Gatsby's Third Car: Celebrity, Modernity, and the Automobile

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This article argues that Gatsby's “circus wagon” car is not a Rolls-Royce but a custom-built car. Acknowledging the existence of a custom car aligns Gatsby with celebrity culture and modernist instability, and it highlights the role of the automobile in shaping identity. The ostentatious vehicle reflects a desperate attempt to claim uniqueness and authenticity in a world increasingly defined by Hollywood imagery and Fordist assembly line ideology. By placing Gatsby, through his car, within celebrity culture and linking him to such figures as actor Fatty Arbuckle, the article explores the ways that this ostentatious car reflects his precarious role in the world he seeks to emulate. Drawing on previous scholarship on the novel, on modernist and celebrity theory, and on automobile history, we are reminded that cars are not just symbols or machines; they, like Gatsby, are complex and intricate measures of the self; understanding the vehicle itself-its make, potential cost, and place in modern life-brings greater awareness of the complexity of Fitzgerald's presentation of automobile culture and its interaction with identity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)204-216
Number of pages13
JournalF. Scott Fitzgerald Review
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2020


  • Automobiles
  • Celebrity
  • Fordism
  • Modernity
  • The Great Gatsby

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Literature and Literary Theory


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