Cover art for "The Great Gatsby," designed by Francis Cugat in 1925.
Back in January I had a dream I called "Jungian Eye" and it's a dream I've thought much about and toyed with in the past few weeks. Click here to read it in its entirety. In it, I'm learning about something I call the "Jungian Eye"--an all-knowing/omniscient force--and muse that one could re-read F. Scott Fitzgerald's "The Great Gatsby" from a Jungian perspective.
I like synchronicity and like to follow the rabbit-hole when it's presented to me, so I went off in search of the book and re-read it to see if anything popped out at me this time around (a few things did!) I also dug a little into Fitzgerald's life and discovered that he mentions Carl Jung several times in "Tender is the Night"--something I didn't know but find very interesting considering Zelda's mental breakdown in 1930.
Much of my reading of "The Great Gatsby" was spent considering the eyes of Doctor T. J. Eckleburg. I've always been intrigued by these disembodied eyes that exist in the one intersection in the book where illusion and reality rub against each other and elements of Jung's Shadow emerge into the light. Fitzgerald mentions the eyes on the first page of chapter two:
"But above the grey land and the spasms of bleak dust which drift endlessly over it, you perceive, after a moment, the eyes of Doctor T. J. Eckleburg. The eyes of Doctor T. J. Eckleburg are blue and gigantic--their retinas are one yard high. They look out of no face but, instead, from a pair of enormous yellow spectacles which pass over a nonexistent nose. 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 his eyes, dimmed a little by many paintless days of sun and rain, brood on over the solemn dumping ground" (pp. 27-28).The eyes see much. They take in Nick Carraway's daily transit from West Egg to New York, witness Tom Buchanan's affair with Myrtle Wilson, see George Wilson's break down upon realizing Myrtle's unfaithfulness, stare at Daisy Buchanan when she accidentally kills Myrtle with Gatsby's car, and look upon George's grief and his resulting decision towards the book's close. They are the eyes that "see everything."
And because Fitzgerald spends so many pages devoted to the clash between reality and illusion, the consequence is that his characters must clash about too, forced to create double lives to accommodate their residence in these two worlds. Fitzgerald's point, methinks, is that it becomes impossible to maintain two identities for very long. At some point, the repressed side will surface and destruction may follow. This, as Jung points out, is not necessarily a bad thing. One can find much gold there, as well as opportunities for integration and wholeness.
The places where this occurs in the book were rather clear to me. Perhaps the best example is the part where Gatsby gives Daisy Buchanan a chance to speak her complete truth about her feelings for him in front of her husband, Tom Buchanan, but she cannot do it and later reacts hysterically, accidentally killing Myrtle due to her reckless driving. Is this one of the Shadow's temper tantrums? Would it have occurred if Daisy could've given her repressed emotions a voice?
"It passed, and he began to talk excitedly to Daisy, denying everything, defending his name against accusations that had not been made. But with every word she was drawing further and further into herself, so he gave that up and only the dead dream fought on as the afternoon slipped away, trying to touch what was no longer tangible, struggling unhappily, undespairingly, towards that lost voice across the room.Jungian analyst Robert A. Johnson in "Owning Your Own Shadow" writes about the importance of giving the Shadow ritualized opportunities for expression so that it doesn't disable the conscious mind to speak its truth at some later, and often rather inopportune, point. Johnson points out that one of the ways to live with one's unwanted elements is to honor what they're trying to tell you in a way that's not hurtful to anyone else, including you. So, what might this look like? One could allow the Shadow element within you to vent out loud about something that bugs you for 5 minutes. You could scream into a pillow. You could paint it out...dance it out. Allow yourself to write a letter and then burn it. Picture it as a whiny small child and listen to what it's complaining about with love.
The voice begged again to go. 'Please, Tom! I can't stand this anymore.' Her frightened eyes told that whatever intentions, whatever courage she had had, were definitely gone" (p. 142)."
In his book, Johnson shares the story of having some rather contentious house guests stay for a few days. His cranky feelings towards them build and build and he does nothing to give them an outlet. After his guests left, Johnson still didn't do anything to neutralize his cranky feelings and decides that some beautiful flowers might be a nice pick-me-up reward for surviving the weekend. What happens? He ends up picking a fight with the gardener instead. His point? Because he had not honored his Shadow while he was experiencing distress, it popped out and unleashed itself inappropriately at a later point in time.
So, maybe the "Jungian Eye" then is really about integrating oneself--the conscious I with the unconscious I. The unconscious and the Shadow which resides there don't have to be frightening. Personally, I'm grateful my Shadow exists because it's a blessed guide. No other part of me calls my conscious mind's bluff like it does and I can always trust it to let me know when I'm honoring the unspoken parts of myself and when I'm not. And I find that dreams are a great place to meet the Shadow and to learn from it.