/ ,~ €,q (Mr 0’‘~ /·· 4,9( . . ,. L ‘" *. ‘ * (y.i . . ‘ * , 7. Holograph copy of the last page of F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby. Copyright 1925 Charles Scribner's Sons. Copyright renewed 1953 Scott Fitzgerald Lanahan. Reprinted with the permission of Charles Scribner's Sons. "Gonnegtions" are of course important in The Great Gatsby, for without them Gatsby's rumoured association with crime, and its particular dialect, would not ring as true. The presence of Wolfsheim serves to connect Gatsby with the underworld from which his riches are hatched and his plans to marry Daisy made possible. "Gonnegtions" are Gatsby's dream, and also Nick's. What Gatsby of West Egg is seeking, by means of the lucrative business afforded by the underworld portrayed in Wolfsheim, is a coneggtion with Daisy Fay of East Egg. In this light, Gatsby's "Platonic conception of himself" is enriched by what I take to be Fitzgerald's allusion to Plato's parable in The Symposium about the origin of love. In The Symposium Aristophanes is made to tell how Zeus, angered at the behaviour of the three circular shapes constituting the orginal sexes, decides to cut each in half: like eggs, says Plato, sliced in half by a hair. Yearning ever since to be reunited with himself, man has sought to couple with his other half. According to Plato, the resultant halves of the original hermaphrodite became heterosexual men and women; halves of the original female, lesbian women; while fragments of the first male turned into men who have devoted their lives (honourably in Plato's eyes) to the intimacy of boys and other men ("it requires," says Plato, "the compulsion of convention to over::;~··~ 1· ·.~7 ‘ r - P, come their natural disinclination to marriage and procreation"). If The Great Gatsby is a love story, and it is, it is one aware of this complex sexuality of antiquity. As we shall see, it is not only to The Symposium that we must turn for confirmation of the novel's peculiar and hitherto unnoticed sexuality-the theme of what follows-but also to The Satyricon of Petronius. Here and there in Fitzgerald's novel inklings of depravity turn reader into voyeur. One never quite knows, for example, how to read the last page of Chapter 2, a scene which follows the dissolute, party in Myrtle Wilson's apartment, when Nick Carraway follows Mr. McKee out to the elevator. Descending, McKee suggests Nick have lunch with him some day-anywhere-and the elevator boy snaps: "Keep your hands off the lever." . . . Apologetic, McKee says he was unaware he was touching it. The narrator says he would be glad to go. Where they go is to McKee's bedroom: ". . . I was standing beside his bed and he was sitting up between the sheets, clad in his underwear, with a great portfolio in his hands." Then some more of the narrator's ellipses between what we presume are titles of photographs taken by McKee are followed by Nick's abrupt removal to "the cold lower level" of Pennsylvania Station where he lies waiting for the morning train. It is an odd scene because Nick never goes to lunch with McKee and McKee never reappears. Odder still is the fact that Nick joins McKee in his apartment when no invitation, apart from the one to lunch, is spoken, and no rapport between the two men at Myrtle's party is established-except for Nick's having wiped a spot of dried lather from McKee's cheekbone when McKee has dozed off in a chair. What I am about to suggest is that the quality of concealment in The Great Gatsby is adroit enough to have caused us to read over scenes we are intended to read through. Is there in the novel a cultivated ambiguity, such as that of the McKee episode, which flirts with, but never answers the question of Nick Carraway's sexuality, because Nick refuses to tell us the whole truth about himself? What is recoverable of Fitzgerald's earliest intentions, in Bruccoli's edition of The Great Gatsby: A Facsimile of the Manuscript (1973) [see Additional Bibliography], may help to cloud the issue more than clear it up. Deleted from the novel we now have are words, phrases, and sentences of a section which, in the manuscript, follows directly from what now is the conclusion of Chapter 2-that is, the scene in McKee's bedroom. (In the final version of the novel this section, which concludes with the second epigraph quoted above, is removed to become the conclusion to Chapter 3, the account of Gatsby's first party.) More willing in the Facsimile, it would seem, to acknowledge the ambiguous nature of the bedroom scene, Fitzgerald pauses to compound the mystery by conceding that "a false impression" . . . has been given by virtue of the fact that the few events discussed thus