How do the eyes of Dr. T.J. Eckleburg affect Mr. Wilson in The Great Gastby?

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e-martin eNotes educator| Certified Educator

George Wilson enters a state of grief and perhaps shock after his wife Myrtle is run over by a car in a hit-and-run accident. Just before her death he had learned that "something funny" was going on with Myrtle and had made plans to take her away. 

After her death he struggles to remain cogent. Looking up at the billboard with eyes of Dr. T.J. Eckleburg, Wilson becomes confused. He believes that the eyes on the advertisement are the eyes of God.

Now the eyes are most explicitly equated with the eyes of God, the omniscient witness to the tragic incident...(eNotes)

Seeing the eyes on the sign, Wilson says that "God sees everything" and implies that, though he does not know who killed is wife and who she was sleeping with, God knows.

There is a moral code that has been broken. Retribution is inevitable. This is implicit in Wilson's attitude in this episode and serves as a condemnation of the immoral attitudes of the "high class" society, which have led to death, strife, and soon lead to murder. 

It is Wilson who carries out this murder after having seen the eyes of Dr. T.J. Eckleburg on the billboard. We may wonder if those eyes inspired Wilson to carry out the retribution that he felt was inevitable. We can say certainly that Wilson believed someone was guilty and that he associated this guilt with God and with a supreme moral transgression. 

On the simplest level, however, we can say Wilson's grief and confusion are evident in his reaction to the billboard.

kmj23 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

To answer this question, take a look at Chapter Eight in which George Wilson is filled with grief after the death of his wife, Myrtle. While he is talking about Myrtle's infidelity, George looks at the eyes of Doctor T. J. Eckleburg and says:

"God sees everything."

In other words, Wilson makes a connection between the eyes of Eckleburg and God. In fact, this connection is a metaphor in which Wilson compares the eyes of this giant billboard to those of God himself. This shows that the eyes have a profound and spiritual effect on George Wilson. He believes that Eckleburg's eyes are some kind of moral guardian, watching over everybody in the Valley of Ashes. With regards to Myrtle, George believes that the eyes saw her infidelity, even though she would never confess to it.

Even when Michaelis reminds Wilson that Eckleburg's eyes are just an advertisement, George cannot move away from them. They have a hypnotic power over him, which reinforces the idea that the eyes have spiritual and moral significance for George Wilson.

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The Great Gatsby

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