In The Great Gatsby, what about the library at Gatsby's house surprises Nick?

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Anne Riley eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Nick and Jordan encounter the owl-eyed spectacled man in the library at Gatsby’s house. The man is quite shocked to find that the books on the shelves are real. He says he had expected them to be cardboard facsimiles of books, such as one might today find in a store display. Nick notes that the man takes it for granted that he and Jordan do not believe him, so he takes a book to show them.

He mentions that Gatsby never read the books. “Knew when to stop too—didn’t cut the pages.” Owl Eyes (as Nick later calls him) does not seem surprised by this fact. Gatsby has earned a reputation as a...

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sejohnson90 | Student

The readers are first introduced to Gatsby’s library in a chapter 3 when Jordan and Nick are looking for Mr. Gatsby. When stumbling into the library, our characters are surprised to find the drunken character known only as Owl Eyes. It is not Nick that is surprised by the books in the library, but Owl Eyes. Owl Eyes is surprised that the books are actually real and not cardboard. Furthermore, he is very quick and careful to replace the book which Nick removed. Symbolically, the books represent Gatsby and how he is real person and there is more to his story than the rumors which seem to swirl around his parties. The removal of a book indicates that Gatsby’s life can, and will, come crashing down around him if just one piece falls out of place.