far in the story appear to have occupied all of Nick's time. Fitzgerald's original intention, if it can be rescued from pencilled-out lines in the manuscript, was to suggest that these events, in Nick's words, "were merely incidents sandwiched in between other incidents that interested me or fascinated just as much-in fact the man I balled around with most all summer doesn't appear in this story at all." .. . This revelation is cancelled out in favour of the more concealed phrase, "my own affairs’‘-which became the phrase we now have, "my personal affairs." . . . It may be merely coincidental that McKee, who never reappears, and the man Nick says he "balled around with most"--but who is hushed upappear at the same stage of the original novel, when Fitzgerald is in the process of establishing the character of his narrator. Yet sexual implications, even in the muted final version, are not lost on us, and in the manuscript do serve to challenge our accepted reading of Nick's sexuality. In this section of the Facsimile Nick goes on to mention a brief affair with a girl from the accounting department of the Probity Trust company he works for in New York. The reason for his letting "the affair blow quietly away," in the manuscript, is the same offered in the final version-because, according to Nick, the girl's brother "began throwing mean looks in my direction." . . . What is perhaps revealing are Nick's original words, the words Fitzgerald began to use, then scratched out and buried beneath the curious reason Nick offers for his escape from this girl. The words he starts to use, to explain the breakup, are "but her brother began favoring me with .. ." (my emphasis). . . . With what? It seems a peculiar phrase to start explaining the reason for leaving this brother's sister. Does the rewritten version lead us away from a more honest confession? Probity Trust-Nick's company-tends to affirm those qualities which Nick would have us believe are his-honesty, conscientiousness, uprightness-and yet one is left wondering whether Nick is telling us the whole truth about abandoning the girl, indeed the whole truth for abandoning any girl, especially the one out West. As for his dropping Jordan Baker, we have tended to believe him when he calls Jordan "incurably dishonest," . . . and because of this seldom have we believed Jordan when she, in turn, claims Nick to have been less than honest and straightforward in his relationship with her. In view of what has been presented so far it may not be too soon to suggest that what Nick might in part be concealing, even escaping from, is what the narrator of "The Rich Boy" (agreed to be among Fitzgerald's finest short stories, and written immediately after The Great Gatsby) calls "abnormality." Perhaps we have taken Nick too much at his word-without trying to read through such a scene as the one in McKee's bedroom with the whole of Nick's character in view. Conceivably, his penetrating self-analysis on the opening page of the novel has lulled us into accepting his own protestation of being "normal." He appears to begin his story in a way calculated to disarm his reader, encouraging him "to reserve all judgments." .. . By suggesting that he himself has refrained from criticizing others-by following his father's advice-Nick may be pleading his own case with us. "The abnormal mind," he observes, "is quick to detect and attach itself to this quality when it appears in a normal person, and so it came about that in college I was unjustly accused of being a politician, because I was privy to the secret griefs of wild, unknown men." Such men, alongside Nick, are categorized by him as "abnormal" because they are attracted to him. And so when "an intimate revelation was quivering on the horizon" he has tried to appear tolerant, yet disinterested: "for the intimate revelations of young men, or at least the terms in which they express them, are usually plagiaristic and marred by obvious suppressions." The choice of words and phrases is peculiar. Why, for example, are such intimate revelations-flawed as they are by plagiarism and suppression---"abnormal"? Presumably, because such revelations are offered by "unknown" men, and are therefore gauche and indiscreet. But rather than perceiving these as a "normal" hazard for a man as attractive to other men as Nick boasts he is, he condemns them as belonging to those who were born with rather less than their share of "the fundamental decencies." . .. Mainly because of his disarming admission of snobbery, we have always been convinced of Nick's own fundamental decencies-indeed doubtful if there is another narrator in modern literature more trustworthy than he. Yet in