Philip McGowan – The American Carnival of The Great Gatsby

The American Carnival of The Great Gatsby

Philip McGowan

Published in Connotations Vol. 15.1-3 (2005/06)


To argue that F. Scott Fitzgerald's long−held masterpiece The Great Gatsby (1925) produces in the United States of the 1920s a replication of Bakhtinian forms of carnival excess and release is an interesting, and indeed productive, deployment of Bakhtin's carnival thesis in conjunction with the multi−textured nature of Fitzgerald's novel. However, while aspects of carnivalised reality undoubtedly populate the novel, there is more going on in this text than a simple one−to−one relation between Bakhtinian carnival theory and Fitzgerald's text might suggest. The social, political and racial issues specific to 1920s America as revealed in the novel require an interpretative frame more agile and more particularised than Bakhtin's explorations of the sixteenth−century French comedies of Rabelais. Bevilacqua's argument, while tracing interesting points of comparison, overlooks the particular consequences of an American variant of carnival form that is rooted in a culture of politicised vision and display initially propagated in an interlocking set of specifically American conditions: nineteenth−century World's Fair culture; the developing commodity culture of the early twentieth century; and the production of narratives of racial and social control within America's visual, entertainment and education cultures. To read The Great Gatsby solely in terms of European carnival theory evacuates the particular American politics of [→page 144] Fitzgerald's novel, a politics specifically introduced on its opening page: Nick Carraway's apparently throwaway grievance at being "unjustly accused of being a politician" (7) at college should not be forgotten in a novel that raises a series of difficult questions about political machinations, race, and social exclusion. Moreover, The Great Gatsby makes a number of specific as well as implicit references to American variations of carnival form that, while possibly bearing some resemblance to European variants, require specific and careful examination.

While Bevilacqua opens an array of possibilities for comparative reflection on Fitzgerald's novel, her argument can be extended beyond a reading of The Great Gatsby that fits the frame of European carnival as outlined by Bakhtin across his works Rabelais and His World, The Dialogic Imagination and The Problems of Dostoevsky's Poetics. Unlike European carnival events and festivals that can be readily situated within particular cultures in terms of yearly week−long events that may or may not coincide with dates in the Christian calendar, American carnival produces an ongoing definition of U.S. cultures through social and racial categorisation. Sited originally in the display halls of World's Fairs and the sideshow tents of freak shows and travelling carnivals, American carnival is, for the purposes of this article, presented as an interpretative and representative phenomenon: activated at both the conscious and unconscious levels, it facilitates a production of white American social control and of the alterity that it seeks to subdue. A fuller account would show the workings of this particularised and interconnected politics of American seeing, display and spectacle in a range of texts: for example Nathaniel Hawthorne's "My Kinsman, Major Molineux" (1832) or Stephen Crane's "The Monster" (1898) from the nineteenth century, or Saul Bellow's The Victim (1947) or Paul Auster's Mr. Vertigo (1994) from the twentieth.

To summarise the salient features of this form of carnival that are relevant to The Great Gatsby, American carnival connotes the capacity of U.S. culture to deploy methods of seeing and representation that [→page 145] operate along the imbricated contours of race, ethnicity and Otherness. The opportunities and potentials outlined by Bakhtin for the overturning of social order, for a temporary equalising of social status, and for 'becoming' (the social, economic, and individual development that he outlines with regard to Rabelaisian carnival) are reformulated in the United States, repackaged in its variants of carnival form, and consequently restricted to the white audience members and viewers in the nation's display arenas and entertainment zones. Whether in terms of American minstrelsy, freak shows, or World's Fairs (in particular the 1893 Columbian Exposition in Chicago, and also the 1901 New York Fair), the displayed or carnivalised identities are constricted within a mode of imagery that maintains the absolute difference between spectacle and spectator, the individual subjectivity of the deemed Other overwritten, in particular cases literally blacked out, by a cultural recourse to generalised masks and stereotyped versions of identity.

The placing of the 'subversive' on display in American carnival forms from the 1850s onward produced a ready binary for reinforcing the dominance of white social ordering within the U.S. Certainly in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, America constructed a specific carnival culture that legitimised the white cultural hegemony by displaying Otherness as both monstrous and potentially subversive of white society. America's carnival spaces function as entertainment spaces in which the (white) spectator can, for a small fee payable on admission, witness carnivalised representations of Otherness. These socially and economically sanctioned territories replicate on a larger scale the politics of carnival seeing already alive in the wider culture. As a consequence, a symbiotic relationship of reinforcing belief systems was established between the more overt carnival zones in the United States (its freak shows, its World's Fairs, its travelling carnivals) and a more covert politics of seeing by which American society was continually categorized and interpreted.


