The Great Gatsby Questions and Answers
by F. Scott Fitzgerald

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What is the significance of the nose in The Great Gatsby (breaking Myrtle's nose, doctor Eckleburg's "nonexistent nose," Meyer Wolfsheim's nose, the butler's nose)?

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A very interesting question indeed. The nose has achieved remarkable symbolic importance throughout history. It is probably the most recognisable facial feature and its absence is immediately noticeable. I am sure that F. Scott Fitzgerald did not intend for the nose to have a singular symbolic value but that reference to it has to be interpreted within the context of each mention.

Tom Buchanan breaking Myrtle's nose has a dual symbolic value - firstly, it indicates his perception of Myrtle. She is nothing more than an object to him. Her sole purpose is to fulfill his lust and to stroke his ego. Her dream of sharing a life with him is shattered in this one moment of violence, for obviously, Myrtle realizes that Tom will never leave Daisy for her. This is the second aspect of the nose, in this instance, as symbol - it indicates that Tom feels for Daisy and this feeling for his wife is greater than what he feels for Myrtle. His violent reaction is, after all, provoked by Myrtle derisively...

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