The Great Gatsby

Through A Lens, Darkly: The Use of Eye Imagery to Illustrate the Theme of an Extinct God in The Great Gatsby

Throughout history, the eye has always been an emblem of the deities. In the Egyptian pantheon, there is Horus, god of light, who is signified by his famous Eye; in the Roman pantheon, there is Juno, associated with the many-eyed peacock; and in the Hindu pantheon, there is the three-eyed Shiva, with his celestial left and right eyes and inner one of fire. Ergo, it is a common connection that F. Scott Fitzgerald makes in his novel The Great Gatsby, when he uses an oculary motif to link to the idea of God, and, more specifically, to develop and explore the theme of God's death in the materialistic and careless world of The Great Gatsby.

Nowhere in the novel is there a clearer example of the tie between the death of God and the motif of eyes than in the valley of ashes. The eyes of Dr. T.J. Eckleburg, left to the dust and ash of the valley "half way between West Egg and New York," hang over the characters, seemingly all-seeing, watching as the events of The Great Gatsby unfold before them. Nick says, describing the valley of ashes,

Evidently some wild wag of an oculist set them there to fatten his practice in the borough of Queens, and then sank down himself into eternal blindness, or forgot them and moved away. But...

Join Now to View Premium Content

GradeSaver provides access to 725 study guide PDFs and quizzes, 4184 literature essays, 1403 sample college application essays, 171 lesson plans, and ad-free surfing in this premium content, “Members Only” section of the site! Membership includes a 10% discount on all editing orders.

Join Now

Already a member? Log in