The Great Gatsby Questions and Answers
by F. Scott Fitzgerald

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Who is Owl Eyes? What surprises him about Gatsby's library? 

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David Morrison eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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"Owl Eyes" is the name given to a strange little man who pops up as a guest at one of Gatsby's regular parties. Like most of these guests, he doesn't know Gatsby and Gatsby doesn't know him; he's just another freeloader who turns up to help himself to Gatsby's free food and booze.

While most of the other guests are socializing, Owl Eyes has a good look around Gatsby's extensive and expensive library. He's astonished to discover that the books in the library are all real, even though it's patently obvious that Gatsby hasn't actually read any of them.

Owl Eyes's perceptiveness indicates that he was on to Gatsby from the start and that Gatsby is presumed to be someone he isn't. Nevertheless, Owl Eyes can't help but harbor a sneaking admiration for this talented showman, this David Belasco of West Egg.

Old Owl Eyes clearly isn't fooled by his host's elaborate facade of worldly sophistication. But then that's not surprising when one considers that, like the eyes of T. J. Eckleburg, he sees everything. Nothing escapes this man's attention. He comes much nearer to understanding the mystery that is Jay Gatsby than any of the other party guests. He recognizes that Gatsby is someone desperately keen to project a certain image to the outside world: an image of wealth and sophistication. He doesn't quite know why he feels the need to do this, but in any case, he doesn't seem to care. Owl Eyes is more than happy to sit back and enjoy the show. A little too much, perhaps, as his subsequent drink driving accident testifies.

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Carter Westfall eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Owl Eyes was obviously, invited or uninvited, one of Gatsby's guests at one of the ostentatious parties he had at his mansion as part of an attempt to draw Daisy Buchanan nearer. In chapter three, Nick and Jordan Baker were attending one of these to-do affairs and wandered into Jay's 'high Gothic' library where they met this drunk, stout, middle-aged man who was wearing an enormous pair of owl-eyed spectacles, hence Nick's mocking pseudonym for him.

Nick only uses the pseudonym later in his narrative when he mentions an incident when he left the party. On his way out he discovered the man in a car which had had an accident. The car was a wreck and Owl Eyes was the one who stepped out of it, claiming that he did not know what happened, since he had not been the one driving. 

The man is mentioned again in the final chapter. He was one of only a few who came to attend Jay's funeral. Nick mentions the following about him:

It was the man with owl-eyed glasses whom I had found marvelling over Gatsby’s books in the library one night three months before.

I’d never seen him since then. I don’t know how he knew about the funeral, or even his name. 

The fact that Nick had three separate encounters with Owl Eyes somehow makes him significant. Firstly, he showed remarkable insight when he spoke about Jay and his books. He intuitively recognized that the books were there only for show but that Jay had gone a step further to enhance the illusion, he used real books. Owl Eyes was particularly impressed by the remarkable extent to which Jay had gone to create the impression of class and culture. The books had clearly not been read and he commented:

This fella’s a regular Belasco. It’s a triumph. What thoroughness! What realism! Knew when to stop, too — didn’t cut the pages. But what do you want? What do you expect?

The allusion to Belasco, a well-known theatrical producer, director, playwright and impresario of the period, makes his sentiment quite clear. Gatsby was putting on a show and he was doing it well. His rhetorical questions emphasizes the fact that one could not want or expect less from such a masterful diabolist as Jay Gatsby - the deception had to be perfect. 

Furthermore, Owl Eyes links with the huge eyes of Dr T.J. Eckleburg, staring down from a huge road sign onto the Valley of Ashes. Owl Eyes is the personification of what is seen on the large roadside banner. It symbolizes a constant awareness, epitomized by his acute observations in Jay Gatsby's library. In addition, Owl Eyes' observation also suggests that Jay Gatsby is under scrutiny as is illustrated by the countless rumors and gossip surrounding him.

Dr T.J. Eckleburg's eyes, likewise, suggest observation - the world is watching. It is particularly ironic that they should be looming over the Valley of Ashes, a place of physical and moral corruption. It is here that Myrtle Wilson, involved in an illicit affair with Tom Buchanan, lived and it is here that she died - a victim of her, Tom, Jay and Daisy's immorality. They were all, as in Owl Eyes' estimation, Belascos.

A further point is that the observant Owl Eyes is the only one of Jay's guests who attends his funeral. His presence denotes the end of Jay's charade. He was, probably, the only one of them all who saw Jay Gatsby for what he really was. His presence at Jay's final resting place indicates that the scrutiny, the gossip and the rumor has come to an end. Jay Gatsby had, ironically, in the most tragic manner, achieved peace. 

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Thomas Mccord eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Owl Eyes is the name that Nick gives to a "stout middle-aged man" with "enormous owl-eyed spectacles." Nick meets this man at Gatsby's house in Chapter Three when he wanders into the library with Jordan while attending a party.

Owl Eyes is surprised by Gatsby's library because the books are real, a fact which he clearly did not anticipate, as we see from his verbal reaction:

“Absolutely real — have pages and everything. I thought they’d be a nice durable cardboard."

Owl Eyes notices, however, that the books have not been read, since the pages are "uncut." Nevertheless, Owl Eyes is seriously impressed by Gatsby's "thoroughness" and "realism" in creating an image of being educated and refined when, evidently, Jay Gatsby does not read books. Owl Eyes is so impressed that he likens Gatsby to David Belasco, a prominent theatre director of the 1920s. This suggests that Owl Eyes believes Gatsby to be a fraud, though the level of his deceptive skill comes as a pleasant surprise.

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