The Satyricon there is a narrator who is almost certainly as much a model for Fitzgerald's character as Conrad's trusty and frequently mentioned Marlow. (pp. 330-33) Still of little interest to scholars is the way Fitzgerald handles sexuality in his writings. The truly great artists, according to Virginia Woolf, are androgynous in mind, and Leslie Fiedler, in passing, has noted this interesting quality in Fitzgerald (it is a quality Fiedler is reluctant to admire): "In Fitzgerald's world, the distinction between sexes is fluid and shifting, precisely because he has transposed the mythic roles and values of male and female, remaking Clarissa in Lovelace's image, Lovelace in Clarissa's. With no difficulty at all and only a minimum of rewriting, the boy Francis, who was to be a center of vision in The World's Fair, becomes the girl Rosemary as that proposed novel turned into Tender is the Night. Thematically, archetypally even such chief male protagonists as Gatsby and Dick Diver are females" [see TCLC, Vol. 1]. Fitzgerald himself, of course, acknowledged that "I am half feminineat least my mind is. . . . Even my feminine characters are feminine Scott Fitzgeralds." This last sentence could be put another way: his masculine characters are masculine Scott Fitzgeralds, which is to say they are no less feminine than his own "half feminine" mind. At the party in Myrtle Wilson's flat, for example, Nick, looking out the window, makes an admission which is generally read as a comment on the tension created by the technique which critics have admired in the novel: Fitzgerald's ability to observe as well as to participate. "I was within and without, simultaneously enchanted and repelled by the inexhaustible variety of life." . . . It has never been read as a suggestion of the narrator's epicene nature. (p. 334) Throughout the novel Nick holds the masculine forms of Gatsby and Tom in sharp contrast. For him, Gatsby's form seems preferable to Tom's, yet it is Tom's masculinity which captures Nick's attention in so convincing a manner that critics of the novel, in identifying the grander theme of the American dream, have perceived in Tom the cruel and palpable foil to Gatsby's idealism and illusion. For Nick the "gorgeous" Gatsby fails to come "alive" until Jordan Baker explains to him that Gatsby's house was deliberately chosen by its owner to be across the bay from Daisy's own house in East Egg. Then, says Nick, "He came alive to me, delivered suddenly from the womb of his purposeless splendor." . . . In contrast to the insuperably physical purpose in the novel of Tom Buchanan, Gatsby and his purpose seem clearly metaphysical, springing agilely from that "Platonic conception of himself." . . . Imagery associated with Gatsby suggests solipsism, sexlessness. It is otherwise with Tom: "Not even the effeminate swank of his riding clothes," Nick observes, "could hide the enormous power of that bodyhe seemed to fill those glistening boots until he strained the top lacing, and you could see a great pack of muscle shifting when his shoulder moved under his thin coat. It was a body capable of enormous leverage-a cruel body." . . . (p. 335) Here is a body of rather more interest to Nick than the one he courts in Jordan Baker. In fact, it fascinates him. As the novel progresses Tom's body comes to represent, far more than Gatsby's corruption and criminal associates do, the threat and evil force of the book. "Making a short deft movement, Tom Buchanan broke her nose with his open hand." . . . The nose, of course, is Myrtle's. Myrtle's husband, on the other hand, suffers Tom's cruelty in a more subtle and central way, reaching its culmination on the fatal day Nick lunches with the Buchanans. The day is blisteringly hot. On his way to lunch Nick comments to himself, "That any one should care in this heat whose flushed lips he kissed, whose head made damp the pajama pocket over his heart!" Upon entering Tom's house he records what he overhears: "‘The master's body!‘ roared the butler into the mouthpiece. ‘I'm sorry, madame, but we can't furnish it-it's far too hot to touch this noon!