3/12: “The Eyes” by Edith Wharton

“The Eyes” by Edith Wharton is a tale that employs the framework of a ghost story to dramatize an internal experience. It warns the readers against the personal consequences of denying are one’s self. The protagonist, Andrew Culwin, has never become part of life or allowed an involvement with another human being to threaten his egotism. He is a wealthy, middle-aged “confirmed bachelor”. After the meal at a dinner party, he joins the other attendees in relating his experience with ghosts. He had two experiences, both with a pair of old eyes that state of him from the foot of his bed and deny him sleep. The first thing occurs during his informal engagement to a young female cousin. The second occurs years later, after he guiltily prolongs his association with an aspiring writer. The author develops the questions of the ghost’s identity and the connection between the haunting in the reader’s mind. Once it is understood what is going on, it says more about the character’s mindset than anything else in the story. He finally appears to realize, after so many years, the truth about the haunting and the truth about himself. It turned out that the eyes may not belong to separate ghosts but they were symbolizing his conscious since it only appeared during the time when he wasn’t doing something right.

There are several connections between Wharton’s story and the contemporary culture. We are always being watched due to advancement of technology. Everything is recorded wherever we go such as driving with those speed cameras out there or stories with those surveillance cameras. Everything is being tracked; our every move or action is taken note on by the technology and even the society. Along with that, we are constantly being judged. Anything we say will get out there and there is no privacy anywhere else that can be done peacefully. Instead of accepting individuality and uniqueness, society is quick to judge just like the eyes in the “The Eyes”. It is seemed that we are always being watched when we are doing something wrong rather than right. it follows us everywhere as if something is after us just like how Culwin thought the ghosts where trying to tell him something when really, it’s our subconsciousness the whole time that’s trying to warn us and keep us in check with ourselves.


T.J. Eckleburg’s billboard from The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald.

The picture above is from “The Great Gatsby” by F. Scott Fitzgerald which is the representation of the eyes of T.J. Eckleburg that are always watching and so are the eyes of God. This similarly reflects the eyes that was watching Culwin in his ghost experiences.


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