At the official end of summer and the social season on Long Island, it is time to review the literature of that Island paradise. CAVAET: Drain your swimming pools. Pages, below, refer to F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby, New York, 1925, Charles Scribner’s Sons.
“Classic.” A book which people praise and don’t read, Mark Twain, Pudd’nhead Wilson’s Calendar, Following the Equator, p.241.
What Twain did not anticipate is some “classics” are unreadable because they are overblown nonsense, pointless, empty romance, poorly written tripe and a loose amalgamation of words so conglomerated that no idea can be discerned. The Great Gatsby is such a book.
The Gatsby story is scarce and deplorable. Daisy and Tom are married from 1918. They live on Long Island in East Egg in Summer 1922. Tom has an affair with mistress, the wife of an operator of a local garage/gas station. Daisy’s second cousin, Nick the Narrator, lives across the bay in West Egg, a less high-fluting Long Island community. Through Daisy he knows a female tennis/golf pro Jordan Baker.
Gatsby moves into the big house next to Narrator’s to be close to and to improve his chance to remeet Daisy. In 1917 while in the Army Gatsby met and kissed Daisy, and they corresponded a few times. How often the story never tells. He was very impressed by her parents’ house in Louisville, Kentucky.(148) After the War Gatsby (Oxford man for five months) made a fortune. How is a big secret – bootlegger, related to Kaiser Wilheim, inherited money, murdered someone or is a plumber. This mystery is unimportant because Gatsby is a successful businessman who got ahead with wit, charm and ability, supposedly.
On Long Island Gatsby throws big parties – free food, live music, open bar. Guests come uninvited. Gatsby hopes that Daisy will come one evening. Gatsby says of his life and his house, “I keep it full of interesting people night and day. People who do interesting things. Celebrated people.”(91) But a chapter later Gatsby is more honest describing himself as Trimalchio.(113)
Daisy never comes. Gatsby learns Narrator is her cousin and through him meets her. Daisy is detached from a loveless Tom and welcomes the advance. A chapter or two later Tom becomes possessive of Daisy. He investigates Gatsby’s mysterious business past. In a big argument about who Daisy loves, Tom dissuades her from seeing the lover. The remainder will be come later because a new voice completes the story.
Gatsby can be told efficiently and effectively in 10-20,000 words, but F. Scott Fitzgerald (Fitzy) adds loads of filler, expanding it beyond 50,000 words. It is easier and more precise to label Nick, Narrator to remind the reader of his role in the book. A narrator has great latitude: give information explaining time, place and background and tell what is happening. A ￼narrator can also clarify confusions the reader may have and should not appear disoriented himself, befuddling the reader more. Finally, a narrator himself should not indicate that he is loaded on drugs.
Over and over, and over Narrator is stupid, imprecise, incapable, heedless and impressionable. He lost a dog (3) but passes that off like he had flushed a gold fish into the New York sewer system. He imposes a limitation on himself, advice given by his father: “Whenever you feel like criticizing anyone…just remember that all the people in this world haven’t have the advantages that you’ve had.”(1) Narrator freely describes and criticizes people that Fitzy does not like but gives peers, the upper class and snobs a pass. Thereby all the characters in the novel, including the primary players, are shallow, superficial and supercilious. In short almost every person in Gatsby is a crushing bore.
The person of everyone’s affection and admiration is Daisy. No one calls Daisy beautiful. She is pretty and presentable; her most noticeable quality is her voice, a quality observed late in the story: Daisy didn’t drink, yet, “Perhaps Daisy never went in for amour at all – and yet there’s something in that voice of hers…”(78-79) The Narrator notices the voice inaccurately, “The exhilarating ripple of her voice was a wild tonic in the rain. I had to follow the sound of it for a moment, up and down, with my ear alone [fortunately not his tongue], before any words came though. A damp streak of hair lay like a dash of blue paint across her cheek, and her head was wet with glistening drops as I took it to help her from the car.”(86) The Narrator tries to describe again, “…the voice, held him most, with its fluctuating, feverish warmth, because it wouldn’t be over-dreamed – that voice was a deathless song.”(97) When Daisy sings, Narrator tries a third time, “Daisy began to sing with the music in a husky, rhythmic whisper, bringing out the meaning in each word that it never had before and would never have again. When the melody rose, her voice broke up[climbed?] sweetly, following it, in a way contralto voices have, and each change tipped out a little of her warm human magic upon the air.” (109)
More accurately Gatsby says about Daisy, “Her voice is full of money,”(120) but the Narrator with misunderstands onomatopoeicly: “That was it. I’d never understood before. [A good admission from a narrator.] It was full of money – that was the inexhaustible charm that rose and fell in it, the jingle of it, the cymbals’s song of it…High in a white palace the king’s daughter, the golden girl…” (120)
I know no one whose voice jingles or cymbals.I try to avoid those people and those annoying verbal sounds.
