A sacrifice zone describes the disproportionate placement of hazardous sites near racial, minority and low income communities. The improper management or closure of these sites may lead to the leaching of chemicals and threaten the health and livelihoods of those in the area. In this independent study I asked the question: How does F. Scott Fitzgerald’s use of descriptive language portray the Valley of Ashes as a sacrifice zone? The Great Gatsby has been extensively researched by scholars, who for the most part, analyze conventional themes such as social and economic class, the American Dream, the significance of automobiles, and money and greed. There is very little research on the novel from an environmental or ecocritical perspective. My conclusion is that if this novel were published now, the few paragraphs Fitzgerald wrote about the Valley of Ashes might be enough to establish it as a sacrifice zone, and that the striving and desperation of people who live there are struggles readers would find current today. This study employs the use of multiple disciplines, including historical context and environmental and literature perspectives, to investigate an aspect of the story that I think is overlooked. Fitzgerald suggests the impact of contaminants on people and communities without power can be ignored - a sacrifice zone. I haven’t seen any analysis of The Great Gatsby from this point of view. Research that takes this approach could fill the gap, keep a nearly century old novel current and introduce it to a new generation of readers.


Brown, Iemanja


Environmental Studies


American Literature | Environmental Studies

Publication Date


Degree Granted

Bachelor of Arts

Document Type

Senior Independent Study Thesis



© Copyright 2022 Mei Carter