What do 'the eyes of Dr. T. J. Eckleburg' symbolise in 'The Great Gatsby'?

'The eyes of Dr. T. J. Eckleburg' which stare out over 'the valley of ashes' in The Great Gatsby perform a similar role to Big Brother in George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four, surveilling the characters as they pass to and from New York, where Gatsby conducts much of his business and Tom conducts his affair. Unlike Big Brother, T. J. Eckleburg's eyes are passive, unable to influence the actions of characters or punish their moral transgressions. However, in bearing witness to the activities of Gatsby, Daisy, Tom and Myrtle, they highlight the importance of sight and vision to the events of the novel, and remind the reader of their own voyeuristic role. Ironically, it is Gatsby's inability to see the consequences of his actions which leads to his death, while the 'eyes', the reader, and arguably Nick can predict his fate. Fitzgerald's eerie descriptions of 'the eyes' as 'brooding', 'pale and enormous' further their threatening presence, and much like Orwell's Big Brother, although 'the eyes' are passive, they perhaps symbolize the strongest moral judgement present in the novel; in Orwell's totalitarian Airstrip One moral and behavioural law is ruthlessly imposed, while in Fitzgerald's roaring 20s New York no moral code can be enforced, either to protect or punish. 'The eyes' become a somewhat godly symbol in an otherwise godless society, and as such emphasize the powerlessness of faith or religion to influence a consumerism which worships material goods and excesses at the expense of morality.

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