But Daisy’s voice is not reliable and early on not noticeable: “Daisy’s voice was playing murmurous tricks in her throat,”(105) Her conversation was forgettable and incomprehensible, “..unobtrusively and with a bantering inconsequence that was never quite chatter…”(12)
Is Daisy worth hearing? No, she is vapid and vacuous, although she claims to be sophisticated.(18) About her three year old daughter Daisy says, “…the best thing a girl can be in this world, a beautiful little fool…”(17) When taking the tour of Gatsby’s house and seeing Gatsby’s crass materiality including his wardrobe, Daisy says, “They’re such beautiful shirts”(93) ”It makes me sad because I’ve never seen such beautiful shirts before.”(94) Sad!
Daisy gives mixed signals. Married to Tom and courted by Gatsby, she says to Narrator at Gatsby’s party: Just sign the kissing list, and I’ll make time: “These things excite me so…If you ￼want to kiss me any time during the evening…, just let me know and I’ll be glad to arrange it for you.”(105)
Daisy is the woman-girl who has to be the center of attention, and wants everyone else to perform for her. On a very hot day Daisy: “Oh, let’s have fun…It’s too hot to fuss.” In short Daisy is the model found in an impressionist painting, art to be admired but an individual to be avoided: “She used to sit on the sand with his head in her lap by the hour, rubbing her fingers over his eyes and looking at him with unfathomable delight. It was touching to see them together – it made you laugh in a hushed, fascinated way.”(78) By the hour! And because of her shortcomings Daisy uses her primary[only] weapon: She cries. (132-133)
I saw a TV movie where two young women were beauty queens. They never took off the crowns, on heads in the kitchen, at interviews, waterskiing and when the boyfriend came over for a chat. Each beauty queen was superficial, supercilious, shallow and silly. I think the same way about Daisy. For Fitzy Daisy is a free spirit, but she is more likely mentally ill, a wandering spirit, a spoiled little brat with no character or personality, unintelligent but believing moronically that forever she will be the most beautiful little girl on Earth.
Husband-Tom may be a detestable jerk, but he is the best defined character. He is very wealthy; he hates the world and most of its people while being an absolute snob, pretentious, proud and arrogant, many traits the Narrator displays and Gatsby unconsciously exhibits. But he has an accurate opinion of his wife: “…sometimes she gets foolish ideas in her head and doesn’t know what’s she’s doing.”(132) To avoid her foibles, he has a mistress(Chapter 2) who is a good hostess(30-31), despite being “fairly stout, carr[ying] her surplus flesh sensuously as some women can,”(25) and possessing “rather wide hips.”(26)
Tom has a perceptive perspective of Gatsby’s party guests: “I was just thinking I don’t know a soul here,”(106) and he is social: He excuses himself from the dull table where Daisy sits in order to sit at a table where, “A fellows getting off some funny stuff.”(107) But he “feels… the hot whips of panic,” upon learning his mistress is going West with her husband(125). And a few hours and five pages later, Tom is overly possessive of Daisy.
Tom’s hypocritical fickleness and Daisy’s imbecility make this couple the most detestable, detached and dullest throughout literature, in commercial fiction and everywhere in mass market publications.
OBVIOUSLY, Fitzy had an outline and character wheels – hots for the mistress, love from Gatsby, possession by Tom, but Fitzy had written his story so poorly and was lost. He couldn’t leave the outline and wheels, his only road ahead. He chose inconsistency: Tom knows his wife (“doesn’t know what she is doing,” 132), yet the next page he believes there are things that Daisy “won’t forget.”(133) And Fitzy’s disdain for Tom is obvious: “Tom appears from his oblivion as we were sitting down to supper…” Of all the characters in the book, Tom is on-key. He is a low-grade schemer who knows his limitations, and he takes opportunities – telling the garage man that Gatsby was driving, etc. Tom seems oblivious to narrator because he doesn’t go in for the unconscious meanderings of narrator, Daisy, Gatsby and Jordan. For Tom and the reader the key word is unconscious.
