Who is T. J. Eckelberg in The Great Gatsby?

In The Great Gatsby, T. J. Eckelberg is a pair of faceless bespeckled eyes on an old billboard that keeps a watch over the valley of ashes. They may represent the omniscience of God who sees everything that the characters of this story do not. They also serve to remind the reader to view the events of the book from a distance instead of only through the characters.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

T. J. Eckelberg is not a character in The Great Gatsby. Rather, the faceless eyes of Doctor T. J. Eckelberg loom at the characters from a billboard for an oculist. The aging billboard is located in the valley of ashes and depicts the large bespeckled blue eyes of Eckelberg. Fitzgerald suggests that this symbol has meaning for the characters, but he never comes right out and tells the reader what that meaning is. To Nick, the eyes seem to be judging the characters and American society in general.

There may be something godlike about these eyes. After the death of his wife, George Wilson makes a clear comparison to these eyes to those of God. To him, they are the eyes of God, who sees everything that people do and judges them for it. With God's eyes staring out from an advertisement, Fitzgerald may be suggesting that America has replaced religion with capitalism.

The eyes of T. J. Eckelberg may also remind the reader to view the characters from an impassioned distance. Too often they are caught up in their own machinations to see clearly what they are doing. Even Nick is too involved in the events of this story to be a completely reliable narrator. However, if we view the events of the book and the people in it as if we were eyes on a billboard, we might just get a more accurate picture of what is actually going on.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial Team