This is a valley of ashes – a fantastic farm where ashes grow like wheat into ridges and hills and grotesque gardens; where ashes take the forms of houses and chimneys and rising smoke and, finally, with a transcendent effort, of men who move dimly and already crumbling through the powdery air. Occasionally a line of gray cars crawls along an invisible track, gives out a ghastly creak, and comes to rest, and immediately the ash-gray men swarm up with leaden spades and stir up an impenetrable cloud, which screens their obscure operations from your sight.

F. Scott Fitzgerald

The Great Gatsby, Chapter 2. The valley of ashes symbolizes the moral and social decay resulting from the unhindered pursuit of wealth. It is where the rich indulge themselves in the total pursuit of their own pleasure. It represents absolute poverty, hopelessness and spiritual and moral barrenness – a place of gray desolation.