￼The tennis/golf player, Jordan Baker is an add-on. She appears when an extra female is needed lending nothing to the other characters and giving nothing to the story. At times her presence generates confusion, which is Fitzy’s fault: “…But there was Jordan…who, unlike Daisy, was too wise ever to carry well-forgotten dreams from age to age.”(136) Point One: For the women [or any human being] in their twenties, it is not unusual to carry thoughts, hopes and dreams from teenage years, but it is not “age to age.” Point Two: Daisy is a first-class twit who’s dreams and thoughts come spontaneously and are instantly forgotten, whereas Jordan Baker might have a memory so could forget. So that sentence is completely non-descriptive, confusing and inaccurate. Yet Jordan’s presence allows Fitzy to draw this phony, inaccurate comparison.
Jordan’s presence affords flashbacks into Daisy’s life from Louisville, nonsensical/ journalistic pieces presenting scattered facts and impressions many of which are impossible for Jordan to know. For this passage the headline reads, MESSENGER GIRL TO BRIDESMAID:
Jordan Baker: “I had on a new plaid skirt also that blew a little in the wind, and whenever this happened the red, white and blue banners in front of all the houses stretched out stiff and tut-tut-tut-tut in a disapproving way.”(75)
[Daisy calls to Jordan while she passes the house]:
“I was flattered that she wanted to speak to me, because of all the older girls, I admired her the most. She asked me if I was going to the Red Cross and make bandages. I was. Well, then, would I tell them that she couldn’t come that day? The officer [sitting on Daisy’s porch] looked at Daisy while she was speaking, in a way that every young girl wants to be looked at some time, and because it seemed romantic to me I have remembered the incident ever since…
“That was nineteen-seventeen. By the next year I had a few beaux myself, and I began to play in tournaments, so I didn’t see Daisy very often. She went with a slightly older crowd – when she went with anyone at all. Wild rumors were circulating about her…
“By the next autumn she was gay again, gay as ever.”(76)
What’s wrong with this passage? Why the “tut-tuts?” Because the wind caught her skirt and she wasn’t wearing whale bone underwear to stiffen it. Jordan remembers an afternoon and an apparent romance in someone else’s life, but has absolutely no romance in her own life. Jordan did not see Daisy often but suggests Daisy is anti-social. From this one message-girl and accidental meetings, Jordan became Daisy’s bridesmaid. Perhaps Jordan says it accurately in the last sentence: “By the next autumn she was gay again, gay as ever.” Perhaps that is why Jordan admired her. I don’t criticize Fitzy for making Daisy gay, but when he’s outing someone he ought to be clear and transparent: Daisy liked to talk with men, but that’s as far as they got.
Although he is not, Gatsby should be the main character. He is introduced late, “His tanned skin was drawn attractively tight on his face and his short hair looked as though it were trimmed every day.”(50) “A man about my[Narrator’s] age, young, rough head, a year or two over thirty whose formality of speech just missed being absurd,”(47-48) especially when “The very phrases were worn so threadbare that they evoked no image except that of a turbaned ￼‘character’ leaking sawdust at every pore as he pursued a tiger through the Bois de Boulogne.”(66)
I’ve never figured out how “tanned skin…drawn attractively tight on” the face made a “roughhead.” The reader can also appreciate that similes are not Fitzy’s forte. Can any reader decipher the sentence from page 66? No one has ever seen anyone or anything including a tree leaking sawdust.
Fitzy believes the romance story is about Gatsby, so he gives an exemption to the Narrator’s paternal advice, page 2: “Only Gatsby…was exempt from my reaction – Gatsby, who represented everything for which I have an unaffected scorn. If personality is an unbroken series of successive gestures, then there is something gorgeous about him, some heightened sensitivity to the promises of life, as if he were related to one of those intricate machines that register earthquakes ten thousand miles away. This responsiveness…was an extraordinary gift for hope, a romantic readiness such as I have never found in any other person and which it is not likely I shall ever find again.”(2) If the narrator is to be scornful, watch out when he’s complimentary.
Despite his business experience and acumen, Gatsby is awkward, slow and robotic. Showing Daisy and Narrator around his house, “He nearly toppled down a flight of steps,” (92) and out doors Daisy and Gatsby looked at the Bay:
‘If it wasn’t for the mist we could see your home across the bay… You always have a green light that burns all night at the end of your dock.’”
