The Downside of Technology in “The Great Gatsby”

November 10, 2010

F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby is set in the 1920s during a period where America was becoming more of an industrialized nation. As buildings start replacing trees and more people move into the cities, there is a general feeling of uneasiness with the changing world that is evident in this novel. The two villages of East and West Egg are separated by a valley where the ashes from the city are dumped. Here lies one of the most poignant images of the book, “the eyes of Doctor T. J. Eckleburg” (Chapter 2). These spectacled eyes once served as advertisement for a now failed oculist practice. This area in between the two fabulous villages of East and West Egg seems to be connected with the notion of technology and its effect on society as a whole.

The ashes, although never explicitly specified, are most likely a byproduct from the many factories that operate in New York City. This waste is so great that two men are employed simply to constantly move around the ashes into valleys and mountains. This image seems to be a painful reminder of the changing times during this era and this is all due to technology. The impact of industrialization is not simply limited to the city walls. This valley has to suffer from the waste of the factories that seems to endlessly pile up. Although the eye of Dr. Eckleburg were once a symbol of consumerism and marketing, it is now describe to look sad as they “brood on over the solemn dumping ground” (Chapter 2). Not very far away, there is another depressing scene describing people waiting for their trains as they “stare at the dismal scene for as long as half an hour” (Chapter 2). All these details seem to be a direct result from advancing technology and its impact on the land and people. It is not a positive quality and this negative aspect of technology is especially evident in this valley separating the two wealthy neighborhoods of East and West Egg.

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