Why did Owl Eyes attend Gatsby's funeral?

Owl Eyes attends Gatsby’s funeral in order to show his respect for Gatsby. Unlike most other people in Gatsby’s life, including Daisy, his business associates, his supposed friends, and his party guests, Owl Eyes actually sees Gatsby as a real, complex person.

Expert Answers

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

At the end of The Great Gatsby, the character whom Nick dubs “Owl Eyes” shows up at Gatsby ’s funeral in order to pay his last respects; as a guest of Gatsby’s earlier lavish parties, this man sees Gatsby as a real person worthy of respect, not...

Get
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Start your 48-Hour Free Trial

At the end of The Great Gatsby, the character whom Nick dubs “Owl Eyes” shows up at Gatsby’s funeral in order to pay his last respects; as a guest of Gatsby’s earlier lavish parties, this man sees Gatsby as a real person worthy of respect, not merely a superficial source of free food, alcohol, and entertainment.

Narrator Nick Carraway gives Owl Eyes this moniker because of his large glasses. Nick first meets Owl Eyes at one of Gatsby's parties. In their host's library, away from the crowd of revelers, Nick spots

A stout, middle-aged man with enormous owl-eyed spectacles … sitting somewhat drunk on the edge of a great table, staring with unsteady concentration at the shelves of books.

Unlike the other guests, Owl Eyes actually takes the trouble try to learn about their elusive host. Even inebriated, he is keenly observant. Having ducked into the library to sober up, Owl Eyes examines Gatsby’s books and discovers that they are genuine. He shares this revelation about the books with Nick and Jordan:

As a matter of fact, you needn't bother to ascertain. I ascertained. They’re real … Absolutely real—have pages and everything. I thought they’d be a nice durable cardboard. Matter of fact, they’re absolutely real. Pages and—Here! Lemme show you.

Owl Eyes actually respects Gatsby for using actual books and not just empty props to fill his library. In fact, the man acknowledges and praises Gatsby’s clever judgment in staging the library with real books:

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.

Admiring Gatsby’s skill and taste, the guest compares his host to David Belasco, a theater producer and playwright who was well known for his very realistic sets. Yet Owl Eyes also compliments Gatsby’s self-restraint in knowing how far to take the artifice, remarking that he did not bother to cut the pages (the uncut pages reveal that though the books are real, they've never been read).

Sadly, Owl Eyes is the only person to show up at Gatsby’s burial besides Nick, Gatsby’s father, and the minister. No one else attends Gatsby’s funeral, not business associates or supposed friends; even his former love Daisy does not bother to send a message or flower. None of the other party guests appear.

Nick marvels that Owl Eyes managed to find the proceedings at all, remarking, “I don't know how he knew about the funeral.” Despite the torrential rain, the man wipes his thick glasses in order to peer closely at Gatsby’s grave. After someone says, “Blessed are the dead that the rain falls on,” Owl Eyes bravely responds, “Amen to that.”

Later, Owl Eyes apologetically notes to Nick that he had attempted to attend the funeral ceremony at Gatsby’s house but could not make it. When Nick reveals that no one else did either, Owl Eyes is astounded and saddened:

Why, my God! they used to go there by the hundreds.

Unlike the other party guests, Owl Eyes views Gatsby as an actual person with complexities, not someone to dismiss or use.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on