“Daisy put her arm through his abruptly, but he seemed absorbed in what he had just said. Possibly it had occurred to him that the colossal significance of that light had now vanished forever. Compared to the great distance that
had separated him from Daisy it had seemed very near to her, almost touching her. It had seemed as close as a star to the moon. Now it was again a green light on the dock. His count of enchanted objects had diminished by one.”(94)
What thoughts to have when girl touches boy especially by a narrator who guesses, surmises and brain farts! Any other author would have the players do what comes naturally. When Daisy touches Gatsby, there should be fireworks not hesitation, discourse or oblivion.
Likewise, when Tom confronts Gatsby with Daisy present(Chapter 7), Tom says he had Gatsby investigated and recites embarrassing facts including Gatsby’s bootlegger past. Why being a bootlegger is embarrassing is beyond the reader. There is more liquor in The Great Gatsby than in “The Thin Man” movies. Indeed, Fitzy writes the characters as though each is an alcoholic living in Europe. Furthermore, Gatsby had Daisy investigated; he shows her the clippings(95). Yet he failed to investigate the competition, Tom, an obvious step to win Daisy’s heart. Conveniently, Gatsby forgets his business background. He is lame. He is vulnerable. He knows nothing. He is stupid. He is not worthy of Daisy’s attentions. Obviously, Fitzy didn’t put reactions to touching or a counter-investigation into his outline or on his character wheels. Fitzy missed the plain retaliation – Tom’s mistress, so salient in the plot. Hence, there is no basis, except delusion, to consider Gatsby’s “Platonic conception of himself.” “He was the song of God – a phrase which, if it means anything, means just that – and he must be about his Father’s business, the service of a vast, vulgar and meretricious beauty.”(99)
￼Next comes the Narrator who Fitzy confuses with himself and then obliterates Narrator and simply takes over the story. It is impossible to sort everything out, but it’s a good way to add filler. The Narrator is ga-ga about Gatsby’s parties: “Preserved a dignified homogenity, and assume to itself the function representing the staid nobility of the countryside appeal to East Egg.”(45) He goes on for pages describing Gatsby’s guests and visitors, (61-63, 102-104), “three girls” “have forgotten their names.” Yet Narrator lists, “Jaqueline, Consuela, Gloria, Judy or June.” “…their last names were either the melodious names of flowers or months or the sterner ones of the great American capitalists whose cousins, if pressed, they would confess themselves to be.”(63) That pretty much covers the field. None of these guests, visitors, characters are mentioned in the book again so they are surplus, added on – the surfeit of superficiality.
At this point the reader must wonder about style. Narrator/Fitzy introduces couples, a paragraph a piece, yet he cannot give the essentials for Gatsby, Daisy, Tom, or Jordan, so efficiently and intelligibly. His main characters are presented in drivel, tripe and drool.
About a supposed love interest, Jordan Baker (tennis/golf pro), the Narrator fails to recognize her during a foursome dinner party (no one introduces them), but once he hears the name, Narrator recollects “a critical, unpleasant story ‘forgotten long ago…’” So what ever happened, it was unimportant on page 19. HOWEVER by page 57, narrator remembers the scandalous story about Jordan Baker: “…she had moved her [golf] ball from a bad lie in the semi- final round…The incident and the name had remained together in my mind.” Obviously, fact checking wasn’t a big part of proof-reading this novel. And after that Jordan becomes totally a throw-away character, apparently for golf-mischief. Nobody else in Gatsby plays golf so this incident in this novel is a bad lie.
Next from the Narrator comes many absurdities arising from his use of mind altering drugs, “I had never seen [Gatsby] dance before.”(106-107) It is also likely the narrator never saw Gatsby do a backflip before, either. It was so hot for the narrator one day, “My underwear kept climbing like a damp snake around my legs.”(126) It is really awkward when underwear won’t do what is expected, like roll into a predictable, somewhat comfortable, melvin. But anything might happen when the narrator is on mind-altering substances.
