a trail of ashes

Tea Addict

Senior Member
Republic of Korea Korean
Hello everyone. I would like to know what "a trail of ashes" means in the following sentences:

I followed him over a low whitewashed railroad fence, and we walked back a hundred yards along the road under Doctor Eckleburg’s persistent stare. The only building in sight was a small block of yellow brick sitting on the edge of the waste land, a sort of compact Main Street ministering to it, and contiguous to absolutely nothing. One of the three shops it contained was for rent and another was an all-night restaurant, approached by a trail of ashes; the third was a garage — Repairs. George B. Wilson. Cars bought and sold. — and I followed Tom inside.

- F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby, Chapter 2

When the narrator Nick went up to New York with Tom by train, Tom suddenly forcibly suggested that they go to see his mistress. So they left the train when it stopped at the drawbridge in the valley of ashes (a name for a landfill site where ashes from heating appliances were buried), and went to the garage where his mistress lived.

In this part, I would like to know what a trail of ashes means. Is it a road covered with ashes? Or is it a mark left by ashes? Or a thread of ashes?
I would very much appreciate your help. :)
  • dojibear

    Senior Member
    US English
    Normally a "trail of ashes" is a pathway with ashes on it. It looks like someone walked along, gradually dropping ashes out of a bag while they walked.

    A "trail" is not a "road". A "road" is 3m wide or wider: wide enough for cars and trucks. A "trail" may be less than 1m wide: wide enough for 1 person to walk on.

    But in the book, the width is unclear. It could be as wide as a road, or narrower.

    Tea Addict

    Senior Member
    Republic of Korea Korean
    Dear dojibear,

    Thank you very much.
    So it is a very narrow path covered with ashes.
    I truly appreciate your help. :)