick describes the apartment, the language Fitzgerald uses is not as romantic, compared to when Nick is describing the Buchanan’s house in East Egg. Fitzgerald uses repetition of the word “small” three times “a small living room, a small dining room, a small bedroom and a bath.” The size of the apartment could symbolise the fact Myrtle is only a small part of Tom’s life as unfortunately for her she is Tom’s mere object of desire. For example, Tom showers her with gifts like perfume, magazines a dog and a “small” apartment, which to Myrtle appear to symbolise Tom’s love for her, but really these items do not compare to the things that Tom shares with Daisy. Nick also says, “The living room was crowded to the doors with a set of tapestried furniture entirely too large for it, so that to move about was to stumble continually over scenes of ladies swinging in the gardens of Versailles.” This quote displays to the reader that Myrtle has chosen garish furniture in order to appear part of the decadent and terrestrial upper-class. The apartment sounds claustrophobic and the opposite of the Buchanan’s “high hallway” and “fragilely bound” house. Nick’s descriptions of Myrtle’s appearance and tastes are also the opposite of Daisy’s, making…