Hemingway Wrote 47 Endings to Farewell to Arms? Fitzgerald Wrote 48 for Gatsby!

Dubious and far-fetched ideas.
July 6 2012 5:16 PM

The Lost Endings to The Great Gatsby

For his masterpiece, Hemingway wrote 47 endings. Fitzgerald wrote 48!

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No. 30, “The Domestic Escape Ending”: “And so I bought a lot of Mason jars and a candy thermometer and cleared the kitchen counter and thought that it was going to be an all right autumn after all.”

No. 31, “The Harlequin Romance Ending”: “I said, ‘I have this wild, crazy fantasy of us being like two boats beating against the current, rising and falling—if you know what I mean.’ She smiled coyly and lowered her eyes. ‘I think I do,’ she said.”

No. 32, “The Political Ending: “I left West Egg then, eager to spend more time with my family.”

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No. 33, “The It Was All a Dream Ending”: “So, anyway, the point is, don’t fall asleep after eating too much bresaola.”

No. 34, “The Evolutionary Ending”: “The vanished trees had once pandered in whispers to the last and greatest of all human dreams; for a transitory moment man must have held his breath in the presence of this continent, compelled into an aesthetic contemplation he neither understood or desired. In truth very little had changed since the primordial days of humanity, when we stood on the lush banks of the continent and dreamed and killed. We did both still but now we did it with Rolls Royces and Champagne under the stars. I had survived and that was a good thing, for my genes would prevail.”

No. 35, “The Message in a Bottle Ending”: “Whether the vessel into which I am placing this account will wash ashore again, heaven knows. To anyone who finds it in the future, though: Make our story known. —Nick Carraway, American.”

No. 36, “The Deus Ex Machina Ending”: “I went over and looked at that huge incoherent failure of a house once more. Suddenly, I noticed a trap door, partly concealed beneath the steps. I opened it and found an enormous stash of money—Gatsby’s secret money, which he had always kept hidden. I carried it off, and went to Monte Carlo.”

No. 37, “The Home Improvement Ending”: “My neighbor’s house was a fixer-upper, no doubt about it, but I brought out my band saw and a few cans of paint and sealer and went about trying to heal the damage. Replacement of the window sconces that got water damage. Lots of weatherproofing on the deck. … It took longer than expected, but when I’d finished, you could have a barbecue on the porch and a dance party inside and not a floorboard would creak.”

No. 38, “The Apocalyptic Ending”: “Suddenly the sky over the Sound tore open and a flaming fireball hurtled down into the water. Steam rose, and a cloud of ash. A giant wave roared toward me and I knew what Gatsby surely must have known already in his pool: We were doomed.”

No. 39, “The Loch Ness Monster Ending”: “There were hardly any lights except the shadowy, moving glow of a ferryboat across the Sound. A form appeared beside it—vast, long-necked, reptilian—and then quickly ducked back down below the waves. I left the beach, knowing I’d seen something no other man had.”

No. 40, “The Whitman-esque Ending”: “Once, that summer, we’d been walking out by the Sound, when Gatsby had turned to me abruptly and said, ‘See! See! See! I bequeath myself to these shores, and to the sand, and to the people who walk in the sand, and to the little Crabs that live in the sand, and to the majestic Kelp that is buried in the sand, and to the small Child playing in the sand, and to the Fat Man lying on the sand, and to the wet dog digging in the sand, and to the owner of the dog who is also probably near the sand, and to the owner’s mother who bore him, and to all the women everywhere who bear children, and to the women everywhere who do not bear children—these things and many other things I contain. Always in death will I be with you!’ This was, somehow, a reassuring thing to know.”

No. 41, “The Postmodern Ending”: “Then the curtain fell, and the audience went home quietly questioning the narrative they had received.”

No. 42, “The Regatta Ending”: “So we beat on, boats against the current, until the coxswain gets his act together and Princeton finally takes the lead.”

No. 43, “The Waste Not Want Not Ending”: “It turned out Gatsby and I wore the same size suit and he had that gym set I had been admiring, so—not to be crass, but maybe this story isn’t such an unfortunate one after all.”

No. 44, “The Foretaste of the Internet Ending”: “So, what can we learn from all this? Here are five things Gatsby got wrong about American achievement, plus three things he got right.”

No. 45, “The Regency Ending”: “I left West Egg the next day by the early train. A few months later, I got married and became a country doctor, so none of the aforementioned matters much anymore.”

No. 46, “The Road Trip Ending”: “As the moon rose higher the inessential houses began to melt away until I gradually became aware of the old island here that flowered once for Dutch sailors’ eyes—a fresh, green breast of the new world. I stood with a fresh sense of purpose and resolve and headed back toward the road. I was going to rent a Chevrolet. I was going to see America.”

No. 47, “The Hemingway Ending”: “And so we beat on, boats against the current, and the water moved swiftly and the air blew hard against us and the past washed back upon us and the water kept coming and the wind kept breaking and then it rained. Match that, buster.”

Nathan Heller is staff writer for The New Yorker and a film and TV critic for Vogue. You can follow him on Twitter.

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