This last suggests the narrator cannot perceive and evaluate, as well as provide a decent simile. At the end of a Gatsby party in the early morning hours, an argument ensues. The Narrator notes the “deplorably sober men.”(52) Sober! At a Gatsby party written by Fitzy! A few minutes later he looked up to see, “A wafer of a moon was shinning over Gatsby’s house, making the night fine as before, and surviving the laughter and the sound of his still growing garden.”(56) I hate it when the growing garden outside keeps me awake at night, the clanging of plants growing into the atmosphere and the shaking from rumbling when roots expand into the Earth. And notice the narrator is frequently confused about the time of day: After a Gatsby party, it’s early morning. “I stayed late that night.”(110) It is obvious that Narrator’s mind is addled by an unprescribed substance.
When Gatsby is parked on Narrator’s circular drive, the host goes out and witnesses something that cannot be imagined even in a F. Scott Fitzgerald book: ”He was balancing himself on the dashboard of his car with the resourcefulness of movement that is so peculiarly American – that comes, I suppose, with the absence of lifting work or rigid sitting in youth and, even more, with the formless grace of the nervous, sporadic games. This quality was continually ￼breaking through his punctilious manner in the shape of restlessness. He was never quite still; there was always a tapping foot somewhere…(64) It seems impossible to comment about this paragraph, a nervous, jittery guy balancing himself on the dashboard of a car made in the 1920s. The next observation is also pretty rough. From his own garden narrator sees arriving at Gatsby’s house: “raw materials” for the servants’ dinner.(89) Making dinner is so time consuming when milking the cow precedes butchering it, followed by grinding the wheat into flour and churning the milk for butter and drink.
There is the “sparkling odor of jonquils,”(92) just after the gleaming brass buttons on Daisy’s dress(91) but before the “pure dull gold” in Gatsby’s bathroom. As a reader I know jonquils have no fragrance, gold never tarnishes and brass never shines. But these are small oversights considering other passages of mind-altered nonsense coming from the Narrator. He once excused himself, drunk for the second time in life. The afternoon had “a dim, haze cast over it”(29), yet he describes what is obvious but very few details about the mistress’s party over the next ten pages. So Fitzy uses the Narrator’s dilapidated condition to excuse real writing – it was not part of the outline. Fitzy need not conceive lines attributed to any character within the wheel for that party scene..
From that party comes the Narrator’s mind-altered omnipresence in one paragraph: “I wanted to get out and walk eastward toward the park through the soft twilight, but each time I tried to go I became entangled in some wild, strident argument which pulled me back, as if with ropes, into my chair. Yet high over the city [narrator is outside now] our line of yellow windows must have contributed their share of human secrecy to the casual watcher in the darkening streets, and I was him too[who?], looking up and wondering. I was within and without, simultaneously enchanted and repelled by the inexhaustible variety of life.”(36) It is possible to say everything factual and possible in this paragraph is 10 words or less, and the remainder is malarky.
At this point does any reader trust narrator’s assessment – “some wild strident argument” when neither narrator nor Fitzy are capable of conveying the arguments and points of view of the characters?
At this point any woman encountering a man of Narrator’s ilk, should stay as far from him as possible. And apparently women of narrator’s day perceived and knew to stay away.
New York City provokes many thoughts for a young man, but mostly two overriding urges: I’m lonely. I’m horny! Fitzy used many more words: “I liked to walk up Fifth Avenue and pick out romantic women from the crowd and image that…I was going to enter their lives, and no one would every know or disapprove. Sometimes in my mind…At the enchanted metropolitan twilight I felt a haunting loneliness sometimes, and felt it in others…” (57)
There are more muddles: “I took dinner at the Yale Club…and then I went upstairs to the library…There were generally few rioters around, but they never came into the library.”(57) Rioters in the Yale Club? I might believe roisterers.
Sometimes a thought is neither masculine nor literary: “He [Gatsby] came to me, delivered suddenly from the womb of his purposeless splendor.”79) Narrator is living on Long Island, or he is blushing? Tell which is which and what is impossible: “My own face had now assumed a deep tropical burn. I couldn’t muster up a single commonplace out of the thousand in ￼my head.”(87) Narrator should confess which mind-altering drug he is using; it may make the purported literary devices in the book more understandable.
