I very much enjoyed, and was saddened by, W. Barksdale Maynard ’88’s “Invasion of the devil wagon” (feature, Nov. 16). For a Fitzgerald scholar, it’s interesting to see a possible original for Dick Humbird in Hinman Bird 1906 — and to see the campus carnage that was a constant during and after Fitzgerald’s time in Princeton, that doubtless informed not only the fatal car accident in This Side of Paradise, but the incessant automotive disasters of his finest novel, The Great Gatsby.
Cars trump commuter trains as the way to get around in Gatsby, are an easy and public indicator of wealth, and who’s driving what shapes the course of the novel. From the drunken man who wrecks his car after a party of Gatsby’s, to Gatsby’s being stopped for speeding as he sails his car “with fenders spread like wings” through Astoria; from George Wilson’s sad, dusty garage to (spoiler alert) Daisy Buchanan’s killing of her husband’s mistress with Gatsby’s “circus wagon” of a car after an afternoon of quarreling and drinking at The Plaza, Gatsby is littered with wrecks and wreckage.
Jordan Baker is right: Not only she, and our “honest” narrator Nick, but all the characters in the novel are bad drivers — an integral part of Gatsby’s fabulous fatality.