Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Question Four: The Great Gatsby

The Great Gatsby: on symbolism

Another symbol in this novel is the billboard bearing the great eyes of Doctor T.J. Eckleberg. Tell me about these eyes. Did this imagery strike you in a particular way when you first read about them? Why is this billboard included in the novel? Consider the times and circumstances  in which Fitzgerald chooses to call our attention to the eyes of Doctor T.J. Eckleberg. What do you think about this symbol?

You will respond to this question by leaving a comment on this post. 

Responses should be at least 250 words each.
Remember: you must respond to at least 4 questions per novel. 
Extra credit will be awarded if you respond to more than 4 questions.

*and remember, this is a blog--write with good English and use your inner intellectual, but speak casually!


  1. Since the doctor is shown on a billboard, it is implied that the eyes are very large and the narrator also says, “…Doctor T.J. Eckleberg’s faded eyes came into sight down the road…”. By the word “faded” it can also be inferred the either the doctor is old, or the billboard looks old and faded. I have notice that when you look at a billboard that has eyes it looks like the eyes are watching you. When Tom, Nick and Jordan stopped at Mr. Wilson’s garage they probably had the same feeling, that it was watching them. Nick did however notice that they were being watch by someone from the window of the garage. It turned out that it was Mr. Wilson’s wife myrtle. It is also ironic that the person on the billboard is a doctor. Toward the end of chapter seven when everyone was on their way back from town, Gatsby and Daisy where very far ahead of Tom, Nick and Jordan. Gatsby and Daisy were speeding down the road at a very high rate of speed and they ran over Myrtle Wilson, Mr. Wilson’s wife. After they hit her, they never stopped the car until they were all the way home. This is ironic because the man on the billboard was Doctor T.J. Eckleberg, and Myrtle Wilson was in desperate need of a doctor that night. The doctor was unable to save her and he thought she had gone mad. After the incident took place, Nick went to talk to Gatsby and he found out that Daisy was the one that was driving the car.

  2. To understand the eyes of Doctor T.J. Eckleburg, we should first look at the valley of Ashes. The valley of Ashes is a desolate wasteland where industrial ashes are dumped. The valley of Ashes signifies the waste and rubble created in the name of industrialization. The pursuit of wealth has begun to putrefy the landscape of New York. The billboard with the eyes of Doctor T.J. Eckleburg is placed over looking this pile of waste. Nick notes the eyes of Eckleburg were faded, faded eyes overlooking the apocalyptic landscape. The symbol to me is almost a lost hope, the irony over the pursuit of wealth, or even a dream that now has morphed into a “nightmarish” undertone. When I first read the novel, I didn’t really notice the symbolism of this billboard or the eyes. Fitzgerald subtly slips references to these eyes in a few places. The billboard is probably included in the novel to symbolize the transformation of New York and the industrialization in the 1920’s. The times in which Fitzgerald calls attention to the eyes is always when something negative or depressing happened. They eyes almost have a God-like affect. God looking of the waste His people had made in their pursuit for riches. It is almost a kind of ironic depiction. The very thing that the people are trying to get away from, pestilence, waste, poverty, etc. is only going to multiply when they industrialize. After going back and review this symbol, I see how powerful it is. Subtly powerful. How did I not see this the first time through? I must be losing it.

  3. The piercing blue eyes of Doctor T.J. Eckleberg strike the reader as nothing more than a billboard at first. However, the underlining symbolic image that Fitzgerald uses to captivate and challenge the reader is to make the eyes, that of the person who is reading The Great Gatsby. In fact the billboard is a mirror that reflects the eyes of the one who gazes upon to the pages. The eyes are mentioned in the beginning of the text, for one reason alone: In the beginning of any story, the reader isn’t aware of what is going to unfold. In the beginning of any story, you are unbiased and observant. In other words you are open and ready to learn; so too is this the case for the open eyes. It’s apparent that the eyes for many can be thought of as God’s gaze over man too. The idea here, of course, being that God sees all, and His sight pierces even the darkest of places. The billboard which contains the eyes of Doctor T.J Eckleberg is ironically placed over the land, where the rich and corrupt business men play out glamorous lives, and hold dark secrets. The irony is found in that the eyes of God still pierce and see through the lies of the corrupt people that take refuge in the city. In my opinion, the eyes are cleverly put in the placement of the text, and have become an iconic symbol that has been very purposeful throughout the novel and to the reader on a personal level.