I read about this party (105-111) and while the action is inadequately described and the people are poorly observed when they are shitfaced, I saw no quality of oppressiveness:
“Tom was evidently perturbed at Daisy’s running around alone, for on the following Saturday night he came with her to Gatsby’s party. Perhaps his presence gave the evening its peculiar quality of oppressiveness – … There were the same people, or at least the same sort of people, the same profusion of champagne, the same many-colored, many keyed commotion, but I felt an unpleasantness in the air, a pervading harshness that hadn’t been there before.”(105) Perhaps the Narrator had bad indigestion because this was the party where Tom asked to be excused to sit at a table where people were having a decent conversation.(107)
Oppression may have arisen because neither Fitzy nor the Narrator can find the antecedent for “the girl” anywhere in the book. Daisy says, “‘…and if you want to take down any addresses here’s my little gold pencil’…She looked around after a moment and told me the girl was ‘common but pretty,’ and I knew that except for the half-hour she’d had been alone with Gatsby she wasn’t having a good time.”(107) It is possible from this sentence to infer that the Narrator is using body drugs. Readers can tell because Narrator’s world is really slowing down.
Public transportation was confusing for Fitzy to write and baffling for Narrator. On a hot day the conductor returned Narrator’s ticket. “My commutation ticket came back to me with a dark stain from his [conductor’s] hand. That any one should care in this heat whose flushed lips he kissed, whose head made damp the pajama pocket over his heart!”(115) [I did not make this up! And Cliff Notes were useless to interpret it.] This sentence on page 115 is the clearest indication yet that the Narrator is walking around buzzed and demented.
Why be consistent? Why be limited to the physical world? Why not use mind altering drugs and make the story and characters fit an ill-conceived outline and character wheels where pronouns get traits, by describing inaccurately one character’s observations and another’s actions. The mistress is concealed in her garage apartment “in one of the windows over the garage the curtains had been moved a little, and Myrtle Wilson was peering down at the car. So engrossed was she that she had no consciousness of being observed [mostly behind the curtains she was an open book], and one emotion after another crept into her face like objects into a slowly developing picture. [Creep, wrong verb.] Her expression was curiously familiar – it was an expression I had often seen on women’s faces, but on Myrtle Wilson’s face it seemed purposeless and inexplicable until I realized that her eyes, wide with jealous terror, were fixed not on Tom, but on Jordan Baker, whom she took to be his wife.” (125)
When loaded, it is a better experience to be in two places at once, at the car in the gas station and with the mistress upstairs.
It is transparent Fitzy used an outline and followed it because he ignored the obvious: Nowhere does the Narrator who supposedly witnesses Myrtle, mistress in the window, tell or alert anyone, including Jordan Baker: There’s a crazy woman who jealously detests you. She’s liable to go off! If he did, Fitzy would have to write something real, develop it apart this flummery and tell a story beyond giving this impression or that sensation and flitting to the next bunch of word hunches. For instance, Narrator could easily dispel the mistress’s misimpressions by going to Jordan and putting a hand on her shoulder, getting her attention and smile. That’s
￼what a normal, competent narrator would do, especially for another character, he purportedly liked. Narrator couldn’t do that! It was not in Fitzy’s outline!
THE FINAL THIRD of The Great Gatsby fumbles to tell a straight story: Daisy is conflicted. Tom is between women. Gatsby is in love but can’t protect love or himself. Jordan Baker shows up now and again. Drunk or sober, the Narrator is inept.
On that hot day all drive to New York City. Why? To have the big argument about who Daisy loves. For her part, Daisy “can’t stand this [the argument] anymore.” Gatsby and Daisy return to Long Island in his car where Daisy runs down the mistress. Daisy doesn’t know she is Tom’s mistress and that she, Daisy, has grievances against her. She just flattens the heavyset woman.
Next comes pages of filler, unrelated activities – Gatsby’s father appears, more of Gatsby’s history with Daisy including competition from other men “increased Daisy’s value” in Louisville all repeating what was written earlier.(148) Finally, the garage man shoots Gatsby and himself (end of Chapter 8), signaling an end to the words.
After the mistress is mowed down, Fitzy decides the Narrator needs help. He enters the story which becomes more newspaper and essay like, explaining and giving insights to what happened. By this means Fitzy rounds the players to full cartoon characters. Sadly, no one including Fitzy can ever explain Daisy, Jordan Baker, Gatsby or the Narrator and their incapacities.
Yet the narrator is suddenly smart, telling and analytical. He tells Gatsby: “They’re a rotten crowd…You’re worth the whole damn bunch put together.”(154) And after Gatsby is killed, the narrator sums up, Gatsby, “paid a high price for living too long with a single dream.”(162) Bits of Fitzy and from the narrator’s mix. Gatsby’s father says, “If he’d of lived, he’d of been a great man…He’d of helped build up the country.” “‘That’s true,’ I [Narrator] said uncomfortably.” (169) I am unsure why the narrator is uncomfortable, unless he doesn’t believe it, but more likely he was trying to figure it out. For Fitzy “uncomfortably” is an extra word, the wrong long word, to reach a larger word count.
