Low Concept

The Lost Endings to The Great Gatsby

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

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.’ ”

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.”

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.”

No. 14, “The Modernist Ending”: “So we beat on boats against the current borne back ceaselessly into the past and—”

No. 15, “The New Age Ending”: “As I sat there brooding on the old, unknown world, I thought of Gatsby’s wonder when he first picked out the green light at the end of Daisy’s dock. The life-force of the universe was stronger than any of us could fathom. I took out my crystal, and sucked on it.”

No. 16, “The College Lit Mag Ending”: “ ‘Shit,’ I said out loud as a tempestuous breeze blew across the Sound, making the surface of the water rough in little patches, like a custard that has set in its dish with some tiny bubbles still on top, or a piece of velvet that has been worn down in some places but not in others.  ‘Fucking shit.’ I could tell already it was going to be hard to go on like this, knowing what I knew. And yet. Somehow: I would.”

No. 17, “The Secret Agent Man Ending”: “Suddenly in the dark between the ferryboats I spied the gentle rise and fall of a yellow raft. It was Gatsby and Daisy, in a bikini, drinking Champagne and awaiting heli-rescue.”

No. 18, “The Hard Truths Ending”: “As I ran my eyes over the house’s clouded windows with the ferryboats moving slowly on the Sound, I finally admitted to myself what I had been unable to convey to my lost friend: Gatsby had terrible taste in music.”

No. 19, “The Shakespearean Comedy Ending”: “Just then Jordan Baker came up beside me and removed her hair. ‘Don’t worry about it—I’m actually a man,’ she said. ‘And your brother.’ ”

No. 20, “The Comfort Food Ending”: “There was music from my neighbor’s house and a pleasant fragrance in the evening winds; someone, somewhere nearby, was cooking tamales.”

No. 21, “The Gertrude Stein Ending”: “And I am thinking of the boats and the boats in my thinking are rising and falling on the current and the time is having passed and we are moving forward in time but sometimes we are also moving backward in time and this time was one of those times which is having the forward moving but also the backward moving.”

No. 22, “The Fight Song Ending”: “It eluded us then, but that’s no matter—to-morrow we will run faster, stretch our out arms farther … And one fine morning— Boola boola! Boola! Boola!

No. 23, “The Well-Timed Real-Estate Play Ending”: “And good thing I did, because this was just when the Hamptons crowds were starting to get out of hand.”

No. 24, “The College Alumni Report Ending”: “That was a moment of reckoning for me, and a turning point. But also my lucky break! On the way home I met the love of my life, Mimi McNulty (Bryn Mawr ’17), and from that point the days have been a hurricane of joy. We now live in Lake Forest with three amazing children, Joe, Frankie, and Hilaria, and enjoy frequent trips to Vermont and France. I work in development consulting. We feel blessed.”

No. 25, “The Chastened Joycean Ending”: “And I said probably not No but thanks a lot.”

No. 26, “The Fan of Sport Ending”: “Gatsby believed in the green light, or at least did for some time, but then he got a new radio, and the baseball season started, and things were pretty much OK after that.”

No. 27, “The Occult Ending”: “As the moon rose higher the inessential houses began to melt away and the night became cold and ominous. Then everyone who had died came back, and they were all vampires, except Wilson, who was a zombie. ‘Come live with us and eat mortal flesh,’ he implored, stepping blindly toward Gatsby’s old house. Meyer Wolfsheim was there, too, it turned out. He was a werewolf.”

No. 28, “The Guess Who Ending”: “Even with my eyes covered I knew I could not mistake that voice. ‘Gatsby!’ I cried. He stopped covering my eyes and walked around to the front of my head so I could see him. ‘Hello,’ he said, and did a little dance.”

No. 29, “The Choose Your Own Adventure Ending”: “If you believe the cycles of American ambition to be ceaseless, turn to Page 3.

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.”

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.”