Homework Help

In The Great Gatsby, what are some quotes that describe the topic, "eyes...

user profile pic

moocow554 | Student, Undergraduate | (Level 1) Valedictorian

Posted February 12, 2013 at 8:19 PM via web

dislike 2 like

In The Great Gatsby, what are some quotes that describe the topic, "eyes watching"?

Using specific quotes and page numbers from The Great Gatsby, what are some quotes that describe the topic, "eyes watching"?

1 Answer | Add Yours

user profile pic

e-martin | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted February 12, 2013 at 11:10 PM (Answer #1)

dislike 1 like

Toward the end of the novel George Wilson is in a state of shock and grief, attempting to come to terms with the fact that his wife has just been killed. Near his auto shop in the Valley of Ashes, a billboard advertising for Dr. Eckleberg looms large. 

In this state of mind, George Wilson mistakes the eyes on the sign for the eyes of God, saying that the evil that has been done to his wife has been noticed by God.

 ch. 8, p. 159
[Wilson recognizes the eyes of “God”.]

Wilson: “God knows what you’ve been doing, everything you’ve been doing. You may fool me, but you can’t fool God!”

Standing behind him, Michaelis saw with a shock that he was looking at the eyes of Doctor T. J. Eckleburg, which had just emerged, pale and enormous, from the dissolving night.

“God sees everything,” repeated Wilson.

“That’s an advertisement,” Michaelis assured him.

This passage is clearly relates to the notion of "eyes watching" and, furthermore, connects with the novel's themes of moral corruption. 

Many of the characters in the novel, especially Tom and Gatsby, act as if they will not or cannot be brought to account for any moral transgressions they enact. As Tom cheats on Daisy and beats Myrtle, he is unapologetic. His wealth is understood as a shield against moral responsibility. 

Yet, responsibility must be taken. George Wilson becomes a figure of retribution, charged with the belief that God is driving him toward the truth and toward a justified act of revenge. Though Tom rightfully should take some of the responsibility and some of the blame, he is able to deflect Wilson when he comes knocking. 

Daisy is the one who kills Myrtle and Tom protects Daisy (and himself) by directing Wilson to Gatsby's house. It is Jay Gatsby, ultimately, who pays for Myrtle's death. 

George Wilson's confusion about the billboard creates a question, implicit but natural, as to whether or not Gatsby really did have something to pay for, some moral failings for which he should take responsibility. As a fraud, a bootlegger, and a man attempting to steal the wife of another man while demeaning the woman he loves, defending Gatsby's moral position is rather difficult. 

Wilson, of course, knows nothing of Gatsby's flaws or moral failings. Wilson is driven by the eyes he mistakes for the eyes of God, enacting retribution on Gatsby that is either deserved or not, but which is certainly misdirected. 

Either way, the eyes of Dr. Eckleberg become symbolic of the concept of moral judgement. 

There are no spiritual values in a place where money reigns: the traditional ideas of God and Religion are dead here, and the American dream is direly corrupted.

Despite the notion shared by the rich set that nothing they do has moral consequences, Wilson's mistake and his act (murdering Gatsby) proves the contrary. Even though no one is really watching, actions have consequences. The lives of all the characters change after Myrtle's death, further proving this point.

Sources:

Join to answer this question

Join a community of thousands of dedicated teachers and students.

Join eNotes