What is the author's intention in mentioning Owl-Eyes, who wipes his eyes in Chapter Nine of The Great Gatsby?    I’d never seen him since then. I don’t know how he knew about the...

What is the author's intention in mentioning Owl-Eyes, who wipes his eyes in Chapter Nine of The Great Gatsby?    

I’d never seen him since then. I don’t know how he knew about the funeral, or even his name. The rain poured down his thick glasses, and he took them off and wiped them to see the protecting canvas unrolled from Gatsby’s grave.

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Having appeared in Chapter Three of The Great Gatsby, Owl Eyes, a far-sighted man with huge owl-eyed spectacles, scrutinizes the leather-bound books in Gatsby's library, amazed that they are real.

"See!" he cried triumphantly.  "It's a bona fide piece of printed matter.  It fooled me. This fella's a regular Belasco.  It's a triumph. What thoroughness!  What realism! Knew when to stop, too--didn't cut the pages...."

Owl Eyes is impressed with the theatrical setting of Gatsby's life, alluding to the contemporary American theatrical producer, impresario, director,and playwright David Belasco. However, although he is wise enough to examine Gatsby's environment, he lacks the moral insight to fully understand what it is that Gatsby does dissemble. This lack of morality in Owl Eyes is illustrated in the scene later in this same chapter when his car goes into a ditch with a very drunken man driving and, as Nick narrates, he "wash[es] his hands of the whole matter." Thus, Owl Eyes symbolizes those who have an understanding of the amorality of the era, but choose to veil their eyes and become part of the illusions.

In Chapter Nine, then, Owl Eyes reappears in the narrative as he attends Gatsby's funeral.  For him, this is the final act of the Belasco drama that has been the life of "the great Gatsby."  As the curtain of rain pours down his glasses, he wipes them to see the final curtain, the unrolling of the canvas atop Jay Gatsby's grave.  With this appearance of Owl Eyes, the unreality of Gatsby's life is underscored; the illusion of greatness is brought to its end in a true tragedy.  With almost no relatives or real friends present, Gatsby's death is afforded little but slight melodrama, an illusionary ending.

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