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Sometimes the only way to see the whole picture is to take a few steps back because we can easily lose sight of the truth in our imaginations. In The Great Gatsby by Scott Fitzgerald, the truth is often lost by nebulous dreams, characters such as Gatsby live in a false augmented reality created by his very own imagination, other characters such as Nick and Owl Eyes can see the truth, and lastly, symbols such as T.J. Ekleburg see the whole truth. The characters and symbols of The Great Gatsby show us that one can only see the whole truth by truly watching.

To begin, Gatsby himself lives in a false reality that he constructed. He made up a whole life for himself he was sick and tired of being from a poor family. He wanted to live the american dream. He wanted to be rich, famous, and have the perfect woman. He was willing to do anything to make that happen even if that meant creating a new identity completely. Gatsby becomes so completely and utterly consumed by his imagination and this new personality that “ he found what a grotesque thing a rose is” (175) to him the real world was nothing compared to the dream he had been living in since the first time he placed a mask across his face and renamed himself Jay Gatsby. Even a beautiful flower isn’t enough for him. He was on his way to finally grasp the American Dream, but much like a dream as soon as you wake up it goes away forever. If Gatsby were to wake up his perfect little dream world it would disappear and he could finally see the truth about America and how it’s just a valley of ashes.

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Furthermore, unlike Gatsby Nick is stuck in the middle he is halfway between a dream and reality. He lives in reality but can also understand Gatsby, unlike others. He is both detached and yet incredibly observant of what is going on around him, he is both “within and without, simultaneously enchanted and repelled by the inexhaustible variety of life.'(35), Nick is both attracted to the wonder and possibilities of a dreamer, wealth, and fame but is also able to see the superficiality of it all. Nick narrates the whole story to us he is always watching and observing everyone else. He is taught to “reserve all judgments…”(1) yet he is always silently watching and passing judgment yet never making any comments about it much like God himself.

Moreover, Owl-Eyes and T.J. Eckleburg are symbols that appear throughout The Great Gatsby. They are both able to fully see the world as it is. Owl-Eyes has big eyes and wears glasses which could also imply four eyes. He is the only one who truly sees Gatsby for who despite all of the extravagant lavish parties. Gatsby is just a man of imagination and dreams. He immediately sees through Gatsby’s act and sees the good within him. He knows Gatsby is a dreamer and that in the end that will leave him to be nothing more than a “poor son-of-a-bitch,”(175). T.J. Eckleburg is another symbol that appears throughout The Great Gatsby. T.J. Eckleburg is a billboard of an Ophthalmologist who looks over the valley of ashes. T.J. Eckleburg also represents how “God sees everything.”(160) God is said to see the truth even through lies. By watching over the valley of ashes it shows that there is no such thing as the American Dream just the death of those dreams.

Given these points, the symbols and characters in The Great Gatsby show us that to see the truth we must watch closely. Gatsby spends his whole life trying to achieve the American Dream, though if you pay attention to what America has truly become you will see that there is nothing more than a valley of ashes.   

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Essay on Owl Eyes in ‘The Great Gatsby’.
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