What role does Owl Eyes play in "The Great Gatsby"?

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luannw eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Owl Eyes, or, the man with the owl-eyed glasses whom Nick only refers to by the nickname Nick gives him, plays two roles in the story. When Nick first encounters him in chapter 3 at the first of Gatsby's parties that Nick attends, it is in Gatsby's library.  The man is drunk and he expresses to Nick and Jordan his amazement that Gatsby's books are real.  He goes on to say that he's surprised the books aren't just props.  This seems to indicate that the man detects some aspect of falseness about Jay Gatsby.  Since the reader doesn't know this yet - that Jay Gatsby is not who he appears to be - it is foreshadowing.  The implication is that Gatsby gives off a mysterious and somewhat false impression.

The second time we see Owl Eyes is after that same party.  He has just been in a wreck as he and another man were leaving Gatsby's party.  He is still quite drunk and he is standing in the road and telling people that he knows nothing about cars and driving and has no idea how they wrecked.  Here he serves the purpose of pointing out the immorality, bordering on depravity, of the people.  Much of the story deals with the immorality of the people and how that destroyed the American Dream.

The last time we see the man with the owl-eyed glasses is in chapter 9.  It is Gatsby's funeral and he is one of the few mourners to show up.  Dozens and dozens of people showed up at Gatsby's parties and accepted his free food, drink, and hospitality, but he is the only one of the party-goers, besides Nick, to come to the funeral.  Perhaps Fitzgerald is telling us that Owl Eyes saw more of the real Jay Gatsby from the start than others did and thus mourned the man more.

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The Great Gatsby

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