  4. The eyes of Doctor T.J. Eckleburg are mentioned several times during the Great Gatsby. Nick first comments on them in the beginning of chapter two when he says, “The eyes of Doctor T.J Eckleburg are blue and gigantic- their retinas are one yard high. They look out of no face, but, instead, from a pair of enormous yellow spectacles which pass over a non-existent nose… But his eyes… brood on over the solemn dumping ground.” These eyes may very well represent the eyes of God. Watching over the corrupt town and judging the morals of the people that live in it. The eyes probably intimidate Nick. Why else would he talk so much about them? He refers back to the eyes in chapter seven, “…and now I turned my head as though I had been warned of something behind. Over the ashheaps the giant eyes of Doctor T.J. Eckleburg kept their vigil, but I perceived, after a moment, that other eyes were regarding us…” He admits that he feels as if something is watching them. Every time he begins to talk about the eyes something awful happens. First, when he goes with Tom to visit Myrtle and Tom, in his drunken state, slaps her and nearly breaks her nose. Nick refers to them a second time at the gas pump on their way to town. Shortly after that Tom and Gatsby get into a heated argument and all craziness breaks out. Fitzgerald uses the eyes of Doctor T.J. Eckleburg as the image of God watching over this immoral wasteland.

  5. The billboard with the eyes of Doctor T.J. Eckleburg looking down menacingly from it is an important, eerie symbol, showing the watchful eyes of a judging God looking out over a sinful wasteland. But it’s also… not. It’s an old faded billboard, put up years ago by a friendly optometrist. These eyes can be seen as the eyes of God looking down with dissatisfaction as the sinful deeds of the characters in this book. However, Fitzgerald also suggests that it is people who give things like this their power and influence. A faded billboard is just a faded billboard until someone looks up on a cloudy night and jumps, deciding in his mind that they must be “the eyes of God”. In the Great Gatsby these “eyes of God” drive Wilson to try to avenge the “murderer” who killed his sinful wife. In reality it was a dreadful accident, but because of his preoccupation with the idea that God had seen his wife’s sins, and judged her, he takes after the guy who was driving the car, convinced that he is also the man who tempted his wife into sin. Fitzgerald is suggesting that reading too much into everyday objects or symbols can lead to dangerous, illogical conclusions. It’s somewhat ironic that he is giving this lesson in the midst of a heavily symbolic novel. This is, however, a very interesting idea. The billboard held no power until the deteriorating mind of Wilson decided they were really the eyes of a judging God. Fitzgerald put it best in chapter 8. “God sees everything” says Wilson, trembling as he looks out at the enormous eyes. “That’s an advertisement” Michaelis assures him.

  6. Let`s make something very clear: no one is going to pass this puppy and think, "hmm... those are the eyes of a weak passivist who I could probably dominate in a boxing match." No. These eyes are intimidating, dissaproving, and most of all scary. Wilson wouldnt refer to the face as God when he says, "God sees everything" in chapter eight if this was a small, normal stare. Fitzgerald describes the face as "enormous" in several places in the novel, and describes the retinas alone as a yard high in chapter two. I firmly believe that this symbol was yet another device of Fitzgerald`s to express his view toward the chasing of an empty and false "American dream." Fitzgerald introduced us to this crazy lifestyle where money seems to buy popularity, love, and any other desire one could ever think of. He then shows us his feelings, and those he wants us to share with him, by inserting this symbol.I believe this symbol was meant to interact with readers more than characters within the novel, making it clear to us that THIS IS NOT THE HIGH LIFE. While Gatsby and the rest of his playmates may view themselves as "on top of the world" or just "boss", Dr. Eckleburg seems to be at yet a higher level in society, peering down at the petty scenes below him thinking, "I remember when i was twelve", or some other smart thought. The purpose of this giant billboard is to simply put this chaos into perspective, and to tell us, as readers, that there are much greater things in life than those our characters have become so engrossed in.

