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The fact that religion is absent among the upper echelons of society suggests that a moral standard might also be absent – as much is borne out by characters’ actions. When God does appear, it is only in George Wilson’s dialogue, when he lets his wife know that she can’t fool God, that he sees and judges all. Instead of being guided by the moral precepts of religion or of God, other characters find other codes to determine their behaviors: a father’s advice, or a self-serving mantra, a jaded viewpoint, or an undying love. In Fitzgerald’s jaded America, the only God that can exist takes the form of a billboard (the eyes of T.J. Eckleburg), perhaps suggesting that capitalism rules where religion once did.
Questions About Religion
- What is the effect of the absence of religion or of God among the wealthy in The Great Gatsby? What role does "God" play when he does show up?
- You knew we were going to ask it. You knew it was coming…What do the eyes of T.J. Eckleburg have to do with God? We ranted about this for a while already, but seriously, what are the chances we’ve said all that needs to be said? And what are the chances we are right?
- What guides behavior in The Great Gatsby? Do characters have a concept of "sin," "morality," or "immorality"?
- Are people governed by choice or by fate in The Great Gatsby?
Chew on This
Each character in The Great Gatsby is guided by his or her personal ethic, yet Nick Carraway has the final word, and his judgment reigns supreme; because we see the events through his eyes, there is no moral objectivity in the text.
Although only George Wilson invokes God in The Great Gatsby, his statement that, "God sees everything," and, "You can’t fool God," indicts each character in the book through the eyes of T.J. Eckleburg. Nick, because he so frequently describes the eyes, is the only other character besides Wilson to recognize this indictment.
Although people are governed by both choice and fate in The Great Gatsby, it is ultimately Tom’s choice that seals Gatsby’s fate.
In The Great Gatsby, capitalism and the desire for wealth have replaced religion.