‘." . . . Nick then adds: "What he really said was: ‘Yes . . . Yes . . . I'll see’." . . . In fact the caller is Myrtle's husband, hard up for cash, hoping Tom will sell him the car on which Wilson hopes to make enough profit to take his wife away. What Nick purports to hear first is an illusion, yet it is an illusion artistically contrived to make the scene which follows between Tom and Wilson at the garage all the more adroit with respect to the underlying competition between the two rivals for Myrtle Wilson's favours. More particularly, it causes us to examine Nick's own narration of the scene. "Let's have some gas!" cried Tom roughly. "What do you think we stopped for-to admire the view?" "I'm sick," said Wilson without moving. "Been sick all day." "What's the matter?" "I'm all run down." "Well, shall I help myself?" Tom demanded. "You sounded well enough on the phone." With an effort Wilson left the shade and support of the doorway and, breathing hard, unscrewed the cap of the tank. In the sunlight his face was green. "I didn't mean to interrupt your lunch," he said. "But I need money pretty bad, and I was wondering what you were going to do with your old car." "How do you like this one?" inquired Tom. "I bought it last week." "It's a nice yellow one," said Wilson, as he strained at the handle. "Like to buy it?" "Big chance," Wilson smiled faintly. "No, but I could make some money on the other." "What do you want money for, all of a sudden?" "I've been here too long. I want to get away. My wife and I want to go West." .. . (pp. 335-36) I want to suggest that this scene, like the McKee scene, is easily passed over, and that the sexual undertow adrift in the particular images which link Wilson and Tom has been carefully set up by Fitzgerald to contrast the two male rivals. We recall that three chapters earlier Nick has admired the incomparable form of Gatsby's car-the one Tom now is driving"swollen here and there," observes Nick, "in its monstrous length." . .. In The Great Gatsby it is worth remembering that the car is a symbol of masculinity, and the women (Jordan and Daisy) who drive cars do so badly, upsetting, even killing people. In the same chapter that Nick draws our attention to Gatsby's proud possession, he also glimpses "Mrs. Wilson straining at the garage pump with panting vitality as we went by." . . . The scene above, with Tom and Wilson, seems therefore suggestive in the images it chooses to repeat. There is the elongated car driven by the potent Tom; and in the pump yet another phallic image, at which Wilson strains with rather less vitality than his wife, who has thrown him over for Tom. (p. 336) [If] Jordan Baker, for example, is a "type" she is one whose "typical" qualities are significant in our appreciation of why Nick Carraway is attracted to them. As a champion athlete she, like Tom, is at home in the world of men. In addition, according to Nick, she has a "hard, jaunty body," . . . a body "like a young cadet." . . . She is, moreover, androgynously named; and her name-for someone as impressed by the shapes of cars as Nick-"combines two automobile makes" (according to one scholar), "the sporty Jordan and the conservative Baker electric." The car metaphor is dually important in the novel, for not only does it connect Tom and Wilson-a connection leading to Myrtle's death as well as Gatsby's-but it also connects Nick and Jordan soon after they meet, and .. . when they part. . . .(p. 339) Just why they part is not clear, though to Jordan it is evident that their incompatibility derives from duplicity on Nick's part. Nick, it seems, always has been "half" attracted to women ("I wasn't actually in love, but I felt a sort of tender curiosity") .... (p. 340) The critical problem is thus simple: is the novel plainly weak in those parts, for example Nick's relationship with McKee, his affair with Jordan, which remain shady and ambiguous; or do we give Fitzgerald the benefit of the doubt and look for other, perhaps deeper reasons to explain his apparent shortcomings in the novel? What The Great Gatsby seems about in part, and where it derives its suggestiveness and energy, lies in what is not accounted for, what is undisclosed. The whole of Gatsby's affair with the underworld is the obvious example of this theme and its expression. But an important statement of the theme is also, one feels, Nick's "protestation of being average and honest and open"-to put into his mouth the narrator's words in "The Rich Boy." It is not unreasonable to suppose that Nick's readiness to declare his cardinal virtue to be honesty, is deliberately intended to mislead us. This declaration tempts us into accepting everything he tells us as the whole truth, though my evidence so far is intended to suggest that the oblique or metaphoric power of the novel prevents a simple reading of the way Nick looks at the world and at himself. In any effort to understand Gatsby, there are connections ("gonnegtions") that need to be made about the storyteller himself, but which we have traditionally ignored because we have always trusted Nick as average, honest, and above board. What, then, is he hiding? An uncertain sexuality becomes an unavoidable conclusion. He is no longer simultaneously enchanted and repelled by