[→page 146] Turning to Fitzgerald's novel, it becomes clear how American forms of carnival developed beyond the well−defined Europe—an variants that interested Bakhtin. Gatsby's house and his parties, on first encounter, appear to offer a duplication of European carnival release, allowing the guests access to a realm where bawdy flirtations and bootleg liquor are the currencies of exchange. The "swirls and eddies" (TGG 47) of Gatsby's partygoers form one homogeneous mass of temporarily equated identity in a carnival realm constructed purely for purposes of spectacle. The carnival land to which they are admitted suspends the social organisations, hierarchies, and prohibitions of outside America in a zone of whites−only leisure. The differentiated identities of these people merge under the influence of alcohol and within the highly coloured carnival environment of Gatsby's mansion, a "factual imitation of some Hîtel de Ville in Normandy" (11). This imported environment of political equality and democratization has its political dimensions obscured on a number of levels: by its use as a site of carnival excess; by its placement within an American culture that carnivalises its methods of seeing and reading identity; and, by its status as a replica of an unspecified French town hall. Gatsby's mansion is simultaneously an intrinsic part of America and is disconnected from it: the replication of influences from Europe (continued in the mansion's Restoration salons and Marie Antoinette rooms) is at odds with American patterns of architecture, but is very much part of an America that juxtaposes the pastiche with the colonial, the modern with the traditional, and the replica with the original.

Gatsby's house, then, is clearly a site of representation; but it is also one of carnival replication. Displacing its previous occupant, pointedly a brewer, the bootlegging Gatsby provides, at one level, a countercultural space for carnival excess beyond the constraints of a Prohibition culture outside its gates. A straight duplication of older European carnival forms could then be argued for, but only if Gatsby's house and its entertainments exist in a realm cut off from the rest of U.S. society, or indeed are subversive of its social and cultural categorisations. [→page 147] However, the house, because it functions in the novel as a space of representation, is very much in tune with an American culture and landscape that deploys carnivalised methods of seeing in its organization of social space and class position.

Gatsby himself is more than the self−made hero of Nick Carraway's fiction of memory, however; he is the circus master, the creator of the carnival, the Trimalchio in control of the spectacles and entertainments on offer and upon whose financial resources this whole palace and lifestyle of illusion is based. Gatsby functions as the would−be carnivaliser of reality, a man seeking to suspend, even reverse, time in order to reclaim the object for whom his world of images is constructed. He is the driver of a "circus wagon" (127), of a car that "mirror[s] a dozen suns" (70). His is a life dedicated to the image, to spectacle, to advertisements for himself. Gatsby is both the facilitator of carnival in the text and the central image of the novel's carnival representations. The "World's Fair" (88) of his house is the ultimate incarnation of a landscape dedicated to carnival, to showing the fantasies made possible by capital wealth. Moreover, defining carnival precisely in relation to American World's Fairs culture, Fitzgerald is marking its critical difference from European carnival forms: this is not a place producing a temporary suspension of reality; rather, it is one dedicated to the ongoing illusions of progress and American materialism made possible by Gatsby's own romanticised (by himself and his party guests) if nefarious dealings.

Richard Godden importantly notes how "to see in 1925 was to see through the stencil of the commodity" (78). Indeed, the methods of American seeing in The Great Gatsby are also passed through the stencil or prism of American carnival, a framing device controlled by the hegemonic interests of American society. At this time corporate and economic interest groups were intimately involved in the production and maintenance of a commodity culture within the United States. The manipulation of the image, the control of what is seen, and, more importantly, how it is seen, is rooted in the power base of America's ruling elite. Nick functions as our representative observer [→page 148] at times; at others he is a liminal figure, both inside and outside, participant and observer, spectator but never the spectacle or the cause of spectacle. "I was unjustly accused of being a politician" (7); yet, he is undoubtedly a political viewer throughout the text, and his purported objective standpoint is necessarily called into question. By the close, he is tantamount to Gatsby's running mate, the supporting second narrative on Gatsby's dream ticket. As an observer, Nick functions as an ideal American viewer, attracted and repelled by the things he uncovers in the fantasy realms of the northeast coast of the United States.