Fitzy comes to the fore when he writes an essay analyzing all the characters, and blaming their shortcomings on their Mid-West origins (177-178). It is easy for a drunk in Europe to criticize the Mid-West. The book is East Coast friendly, but it creates a literary black hole. The setting in any novel is the most determinative element in any story with characters. This novel is set in New York City and Long Island. Fitzy fails to tell how Mid-West roots set off these people, whereas New Yorkers would never do any of these things: bootlegging, mistresses, mental cruelty for spouses, avoiding personal responsibility, breach of the public trust, never knowing oneself. Instead, the East Coast, high-brow show is avoided, misperceived and preposterously unwritten, with half-conceived, scantily described party scenes of pretentious people. Fitzy preaches these are not East Coast traits. He easily excuses the East Coast malignancy manifested in Mid-west people: “They [Tom, Daisy] were careless people…- they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness, or whatever it was that kept(180) them together and get other people clean up the mess they had made…”(181)
From the passages it is reasonable to conclude Fitzy is enamored with New York City and its environment, conveying the poetry of city cement, glass, steel and noise. (Page 36 Narrator ￼two places at once, “enchanted,” “inexhaustible variety of life.” Page 57, “enchanted [again!] metropolitan twilight…” Yet what of the Long Island environment – other than the man-made features? Nada, nyet, nothing, zip. Why life on Long Island? To meet vacationing New York Citiers, sophisticates of the world, people who just blew into town from the Mid-West. It is obvious that Fitzy dislikes nature and can’t describe it to support any part of his novel. He didn’t care about losing a dog(3). He gives Gatsby’s garden city attributes.(56) There is the metaphor/ simile/disconnected-run-on sentence, “leaking sawdust” from page 66. It is fair to say Fitzy is an anti-environmentalist, in favor of dead flowers and killing trees.
Fitzy is also anti-Semitic which actually weakens the story and sullies the narrator. Gatsby introduces narrator to Meyer Wolfsheim, a Jew whose conversation is in standard American for a page until Fitzy uses his tin-ear by writing in dialect: Gatsby is an “Oggsford” man, not an Oxford man. It is imprecise because Jews would not make the mistake of confusing an “g” for a “x.” The “x” sound like “s” or “tz” is widely pronounced in German. Its presence in any word is an anchor to swing between vowels and diphthongs.
At the end of narrator/Gatsby/Wolfsheim meeting, the Jew leaves and Gatsby identifies Wolfsheim as the man who fixed the 1919 World Series. Narrator’s is dumbfounded:
“The idea staggered me. I remembered…that the World Series had been fixed in 1919, but if I had thought of it at all I would have thought of it as a thing that merely happened, the end of some inevitable chain. It never occurred to me that one man could start to play with the faith of fifty million people – with the single-mindedness of a burglar blowing a safe.
“How did he happen to do that?” I asked after a minute. “He just saw the opportunity.”
“Why isn’t he in jail?”
“They can’t get him…He’s a smart man.”
That’s it! The narrator has no curiosity although it takes talent to play with the faith of fifty million people. For the narrator there is nothing, except to shun and to belittle. Criminal or half-criminal, there is something to learn from Wolfsheim, but in this passage narrator was dense and bigoted, like the girl at the mistress’s party who avoided marrying “a little kike” “below her”.(34) During that lunch narrator uses a term Fitzy liked, to describe Wolfsheim’s speech: “somnabulatory abstraction.” But nothing about Wolfsheim approaches the meaning of that term. However, those words perfectly describe the narrator, Daisy, Gatsby, Jordan and Tom.
