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!

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald.
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Yesterday, the New York Times reported that Ernest Hemingway may have produced as many as 47 endings to his midcareer masterpiece, A Farewell to Arms. The so-called “Nada Ending,” for instance, which is No. 1: ‘That is all there is to the story. Catherine died and you will die and I will die and that is all I can promise you.’ ” And the “Live-Baby Ending,” No. 7: “There is no end except death and birth is the only beginning.’ ”

Nathan Heller Nathan Heller

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

In the wake of this report, scholars and family members of F. Scott Fitzgerald dropped a second bombshell on the literary world, revealing no fewer than 47 alternate endings to the Jazz Age master’s own chef d’oeuvre, The Great Gatsby. The recent discovery brings the grand total number of Gatsby endings to 48—or, as one Fitzgerald expert put it, “one more ending than Hemingway, a lazy man and lesser talent, ever wrote.” Slate managed to acquire all 47 of Fitzgerald’s foiled attempts; the endings, unaltered, are reproduced below.

No. 1, “The Grand Epiphany Ending”: “Gatsby believed in the green light, but sitting out among the quiet whisperings of the shore I had a different sort of revelation: Sometimes life is easy, but sometimes it is hard.”

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No. 2, “The Bourgeois Hardship Ending”: “Out there in the dark with the moon rising high over the Sound I thought about Gatsby and his big, rambling house. It turned out to be true what they said—you never really get what you expect. I shrugged and left.”

No. 3, “The Ending Ending”: “Ferryboats stirred across the Sound and disappeared toward the horizon. Gatsby had seen something strange and new in this untrammeled land, but contemplating it now I could only think one sad, unvarnished thought. We are born, we eat a lot of lunches, and then we die.”

No. 4, “The Trials of Middle Age Ending”: “He had come a long way to this blue lawn, and his knees hurt.”

No. 5, “The Cliffhanger Ending”: “The ferryboats traced quiet paths out across the water as the moon rose, casting fragile sheets of light down on the waves. Suddenly, I felt the cool barrel of a Smith & Wesson on the back of my neck. ‘Not so fast,’ a familiar voice said. ‘This garden party is only starting.’ ”

No. 6, “The Applesauce Ending”: “I wandered down to the beach and sprawled out in the sand. I took a little tin of applesauce from my bag and ate it with a spoon. The moon was rising over the Sound, climbing the night sky like an ascendant soul; below, the ferryboats traced silent, tentative paths through the water. I kept eating applesauce.”

No. 7, “The Freudian Ending”: “When you really thought about it, Gatsby looked a lot like my mother, and so did Jordan.”

No. 8, “The Infomercial Ending”: “So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past, unless we have a Silent Hi-Mileage Bio-Diesel Onboard Engine, in which case we cruise over to the next town and buy gelato. That was easy!”

No. 9, “The Nude Beach Ending”: “Most of the big places were closed now and there were hardly any lights except the shadowy, moving glow of a ferryboat across the Sound. When it had passed out of range, I removed my pants.”

No. 10, “The Charlie Sheen Ending”: “On the last night, with my trunk packed and my car sold to the grocer, I went over and looked at that huge incoherent failure of a house once more, and I thought: Winning!”

No. 11, “The Undiagnosed Colorblindness Ending”: “ ‘What are you talking about?’ the fisherman asked. ‘That light is blue, and your socks don’t match.’ ”

No. 12, “The Romantic Comedy Ending”: “As I stood there someone came up behind me. It was Jordan Baker. ‘Hey,’ she said. ‘I was just thinking—’ I cut in, ‘I’ve been meaning to say—’ ‘Sorry, you go first,’ she said. ‘What? No, please. You.’ ‘I was just thinking—do you think we should give it a chance after all? I mean, only if you want to.’ ‘Maybe we could just try it for a while.’ ‘It’s just that no one else is quite as surprising.’ ‘Yeah, I sort of agree.’ Then I kissed her and we went paragliding in Wellfleet.”

No. 13, “The Animist Ending”: “There were hardly any lights except the soft glow of a ferryboat moving across the Sound. I heard a rustling nearby and saw a squirrel gathering nuts on the blue lawn that my friend had long ago abandoned. The squirrel was looking up at me. He resembled a miniature version of Gatsby, with very small hands.”