Nick's house is located "on that slender riotous island which extends itself due east of New York" (10), another U.S. fantasy zone comparable to the nearby Coney Island. His house is advantaged by the views of "the water, a partial view of my neighbour's lawn, and the consoling proximity of millionaires" (11). Nick is a viewer from the outset then, a viewer in particular of the wealth of white America. Indeed, East Egg, the location of Tom and Daisy's colonial mansion, is figured by its "white palaces" (11), and white becomes the colour enduringly associated with this region and its identities. The colour coding of the text—white (Daisy), yellow (the hair colour of most of the characters), grey (the valley of ashes)—designates social and political space in the carnival realms of New York State. Both the homes in East and West Egg are sights of spectacle, Gatsby's "factual imitation" facing the "white palaces of fashionable East Egg," much as the exhibition sites of American World's Fairs, particularly Chicago in 1893, opposed the white structures connoting cultural and technological excellence and progress with the colourful and imported locations of the carnival midway. Tom's house is representative of settled colonial America, in stark contrast to Gatsby's fake palace of representation; Tom's is a house symbolizing the acceptable face of homogeneous white America, and Tom the physical force of white identity. He manipulates the (white) spectator Nick: "wedging his tense arm imperatively under mine, Tom Buchan—an compelled me from the room as though he were moving a checker to another square" (17−18). [→page 149] In this labyrinth of continual whiteness, Tom is the unquestioned master, the controller of the white spectacles of this location; outside of this zone, his power is open to question and subversion. Nick's own self−sufficiency and power to move and to see is dominated at this stage by the physical power of Tom: "his determination to have my company bordered on violence" (30). Moreover, Tom's social and economic power is placed in unequal comparison to Nick's. Nick is not the creator or manipulator of the sights of the East that he has entered and, as with his visits to Gatsby's house, in particular with Daisy on the day of the reunion, he functions in these spaces as a tourist or visitor at an amusement park or a World's Fair.

On his first introduction to Daisy and Jordan, Nick notes that their conversation is "as cool as their white dresses and their impersonal eyes in the absence of all desire" (18). This unfathomable whiteness that Toni Morrison speaks of frames Tom's ensuing diatribe concerning race in contemporary American culture. The combination of his minimal reading, eugenecist ideology, and racist discourse, in conjunction with his economic and physical power, pinpoints Tom as the text's representative of dominant whiteness. If his house is a location of information in the text it is one akin to the eugenecist stalls for fitter families at America's town and country fairs. Eugenecist displays and, by extension, those exhibits that twinned displays of Otherness with "factual" material about them, in America's carnival spaces were able to exploit these two modes of information and entertainment, blurring the boundary between the educative and the fantastical. Tom provides space for the exhibition and consideration of such attitudes. Housed in his predominantly white and enduringly colonial mansion, Tom's need to "nibble at the edge of stale ideas" (27) is satisfied by his control of this space and the activities that take place here.

The Great Gatsby is a text that straddles the carnival celebration of the United States: "It was a few days before the Fourth of July" (32). This is a novel mapping the opposed states of pre− and post−Independence America, both in its annual commemoration of the defeat of the imperial forces of Britain on Independence Day, and in its opposition of [→page 150] carnivalised identities. If carnival is revolution (Eco et al. 3), then the Revolutionary War, and its annual commemoration, is America's main carnival event. Gatsby's house and Myrtle's apartment both contain images of pre−revolution France; these are two characters wishing to invert the realities of their lives as they are, one to gain the memory of his past in Daisy, the other the promise of a future in Tom. However, the retreats they construct speak essentially of un−American things and un−American times: images of Versailles and Marie Antoinette music rooms cut across the contemporary reality of the America in which they live. One possible reason that their dreams fail is that they wish to suspend a reality (figured in their pre−revolution home decor) that is already suspended in post−revolution America, the place where Tom, Daisy, and Nick all live. Here, such monarchical trappings have been discarded, and Gatsby and Myrtle's wishes are at odds with the new political and temporal codes of the day. Wishing to invert what has already been inverted, indeed removed, they are defeated by the realm of American politics. Moreover, the American landscape, viewed through the lens of carnival, becomes a meta−physical space: a landscape of the fantastical in which it is the essential unreality of things that captures Nick's imagination, honed as it is on the substantiality of the West. Gatsby and Myrtle are both out of their times and out of sync with the times, and they inhabit locations that predate the formation of an independent United States.