At the end of the book Fitzy brings Wolfsheim back. Narrator wants him to come to Gatsby’s funeral. He doesn’t. Fitzy tries to be cute and reveals his extracurricular reading. Gatsby was written while in and out of Europe and published in 1925. Fitzy had a chance to read and warmly embrace Mein Kampf (1924). Fitzy’s joke in Gatsby is naming Wolfsheim’s business, The Swastika Holding Company.(171)
Overlooking these deplorable sentiments embraced in the book, one finds a redounding ridicule. From his photo F. Scott Fitzgerald had a beak nose and a pointy chin. Apparently Fitzy had a thing about noses. First is Tom and Daisy’s butler: “I’ll tell you a secret,” she whispered enthusiastically. “It’s about the butler’s nose. Do you want to hear about the butler’s nose?” “That’s why I came over tonight.”(14) Second comes Daisy’s chauffeur: “Does the gasoline affect his [chauffeur’s] nose?” “I don’t think so,” she said innocently. ‘Why?’” (86)
Third is Wolfsheim’s proboscis not supported by a mustache: “…small, flat nosed…regarded me with two fine growths which luxuriated in either nostril…”(69-70) At the table “His [Wolfsheim’s] nostrils turned to me in an interested way.”(71) Has any reader ever seen nostrils with or without hair detach from a face and turn “in an interested way?” Undoubtedly Fitzy was in an alcoholic stupor because he wrote it; or may be the Narrator dropped acid. From here on out, I’ll be straight and sober when I look for this facial feat, whether noses be big, small or Semitic, hairy or waxed.
Other than the notations above, elements of a pre-writing outline and the use of character wheels are extant in The Great Gatsby:
1. The characters do something or something happens, and there is no further development of that circumstance, otherwise certain to take the characters in a different direction.
2. Something does not happen when the few facts and incidences suggest it should. For instance all the rich Long Island people in the book have chauffeurs, and presumably the chauffeurs use the garage/ gasoline station. Thereupon the garage man knows which rich person owns which car – this is
not a 30 page learning curve to discover who killed wife/mistress. Out of loyalty to his employer Gatsby’s chauffeur would tell the garageman, My man wasn’t driving when your wife was killed in the hit and run accident. Daisy was. And if you didn’t know, Tom, not Gatsby, was porking your wife. Those few facts alone would make it a much more interesting novel.
3. The dialogue suggests something should happen (more dialogue) and it does not.
4. Not all dialogue and description follow from what immediately proceeded it.
5. Gatsby’s dream (fantasy) – have parties, Daisy will come, I’ll be in love – might look good in an outline, but in real life it never works out.
6. In Chapter 9 Fitzy tries to tie everything together by taking over the narrator’s role completely and analyzing and making story points in an essay.
Apart from the stories and characters diverging from the pre-writing outline and character wheels, there is A GREAT PROBLEM. Each character acts and talks with the utmost seriousness, with no humor, no self effacement or deprecation. no laughing, no joy. There is nothing American about this novel. Does any of them have a sense of humor, a sense of the ridiculous, a sense of fun? Does any character have loves – art, poetry, music? This book presents an ill-disciplined fancy Fitzy found impossible to write within the narrow outline/character wheel confines he constructed for himself. His means and abilities are so inadequate (there are no misspellings), that the reader cannot trust any character, any element of the story or the author.
Could The Great Gatsby be a satire? I detected no overarching themes or reference points leading to other works or concepts.It is too poorly written with no construction and no structure. A satire should be written straight. Gatsby is a series of mediocre sketches and misimpressions conveying no driving force. No author can write a satire with scores of malapropos and misused words. Fitzy tries to show he is a serious writer with the essays in Chapter 9 – Mid-west origins, Swatiska Holding Company, etc., but the writing in the previous eight chapters is juvenile and ￼undisciplined to make the book unreadable. Furthermore, an author cannot write about stupid characters by writing stupidly himself.
Gatsby is a volume that should never be read for any purpose, whatsoever, except as an example: How not to write a novel. Edit severely any writing before submitting it. And never use an outline. I believe it was Robert Penn Warren who warned, I had an outline once and it took me two years to write myself out of it. And avoid use of character wheels, a device taught in Middle School.
But like his characters Fitzy got a pass. One can easily believe the ploy of the powers that be. The publisher, Charles Scribner’s Sons, had a marketing plan: F. Scott Fitzgerald was related to Francis Scott Key, writer of the lyrics of “The Star Spangled Banner.” Few Americans know the words to the song, yet they like it. A classic is a book people praise and don’t read. Don’t worry about editing, writing, consistency. The book can be an atrocity, just advertise and promote. Rely on the forefather, Francis. Make the song the National Anthem (1931), and forever the book will be cherished(after 1945). Get the author on a postage stamp (1996). It will bring us loads of money.
The American public can only hope that no one in that family publishes anything else.