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Klipspringer & Owl Eyes in The Great Gatsby

Instructor: Christina Boggs

Chrissy has taught secondary English and history and writes online curriculum. She has an M.S.Ed. in Social Studies Education.

You're probably familiar with major characters like Jay Gatsby, Nick Carraway, and Daisy Buchanan, but how much do you know about minor characters in ''The Great Gatsby''? This lesson explores the role of Klipspringer and Owl Eyes.

The Supporting Cast

When you read F. Scott Fitzgerald's classic novel The Great Gatsby, it's very easy to get caught up in the central character, Jay Gatsby, and his close acquaintances like narrator Nick Carraway, the Buchanans, and Jordan Baker. But what about the supporting cast, the minor characters that pop in and out of the story? A minor character is one that's considered to be small and insignificant; they don't have a large role in the story. Despite the definition, minor characters actually have significance in The Great Gatsby. Two such minor characters include Ewing Klipspringer and Owl Eyes.

Ewing Klipspringer

Nick Carraway first references Klipspringer before readers get a chance to meet him up close and in person. As you well know, Gatsby's home was essentially a revolving door of guests. Countless people flocked to the West Egg to swim in his pool, dance in his gardens, and drink his champagne. Klipspringer was no different. According to Carraway, Klipspringer was there so often and so long that he became known as 'the boarder.' Yes, that's right...Klipspringer actually took up residence in Gatsby's house!

In a later visit to Gatsby's home, readers learn that Klipspringer is a pianist. Gatsby takes advantage of his guest's ability while entertaining Daisy Buchanan and Nick Carraway. Klipspringer appears before the trio in a disheveled and slightly disoriented state. He makes excuses for his poor playing.

Klipspringer makes his third and final appearance at the end of the novel. Following Gatsby's death, Nick Carraway searches frantically for friends and family to pay their respects to his friend. Carraway mistakenly assumes that Klipspringer is calling out of concern or to ask about funeral arrangements. Instead, Klipspringer very awkwardly asks Carraway to send along a pair of shoes that he'd left at Gatsby's.

So why exactly is Klipspringer significant? He's very clearly a leach and doesn't care about Jay Gatsby, despite the fact Gatsby hosted him in his home. Ewing Klipspringer represents the hundreds, maybe even thousands, of people who accepted Gatsby's generosity without taking the time to know the man behind the big party. Klipspringer was more than happy to use Gatsby for a place to stay rent-free. But in a true time of need, Klipspringer, like nearly everyone else in Gatsby's life, completely dissociated from the fallen millionaire.

Owl Eyes

Owl Eyes, like Ewing Klipspringer, is a frequent party guest at Gatsby's. Nick Carraway and Jordan Baker encounter the peculiar little man in one of Gatsby's libraries: 'A stout, middle-aged man, with enormous owl-eyed spectacles, was sitting somewhat drunk on the edge of a great table, staring with unsteady concentration at the shelves of books.' Carraway comes to find that the man has a bizarre fascination with the books. Owl Eyes explains, 'They're (the books) are real...Absolutely real -- have pages and everything. I thought they'd be a nice durable cardboard. Matter of fact, they're absolutely real. Pages and -- Here! Lemme show you.'

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