The mappings of New York in the novel alternate between a near−fantastical, wholly fantastical, or ultimately a distorted space of nightmare. It is an American territory populated by diverse carnival and carnivalised figures, and its delineations of white identity in particular highlight the social constructions inherent to this region. The gradations of whiteness in the book are manifold: Daisy and Jordan's performed white inertia; Myrtle's sister whose complexion is "powdered milky white" (36); the anemic, ghostly Wilson; Gatsby's tanned exterior; and Tom's brutal attempts at providing cohesion within his racial grouping. Nick's whiteness is unquestioned but noticeably aligned with a group at Gatsby's first party who "preserved [→page 151] a dignified homogeneity, and assumed to itself the function of representing the staid nobility of the country−side—East Egg condescending to West Egg, and carefully on guard against its spectroscopic gayety" (51). Nick is a trans−carnival figure, "within and without, simultaneously enchanted and repelled by the inexhaustible variety of life" (42). Spectator and participant at the same time, he gains access to both sides of America's boundaries of seeing and spectacle. His reticence and natural slow thinking, however, prevent him literally from making a spectacle of himself; he holds a reserve unknown to Gatsby and Myrtle, the two victims of America's politicized zones of seeing and being.

A narrowly Bakhtinian reading of this novel would focus on Gatsby's party and identify its apparent provision of a suspension of social hierarchies as well as of the regular calibrations of time. However, Gatsby's house and parties are not sites indicative of European carnival. As Nick notes, the correlation between Gatsby's house and a World's Fair is prevalent. This is a site of technological innovation and carnival excess: "There was a machine in the kitchen which could extract the juice of two hundred oranges in half an hour if a little button was pressed two hundred times by a butler's thumb" (45). The machinery of America's developing commodity culture is on display in this arena that shadows the multicoloured environment of the first World's Fair of the twentieth century, also staged in New York State, Buffalo's Rainbow City of 1901: there are "enough coloured lights to make a Christmas tree of Gatsby's enormous garden" (45); "the halls and salons and verandas are gaudy with primary colours" (46). Although not the white sepulchre of Chicago's 1893 Exposition, resonating in the white palace of Tom's colonial mansion, Gatsby's house is a variation on the American carnival theme. Even the food provided for the guests is entered into the spectacular realm of carnival. Conspicuous consumption is arranged as a feast of carnivalesque display: "On buffet tables, garnished with glistening hors−d'oeuvre, spiced baked hams crowded against salads of harlequin designs and pastry pigs and turkeys bewitched to a dark gold" (45).

[→page 152] The fluid identity of the crowd forms a brand of homogeneous whiteness in a space that matches another New York carnival location, that of Coney Island. The unrestricted entrance to all comers who "conducted themselves according to the rules of behavior associated with an amusement park" (47) figures Gatsby's house as an alternative Coney Island. It is significant that in mooting a trip away from his own carnival space, Gatsby suggests that he and Nick visit Coney Island (88). White homogeneity exists as a social construct in opposition to the spectacles of carnival on display and realized through the opposition between an observing white elite and the performing white Others at Gatsby's party. This is a land of "spectroscopic gayety," and the homogeneous whiteness to which Nick noticeably attaches himself stands at a remove from the carnival events occurring here. This is an altogether different remove to that of Gatsby; here he is the controller, the master of ceremonies, unknown to the crowd yet the central figure of the circus show. He controls a land of mutating spectacle whereas Tom dominates a land of static whiteness (for example, Daisy's immobility and inertia, the deflating of Daisy and Jordan's air−filled couch). Gatsby is the master of ceremonies in "a mansion where he dispensed starlight to casual moths" (85). As with the Coney Island theme park Luna Park for example, this is a place transformed at night, illuminated to provide an alternative carnival realm to those of American daylight.

Part observer, part journalist, part social historian, Nick records the names of the partygoers on a train schedule, "in effect July 5th, 1922" (67). This is a post−holiday timetable and a record of American identities after Independence. It signals alterations of time, the change in schedules after the date of political celebration in the American calendar. The fact that the trains begin again, possibly in a new routine after the fourth of July, indicates the return to order, or the renewal of order in the material world. The continuing suspension of this version of American 'reality' in the carnival and entertainment zones of Long Island is a marked distinction. Here, reality is the subject of deception and tricks of light. The politically coloured world of Long Island is a [→page 153] carnivalised one open to constant manipulation and subterfuge: Nick detects something "sinister" (71) in what Gatsby tells him of his past, having earlier been struck by "the basic insincerity" of Daisy's words leaving him "uneasy, as though the whole evening had been a trick of some sort to exact a contributary emotion from me" (24). Past and present become entities capable of manipulation in the distorting worlds of East coast carnival.

