What The Great Gatsby Was Almost Named
This comes from the publisher’s afterword in my edition of The Great Gatsby.
Awesome insight into Fitzgerald’s thought process behind naming the novel:
Fitzgerald was never satisfied with The Great Gatsby as the title. The early working title was “Among the Ash Heaps and Millionaires”; other titles that he considered were “Trimalchio in West Egg,” “Trimalchio,” “On the Road to West Egg,” “Gold-hatted Gatsby,” and “The High-bouncing Lover.” The last two come from the epigraph poem by Fitzgerald, which he attributed to Thomas Parke D’Invilliers, a character in This Side of Paradise, his first novel. Trimalchio was the lavish host in The Satyricon, a Latin work by Petronius. On 19 March 1925, three weeks before publication, Fitzgerald cabled Maxwell Perkins: CRAZY ABOUT TITLE UNDER THE RED WHITE AND BLUE STOP WHART WOULD DELAY BE. By then it was too late. And it is too late now to re-title a classic novel.
Obviously, we have the benefit of nearly 90 years of hindsight. But can you imagine The Great Gatsby being named anything other than The Great Gatsby?
Like, what if Moby Dick was called Billy Joe? You know, a whale named Billy Joe. Doesn’t that just seem ridiculous?
But, just for kicks and giggles, let’s go through the other titles Fitzgerald considered:
Among The Ash Heaps and Millionaires: Too wordy. Too literal, as well. The “ash heaps” line makes me think the worst comes to Gatsby before I even read the book.
Trimalchio in West Egg: As mentioned in the blurb above, “Trimalchio” is a character in a latin work of fiction. Too obscure, though?
Trimalchio: Again, too obscure, I think.
On The Road To West Egg: Why keep mentioning “West Egg” in these titles? Without a point of reference—the book itself—how would anyone even know what West Egg is? Or should they? This also feels like a Kerouac-meets-Fitzgerald kind of title.
Gold-Hatted Gatsby: I like the fact that this version actually includes Gatsby’s name. You gotta include Gatsby in the title, right? Not sure why, but the “gold-hatted” part seems a little too much though.
The High Bouncing Lover: No. Absolutely not. No. No. No. No. Thank God this classic novel was never named The High Bouncing Lover. Can you imagine? I understand there’s a reference to that in the fake epigraph, and I’m glad it stayed there. Terrible title.
But what about the suggested title from Fitzgerald’s telegram—Under The Red, White, and Blue? It’s definitely the most intriguing non-title on this list, but what does it mean? Is it a poke at the fraudulence and fickleness of chasing the American Dream?
But I’m just fine with The Great Gatsby. It’s so perfect. One word—“great”—says everything you need to know about the man and the myth of Gatsby the character.
If you read the title with a bit of sarcasm in your voice, I think you’re on to something with regards to how Fitzgerald viewed the “greatness” of his main character in this novel.
But, seriously, let’s get back to The High Bouncing Lover. Would any of you read a novel with that name?