18 March 2013
The motif of eyes in The Great Gatsby
Eyes are the gateway to the soul, or so the old saying goes. People’s eyes can convey their feelings - their anger, excitement, or worry. Eyes can also convey subconscious emotions, revealing hidden depths that might not otherwise be apparent. In The Great Gatsby we are introduced to many characters whose eyes effectively reveal their personalities. The author explores the symbolism of eyes as Nick, the narrator, observes the lives and interactions of his friends on Long Island. One of his acquaintances, Daisy, is a flighty girl, married to a retired football player. Her husband, Tom Buchanan, embodies the classic tough-white-male aura. These two and the majority of other east coast characters are eventually seen as immoral, and the author’s portrayal of their eyes foreshadowed this development. Through a complex analysis of The Great Gatsby, one can argue that eyes are used as a motif that symbolizes the “loss of virtue in America.” Through the eyes of our narrator, James Gatsby and Tom Buchanan represent the east coast American ideal. Nick considers their wealth, social status, and confidence to be the level that he strives to attain. What he does not first understand is that these qualities ultimately lead to each man’s demise. Although Tom and Gatsby had many differences, they shared the common flaw of lost virtue. When Nick reconnects with his old friends, his first impression of Tom Buchanan is that “two shining, arrogant eyes had established dominance over [Tom’s] face” (9). In this passage we witness Fitzgerald’s reference to eyes and his characterization of them with the adjective of “arrogant.” These overwhelming eyes are the first feature Nick notes, and he claims even they communicate Tom’s stuck-up attitude. Tom’s eyes make him appear to be “always leaning aggressively forward” (9) - clearly a negative personality trait. Virtue is defined as...