Fact and fiction in New York's arenas are seemingly interchangeable. History is a mutable concept and this underpins Gatsby's project to reclaim Daisy: "'I'm going to fix everything just the way it was before,' he said, nodding determinedly. 'She'll see'" (117; emphasis added). He is the carnival showman intent on manipulating time, to recreate the past in the present, to provide a space for repeating the past with—in the exhibition arenas of his carnival world. The ultimate carnivaliser, Gatsby dedicates his time to displays constructed solely for Daisy's vision. The past functions in his mind as another exhibit capable of repetition and redisplay in the present. To be able to do this requires a site and a sight both capable of incorporating the past and present as well as indications of an innovative future, all of which are realized in the World's Fair of his house.

However, Daisy does not see, at least not in the ways structured by Gatsby's vision. The carnival and spectacle of Gatsby's next party fail to win over this ultimate white viewer:

She was appalled by West Egg, this unprecedented 'place' that Broadway had begotten upon a Long Island fishing village—appalled by its raw vigour that chafed under the old euphemisms and by the too obtrusive fate that herded its inhabitants along a short−cut from nothing to nothing. She saw something awful in the very simplicity she failed to understand. (114)

Her response is an unconscious questioning of the reality and substantiality of West Egg, this offshoot of Broadway located outside the city. Broadway, the ultimate incarnation of the theatrical, vaudevillian impulse within American culture, has "begotten" this dubious realm of artificiality and "simplicity," but she does not comprehend its [→page 154] meaning. Daisy is not an active reader of social situations and hence her inability to read the carnival excess of Gatsby's party is unsurprising. She is out of place in this multicoloured realm, at one, instead, with the white worlds of her Louisville past and the house she shares with Tom. Daisy's locations in the text are those that are predominantly white: she understands this aspect of the colour−coded register of American society. The gaudy carnival of Gatsby's party is anathema to this pure white reader. Gatsby's versions of carnival, and the creation of his carnivalised zones of entertainment and spectacle, seek something of a Bakhtinian notion of carnival as a suspension of hierarchies. Moreover, at a time of national Prohibition, the ability of Gatsby's fair to include numerous drinks and cordials possibly unknown to his younger guests, provides a flavour of this suspension of hierarchical, legal, and political realities. To the conditioned white reader from America's highest class (Tom and Daisy), such a carnival is a by−product of contemporary American entertainment culture, a miniature Broadway or Coney Island; not a suspension of reality, but an alternative one all of its own.

Boundaries and tensions, emotional, racial, and geographic, divide the carnival and social worlds of the novel. On a ride through Central Park with Jordan, Nick comments how "[w]e passed a barrier of dark trees, and then the façade of Fifty−ninth Street, a block of delicate pale light, beamed down into the park" (86). New York is a space, urban and suburban, that is mapped and marked by distinct colour boundaries. Even the grass between Gatsby's house and Nick's is registered through difference, marking a division between Gatsby's maintained carnival world and Nick's one of "normality." The racial undertones that plot the colour codings of the United States shadow the interactions of Fitzgerald's characters. Brought to a head by Tom in the hotel confrontation with Gatsby, the subversive forces threatening Tom's hegemonic and civilized whiteness are amalgamated into a generalized category of Otherness, the invisible men Tom wishes to remain out of sight:

[→page 155] I suppose the latest thing is to sit back and let Mr Nobody from Nowhere make love to your wife. Well, if that's the idea you can count me out. … Nowadays people begin by sneering at family life and family institutions, and next they'll throw everything overboard and have intermarriage between black and white. (136)

Tom's manifesto is rooted in Republican conservative American values and stands in sharp contrast to the aspiring independence, even democratic ethos, of Gatsby's position. Conventions are in danger of being suspended or even negated by the carnival interpretations of behaviour symbolized, for Tom, by Gatsby and his dealings with Daisy. The union of black and white is what Tom must resist at all levels. In this codification, Tom is white to Gatsby's "black" Otherness or subversiveness, all of whom are written within the same political register of difference.

