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February 28, 2006

holocaust complete?

Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby (1925) -- Jerz: American Lit II (EL 267)

“It was after we started with Gatsby toward the house that the gardener saw Wilson’s body a little way off in the grass, and the holocaust was complete.” (162)

holocaust: 1) a sacrifice consumed by fire. 2) a thorough destruction esp. involving loss of life.

I want to say I disagree that the holocaust was “complete” without Daisy and/or Tom. Gatsby and the two Wilsons does not satisfy my feelings about completeness. Tom used Wilson, the mechanic, as a tool to remove his competition. We learn later that Tom pointed Wilson in Gatsby’s direction, framing Gatsby for Myrtle’s accidental death, when I’m sure Tom also knew Daisy was driving.

Posted by MattHampton at February 28, 2006 12:38 AM


Just curious -- what's your textual support for te claim that Tom knows Daisy was driving? When Tom later meets Nick, there's a line that suggests the only thing Nick could say in Gatsby's defense would be the truth -- and I took that to mean that Nick doesn't speak up and say that it wasn't Gatsby driving, that it was Daisy.

Fitzgerald leaves open the possibility that Daisy didn't tell Tom that it was Gatsby driving. At any rate, Tom acts as if he really believes Gatsby was driving.

Posted by: Dennis G. Jerz at February 28, 2006 02:05 AM

I suppose I don't have any textual support for the claim that Tom knows it. In my mind I guess I figured the conversation over the cold chicken would have covered that among other things.

Nick narrates they were nearly conspiring, so what else would there be for them to conspire about at that time? Granted, that's Nick's observation, nothing more.

In truth, during the final conversation Tom asserts "He ran over Myrtle like you'd run over a dog and never even stopped his car.
There was nothing I cold say, except the one unutterable fact that it wasn't true." (178)

But there is not an actual quote, so I agree it's ambigious as to whether Nick really uttered the line.

So it's possible Tom didn't know.

Furthermore, after I posted the original blog, it occurred to me I took "complete" to mean everyone involved was included. On the other hand, complete, in that case, simply could have meant "finished."

So the holocaust, as he calls it, was done, despite the fact it may not have included all the guilty parties.

Posted by: Matt Hampton at February 28, 2006 08:18 AM

That's right, Matt, you found the line I was thinking about. Since Nick calls the truth "unutterable," and since Tom would likely have had a reaction that was worth recording if Nick had uttered it, I think we can assume Nick didn't challenge Tom's story. That doesn't resolve the question of whether Tom knows the truth, but it does establish that Fitzgerald left that point somewhat open.

A holocaust is a sacrifice of stand-in (usually an animal) for the sins of the guilty. So it's actually fitting that the guilty don't pay for their own crimes in this story.

Posted by: Dennis G. Jerz at February 28, 2006 09:14 AM

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