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American Liffestyles in the Great Gatsby

  • Date Submitted: 05/19/2011 11:11 PM
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The Great Gatsby Symbolism, Imagery & Allegory
Sometimes, there’s more to Lit than meets the eye.
Gatsby’s "books"

An owl-eyed man at a Gatsby party sits in awe in the library, murmuring with amazement that all the books on Gatsby’s shelves are "real books." But does Gatsby even read them? The image works to suggest that much of what Gatsby presents to the world is a façade; for example, he wants people to believe that he’s a well-educated man, an Oxford man, but in fact he only spent a short time there after the war. The books may represent the fact that Gatsby is a fraud – that he has built up an image of himself that is not consistent with the facts of his life. But, you could also argue that the unopened, unread books represent Gatsby himself: though there are many rumors about who he is and how he earned his money, the facts remain unexamined, unopened.
The Owl-Eyed Man

Speaking of those books, what’s up with that guy in the library? We almost listed the owl-eyed man as a character, but then we realized we know absolutely nothing about him. Even Nick reduces him from a man to a pair of eyes. So we’re thinking he’s really more of a symbol than a full blown character. Feel free to disagree.

And, yes, we are getting to the point. First, there’s the owl bit; owls are a symbol of wisdom, but can also be an omen of death (we don’t know how that came about, either, but we’re thinking someone got their signals crossed). Then there’s the glasses bit; a man with large eyes and spectacles would be expected to be more perceptive than those around him.

So does the owl-eyed man fit the bill? Being perceptive and all, the bespectacled man is right to be suspicious of Gatsby. He is the only guest who, in doubting Gatsby, is also wise enough to investigate further. Moving right along to the portent of death part, did you notice that it was the owl-eyed man who had the car accident outside of Gatsby’s house? And that, shortly after he got out of the car,...


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