Gatsby: Gay Implications in Nick Carraway

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[My sincere apology to anyone in the gay community offended by the content of this article. It is not out of prurient curiosity or an intent to provoke unwanted attention and deny privacy that I wrote this article; it is the honest pursuit of a more thorough understanding of what Scott Fitzgerald wrote. Existing literary criticism has largely ignored the depth of narrator Nick Carraway and misclassified this social critique as romantic tragedy. Look deeper. A latter day Romeo and Juliet it is not.]

The Great Gatsby was written a time when homosexuality was not only condemned socially, but was illegal throughout the United States and most of the world (and still is today in some places.) Authors had to exercise extreme care about portraying homo-sexuality in a way that didn't conform to prevailing mores, if at all. Yet with Nick Carraway, Fitzgerald took a step outside that box in two controversial scenes--in the elevator with Mckee at the end of Chapter II and on a commuter train early in Chapter VII. The homosexual implications of these two scenes are supported else-where, such as (also in Chapter VII) when Nick mulls over turning thirty, "a decade of loneliness, a thinning list of single men to know..." and in the distinctive way he describes and reacts to men versus women, Jay Gatsby in particular.

At the end of Chapter II, Carraway ends up in McKee' s bedroom after a night of partying with Tom Buchanan, his mistress Myrtle Wilson, her sister Catherine, and the McKees. After Tom breaks Myrtle's nose, McKee leaves his wife behind and Carraway follows, leaving Catherine, Nick's ostensible date, and they go down together in an elevator:

(p.30) Mr. McKee was a pale, feminine man from the flat below. He had just shaved, for there was a white spot of lather on his cheekbone, and he was most respectful in his greeting to everyone in the room. He informed me that he was in the "artistic game," and I gathered later that he was a photographer and had made the dim enlargement of Mrs. Wilson's mother which hovered like an ectoplasm on the wall. His wife was shrill, languid, handsome and horrible.

...(p.36-38) Mr. McKee was asleep on a chair with his fists clenched in his lap, like a photograph of a man of action. Taking out my handkerchief I wiped from his cheek the remains of the spot of dried lather that had worried me all the afternoon.

...Mr. McKee awoke from his doze and started in a daze toward the door. When he had gone halfway he turned around and stared at the scene—his wife and Catherine scolding and consoling as they stumbled here and there among the crowded furniture with articles of aid, and the despairing figure on the couch, bleeding fluently, and trying to spread a copy of Town Tattle over the tapestry scenes of Versailles. Then Mr. McKee turned and continued on out the door. Taking my hat from the chandelier, I followed.

"Come to lunch some day," he suggested, as we groaned down in the elevator.

"Where?"

"Anywhere."

"Keep your hands off the lever," snapped the elevator boy.

"I beg your pardon," said Mr. McKee with dignity, "I didn't know I was touching it."

"All right," I agreed, "I'll be glad to."

...I was standing beside his bed and he was sitting up between the sheets, clad in his underwear, with a great portfolio in his hands.

"Beauty and the Beast...Loneliness...Old Grocery Horse...Brook'n Bridge..."

Then I was lying half asleep in the cold lower level of the Pennsylvania Station,...

Scene Summary:

A) McKee is regarded by Nick as "feminine."

B) Nick feels comfortable wiping a spot of shaving cream off this "feminine" man's face while McKee dozes, signaling his interest.

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