the double vision from the window in Myrtle Wilson's New York apartment, nor is he, upon his return to the West, that "well-rounded man" he had hoped to become when "life is much more successfully looked at from a single window.". . . His return to the West is not a solution, but a desire to escape the indecent ambiguities of conduct, "founded" on either "hard rock" or else "wet marshes." ... No longer tolerant of the excesses of others, Nick reaffirms his own Puritanical heritage with an extreme desire to see "the world . . . in uniform and at a sort of moral attention forever." . . . His return is not to the girl he left behind, for he does not seem naturally inclined, in Plato's words, to marriage and procreation, and only in an oblique way is he prepared to acknowledge his own ambivalent sexuality by the association Fitzgerald allows him through the important classical echo of Petronius. (Nick, we remember, confesses his having been "rather literary" at college, and his allusion to "the shining secrets that only Midas and Morgan and Maecenas knew" ... is his way of introducing himself and us to the "bond business.") Persuasive evidence of the theme of impotence and bisexuality in The Great Gatsby is discoverable in The Satyricon of Petronius, to which Fitzgerald was so sufficiently drawn that at different times he wished to call his novel after one of its characters. Trimalchio and Trimalchio in West Egg were the working titles which strongly guided Fitzgerald's composition of The Great Gatsby (a title which never satisfied him). Trimalchio, of course, is the name of the wealthy and vulgar host who throws the garish party in the chapter of The Satyricon called the "Cene Trimalchionis." What is crucial to my own discussions is not so much Trimalchio, which is what Nick calls Gatsby in the novel, as the narrator of The Satyricon, who attends Trimalchio's party, and whose name is Encolpios. Encolpios, who has in some way offended the fertility god, Priapus, provides what plot survives in The Satyricon by journeying, so scholars believe, from Marseilles east to Italy, and quite likely to the centre of the empire, Rome. Encolpiosand his name may well derive from the Greek word, kolpos, which, among several definitions, means vagina and wombis a sort of Odysseus in quest of love: he is certainly a conscious parody of Odysseus, but an Odysseus both impotent and bisexual. Now Nick (or Dud, as Fitzgerald conceived him) fails with women as Encolpios does, though not for lack of trying. Mistaken by Wolfsheim for another man who is looking for a "gonnegtion," Nick, like Gatsby, is nevertheless seeking a connection with women. Interestingly, the "gon" of "gonnegtion" is the Greek root for seed (gone), and one wonders, in light of Fitzgerald's subtle and conscious use of names, whether Carraway, which after all is a seed, isn't seeking "egg" in the same sense that he is portrayed as a "bond" salesman looking for business connections-from which he also flees, incidentally, rather than become tainted with the seediness (the pun seems suitable) of easy money proffered by the likes of Gatsby . . . and Wolfsheim. There is nothing as blatantly ambivalent about Nick Carraway's sexuality as there is about that of Encolpios. Yet Fitzgerald's narrator, not unlike Petronius's, does describe in his own odyssey a parody, a parody of the American dream which rises to the poetic height we have come in The Great Gatsby to accept as its most indigenous quality. In Fiedler's words, "Fitzgerald's young men go east. . . in quest. . . of. . . an absolute America; a happy ending complete with new car, big house, money, and the girl." That Gatsby and Nick both fail to win the girl is an interesting comment upon the subtlety of the novel. For if we begin to read through the novel with the problem of sexuality in mind, then the normal critical interpretations which focus mainly on Gatsby are seen to be too straightforward. These interpretations fail to recognize that the corruption of the novel originates not merely in Gatsby's shady business connections, but also in Nick Carraway's disingenuous sexuality. This sexuality, when peered at beside the bright and ethereal sexuality of Gatsby, or the dark and cruel sexuality of Tom, may well shed more light on why, in the novel's concluding words, "the orgiastic future . . year by year recedes before us," . . . and why the dud-like and impotent pursuit of that future diminishes the American dream of attaining what Anson Hunter in "The Rich Boy" tries over and over to get-the girl. (pp. 341-43) Keath Fraser, "Another Reading of ‘The Great Gatsby’," in English Studies in Canada, Vol. V, No. 3, Fall, 1979, pp. 330-43.