Daisy is an emotional and figurative currency between the two men, a valuable prize, a "silver idol" (121), over which they battle for possession. On his first re−encounter with her, Gatsby is significantly clothed "in a white flannel suit, silver shirt, and gold−coloured tie" (90−91); he dresses in a combination of whiteness and of monetary designation, silver and gold, to regain the currency of his lost love, Daisy. He leads her on a guided tour of his house that begins by entrance through an official gate: "Instead of taking the short cut along the Sound we went down the road and entered by the big postern" (97). This is the ceremonial gateway into Gatsby's space of carnival. However, she is out of place here in a World's Fair of French decor and English tailoring. This is a world of illusion to which she is unaccustomed, beyond the white American "reality" that is her home. Gatsby's house is a fantasy realm dedicated to a culture of carnival and conspicuous display and he is the son of a materialist God, the gaudy showmanship of the new century's commercial culture. As with New York's other fantasy realms, Gatsby's dreamland fills out "a satisfactory hint of the unreality of reality" (106). The contingent and material base of the culture is itself based in a visual culture of malleable [→page 156] spectacle, and it is to these policies of inversion and replication that Gatsby dedicates himself.

The central opposition in the text is a contrast of standards: the whiteness of the Buchanan world set in opposition to the multicoloured variety of Gatsby's. The violent and aggressive white spectator Tom, and to a lesser extent his wife, recast the world of Gatsby's second party in a new light, through the condescending lens of a higher−class whiteness. The otherwise homogeneous crowd at this party—"There were the same people, or at least the same sort of people"—is added to by a "peculiar quality of oppressiveness" (111). Noticeably, Tom seeks to blend his whiteness with that of the other anonymous partygoers: "I'd rather look at all these famous people in—in oblivion" (112). He desires to hide behind a mask of white identity, the wished−for oblivion of the white homogeneous observer wanting to be nothing but a spectator in this realm where he does not control the spectacles. His inability to do so though, together with Daisy's failure to comprehend the organized spectacles on view, leads to the termination of Gatsby's "career as Trimalchio" (119): they are incompatible white viewers within a crowd of lower social standing at this temporary amusement park. Gatsby's carnival space closes down precisely because it attempts to be both World's Fair and amusement park simultaneously. It cannot satisfy the urbane white dreams and readings of Daisy nor, as a result, can it continue to meet the more populist needs of New York's urban masses.

With the loss of Daisy and the end of his dream, Gatsby wakes to "[a] new world, material without being real, where poor ghosts, breathing dreams like air, drifted fortuitously about … like that ashen, fantastic figure gliding toward him through the amorphous trees" (168). Indeed, this has been the underlying situation all along: the characters move in an insistently material world in which "reality" is a questionable term open to manipulation. The formlessness of the physical world around Gatsby here matches the previously fluid, mutating world of his parties; except that now the fantasies have been turned into grotesqueries. Wilson's whiteness is that of another wrong [→page 157] visitor to the now−closed amusement park. The assassination of Gatsby here in this multi−coloured carnival realm provides a textual bridge with the real−life assassination of President McKinley at the 1901 Buffalo World's Fair, activating memories within the cultural subconscious of the American nation. With Gatsby's death, the fantastical has been redefined, and is continually re−categorised by the perpetual mutations of American carnival and in the inauthentic reporting of the murder in the papers: "Most of those reports were a nightmare—grotesque, circumstantial, eager, and untrue" (170). For Nick, the East becomes an area synonymous with distortion: "Even when the East excited me most […] it had always for me a quality of distortion. West Egg, especially, still figures in my more fantastic dreams. I see it as a night scene by El Greco: a hundred houses, at once conventional and grotesque" (183). West Egg is the main space of distortion where reality and grotesque fantasy simultaneously commingle. Indeed, reality is a constantly uncertain commodity in this realm of controlled and manipulated spectacle. The end of Gatsby's parties signals the "huge incoherent failure" of his house (187); with the parties over, this carnival location alters its exhibition status, becoming a museum, indeed a mausoleum, of images gathering dust.

Queen's University Belfast

Works Cited

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–––. Problems of Dostoevsky’s Poetics. Ed. and trans. Caryl Emerson. Intro. Wayne C. Booth. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 1984.

–––. Rabelais and His World. Trans. Hélène Iswolsky. Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1984.

Eco, Umberto, V. V. Ivanov, and Monica Rector. Carnival! Ed. Thomas A. Sebeok. New York: Mouton Publishers, 1984.

Fitzgerald, F. Scott. The Great Gatsby. 1925. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1974.

[158] Godden, Richard. Fictions of Capital: The American Novel from James to Mailer. Cambridge: CUP, 1990.

McGowan, Philip. American Carnival: Seeing and Reading American Culture. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood P, 2001.

Morrison, Toni. Playing in the Dark: Whiteness and the American Literary Imagination. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard UP, 1992; London: Picador, 1993.