Nick is taking the train into New York City with Tom Buchanan. He begins the chapter by describing an area he calls a valley of ashes. It is an area where ashes from coal burning furnaces are deposited. Everything is gray and lifeless, even the people who work and live in the area. Nick describes an old billboard for an optometrist, Doctor T.J.
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in The Great Gatsby, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work. The American Dream—that hard work can lead one from rags to riches—has been a core facet of American identity since its inception. Settlers came west to America from Europe seeking wealth and freedom.