  7. Menacing. This is the first word that enters my mind when I think of the billboard of Doctor T.J. Eckleberg. Ironically, this billboard was originally only meant to market the good doctor's business further, but in The Great Gatsby, nothing is quite as it seems. The billboard is situated in the depressing Valley of Ashes, which only further gives the billboard an air of oppression over the town. From its pedestal, Doctor T.J. Eckleberg's eyes can literally scan the entire town and see every action of the townspeople. NOTHING is hidden from his eyes. Fitzgerald continually includes the symbolism of this particular billboard throughout the book, beginning in Chapter 2. When he first introduced the billboard, he writes, "The eyes of Doctor T.J. Eckleburg are blue and gigantic-their retinas are one yard high. They look out of no face, but, instead, from a pair of enormous yellow spectacles which pass over a non-existent nose...His eyes, dimmed a little by many paintless days under the sun and rain, brood on over the solemn dumping ground." Of course, the most described part of the billboard are the enormous eyes that seem to pierce through both body and soul. Fitzgerald emphasizes the eyes for one purpose, to show that sin is never entirely hidden. Directly after the description of the billboard in Chapter 2, our friendly narrator goes directly into speaking of Tom Buchanan's mistress. Is this a mere coincidence? While Tom believes that his mistress is a pretty little secret, Fitzgerald blatantly shows that while Daisy may not be present to witness this unfaithfulness, God always is. That is what Doctor T.J. Eckleberg symbolizes, the peering and penatrating eyes of God. But the eyes peer into much more than Tom's unfaithfulness. I believe that the eyes peer into all of humanity's attempts to become "big" in society. The long sought after American Dream. Gatsby, Daisy, Tom, and even our narrator all seek after the fleeting and hollow American Dream of health, wealth, and prosperity. While our characters may have blinded themselves to the fact of this foolish dream, Fitzgerald shows that an all-knowing Being is watching their folly.But this representation of God is not showing a God of love, but a God of judgement, and perhaps even apathy towards the plights of the characters. This would make sense, due to the fact that the Jazz Age is not known as the "Great Awakening" for a reason! America was running from God at full speed, and most viewed God only as a judgmental stopper of their "good fun." Fitzgerald is simply stating that although the characters try to outrun God's judgement,they can never outrun the all-seeing eyes of the ominous Doctor T.J. Eckleberg. This is further shown when Tom's mistress is killed. Wilson, the true husband of Tom's mistress, states, "God sees everything.", as he was staring into the eyes of the billboard. But yet again, denial of God's sovereignty is shown when Michaelis states, "That's an advertisement."

  8. Doctor T.J. Eckleberg’s eyes are a very important symbol in “The Great Gatsby”. They are first depicted in the story in chapter two. These eyes were located on a billboard. The billboard in the story was located over a “gray land” and a “valley of ashes”. They were described to be blue and very large. I am guessing that these eyes were those of an eye doctor. The eyes were framed with glasses.
    When I first read about these eyes, I thought of Big brother who “is always watching” in “1984” by George Orwell. I was reading a commentary about these eyes online and it stated that the eyes represented God who is always watching. Nick was riding with Tom to go see Tom’s mistress. Those eyes seemed to show that God knows everything and He knows about human’s sins, even though others might not know about it. I did not quite think of the eyes to be God watching, considering that “The Great Gatsby” seemed to be a secularly themed book, but as I read on the eyes seemed to have an omnipotent God-like characteristic.
    Doctor T.J. Eckleberg also is mentioned later on in the novel. Gatsby has been persuaded by Tom to take Tom’s car on a ride while the others go in Gatsby’s cart. Daisy then decides to go in Tom’s car with Gatsby. Tom pretty much figures out that Daisy is in love with Gatsby. They then pass under the doctors eyes. Even just before the passing of the sign, Tom mentions that only God knew where Daisy had previously met Gatsby. That was kind of ironic especially if the large eyes are representative of God’s all seeing eyes.
    I think the symbol was very well placed. It clearly gives a depiction of God’s total knowledge of all situation; in this case unfaithful relationships.