‘But I wasn’t even trying,’ he explained indignantly. ‘I wasn’t even trying.’
The character ‘Owl Eyes’ has two odd little interludes in the novel. In the first, Nick and Jordan encounter him as a drunken visitor to Gatsby’s library during a party. After that same party, departing guests come upon a car gone off the road, wrecked in a ditch. As the crowd gathers, Owl Eyes stumbles out of the car, and the bystanders begin to berate him for his wreckless driving. But he wasn’t even trying – he wasn’t trying because he wasn’t driving. The crowd gasps as the actual driver stumbles out of the car.
As the narrator, Nick must be the eyes of us, the readers. But he’s not us – he is his own complex character, a famously unreliable narrator. Owl Eyes is us. He’s a nameless party guest, stumbling around the library, surprised to find that the books are real but cynically concluding that they are still a facade. He’s careening around the property, but he’s not even driving, he doesn’t even know how to drive. That’s us readers, we’re just along for the ride.
One thought on “I wasn’t even trying”
I LOVE the ‘owl eye’ character – kind of echoes the billboard with Eckleburg with their enormous yellow spectacles on the billboard hovering over the highway. Owl eyes looking to see what’s real, and Eckleburg the sort of god figure brooding, looking but not saying (seeing) anything.
I like the idea of Nick as the unreliable driver/seer of the story.
But maybe it’s more appropriate to say it’s about what we can look up TO…Eckleburg has the most visible ‘vision’ of all but says nothing.
In the absence of looking up at all, all we’re left with is what’s within: the pages of the book are filled after all where we expected a facade. Whether that’s enough to sustain us depends, I suppose, on the authenticity of our tales.