Ewing Klipspringer

by cheri


Ewing Klipspringer is  F.Scott Fitzgerald’s  terse statement about  what happens, sometimes, to the rich, the powerful, the influential, the handsome, the beautiful and the insecure.

For those of you who do not remember The Great Gatsby or never read it, I will conduct a short review.

The bootlegger Jay Gatsby buys a new-moneyed garish home on West Egg, Long Island in the 1920’s for the express purpose of magnetizing  his lost (and married) love, the shallow, hollow, self-consumed Daisy Buchanan.

Daisy lives in an old-moneyed mansion in East Egg, where the truly rich and famous roam, like delicate antelopes springing fashionably across their land. Dressed  in breeches and jodhpurs, they play polo, throw parties for invited guests, and name-drop.

Gatsby stares across the sound at the symbolic green light at the end of Daisy’s dock, a color which he misinterprets for Go, instead of Rich, and sets about throwing gala after gala. Surely she will come. People do come and go to his parties, more  hangers-on, freeloaders, and lookie loos who dance the nights away, awash in gin, champagne, and trilling with giggles and baubles at what the narrator Nick Carraway calls ” …a place that looks like the world’s fair.”

The ultimate hanger-on at Gatsby’s parties is Ewing Klipspringer, who actually moves into the house, unbeknownst to Gatsby. As Gatsby takes Nick on a tour of the upstairs, they enter a “…chamber where a dishevelled man in pajamas was doing liver exercises on the floor.” It was Klipspringer, the boarder. Throughout the rest of the novel, Klipspringer lives in the house, occasionally playing the piano.

When, at the end of the novel,  a common hard-working gas station owner George,  guns down Gatsby in a jealous rage, thinking Gatsby was Daisy’s husband Tom, who was having an affair with George’s wife Myrtle, the hangers-on must leave the premises and disappear into the crowd.

Gatsby’s funeral is poorly attended.

Ewing Klipspringer, who does not come to the funeral, calls the narrator Nick on the telephone, wondering if, perhaps, he left his tennis shoes at Gatsby’s house. He’d like them back.

It was a simple as that.

About Cheri

Writer, artist, cable television host, grandmother to four!
This entry was posted in On fiction, Writing and Teaching and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

51 Responses to Ewing Klipspringer

  1. Christopher says:

    As you’ll doubtless know, a Klipspringer is a species of small antelope that likes to jump from rock to rock.

    As for Ewing Klipspringer, he would, after Gatsby’s demise, have looked for another house in which to be a permanent guest. So he would have become of the sort who jumps, not from rock to rock, but from house to house.

    This is almost certainly why Fitzgerald gave this character the surname of “Klipspringer”. Strangely, though, Fitzgerald scholars appear to have overlooked all of this.

    • Cheri says:

      Hi Christopher,
      I think you are the first person I have known who has made this observation. Never did one student–and you are right–not one Fitzgerald scholar whose work I have read–ever make the connection between the petite little African antelope and Ewing Klipspringer, the boarder.

      I was motivated to write about hangers-on after attending a memorial service.

      • Christopher says:

        I only made this connection because I grew up in the southern region of Africa where everyone knows what a Klipspringer is.

        Because Africa is Beyond the Pale in North American culture, I simply guessed that Fitzgerald scholars wouldn’t know of the Klipspringer.

        Fitzgerald obviously knew stuff that his acolytes don’t.

      • wkkortas says:

        I very much like how Fitzgerald did that so stealthily, as opposed to Jay McInerney’s Tad Allagash in Bright Lights, Big City, which is so obvious it should have bells and a warning signal sound every time his name is mentioned.

  2. Cyberquill says:

    What are “liver exercises”? Does that mean getting drunk?

  3. Cheri says:

    Hi Peter,
    I have no idea what that means. Perhaps in preparation for a liver workout?

    • wkkortas says:

      I suspect it is put there as an example of pointless and ultimately fruitless activity (something that the residents of East Egg, both permanent and pro tempore were very good at), a vain hope that something could undo the equally pointless but very real effets their nocturnal activities were having upon said livers.

      I re-read Gatsby this summer for the first time in several years, and found it better than I remembered. I’ve always maintained the opinion that Tender Is The Night is the far superior novel, but I haven’t cracked the spine on that one in a very long time.

      • wkkortas says:

        An addendum, having recently re-read Tender Is The Night–I’m not sure it is clearly the far better novel, although I think it is perhaps the more mature, nuanced work. One thing that struck me is that how different the male protagonists are, even though each dominates the novel in his own way. Dick Driver is everywhere, primarily because Fitzgerald gives us so much of him. Jay Gatsby is, in his own way, equally as ubiquitous, yet there is (as Gertrude Stein once said of Oakland) really no there there; Gatsby is more akin to the hub holding the spokes of a bicycle tire, or, to use a more up-to-date analogy, a network server running in the background keeping things humming.

    • Cyberquill says:

      “Liver workout” definitely sounds like a pint of Jack before breakfast.

  4. Richard says:

    Like so much of what you write, this review eats into my head like a wood-boring beetle.
    I shall just have to read the novel again for everything I missed. It’s as simple as that.

  5. Cheri says:

    It is for close readers just like YOU that I continue to post. Thank you for your words, Richard.
    By the way, I do think that Gatsby is as near-perfect a novel, as any I have ever read or taught. They just don’t write ’em like that anymore.
    By the way, would you consider starting another blog? That would be so neat.

    • Richard says:

      I have started to read the novel again, this time to much better advantage.

      I have turned comments on again, in case you still wish to comment.

    • Richard says:

      Whereas my first read left a sickly impression of people I would not wish to meet, of lifestyles I have never led nor would wish to lead, of pointless waste, the shallowness of excess wealth, empty ambition, corruption, envy and insane rage – so close yet so far – the novel is now, to me, a powerful rejection of all it represents.

      Barely able to withstand the temptations, Nick Carraway is almost drawn in by his half-love for Jordan and unsatisfactory interest in Gatsby’s life story. Nick reveals Gatsby’s murder only by implication. The funeral is a non-event. Daisy’s love transient.

      So yes, this is, after all, a work worth the read. The parallels in the lives of the poor and the rich emphasise the impersonal nature of an amoral existence. Meaning may, or may not, be hidden in Wilson’s garage or in Gatsby’s mansion. At last, Nick understands, as, now, do I.

      My Penguin rests again, this time at ease, in its bookshelf slot.

      Where are my tennis shoes?

      • Cheri says:

        Ha! Your final question shows a thorough reading of the material, counselor. You continue to impress with your book reviews. I am glad you noticed the parallels, one of Fitzgerald’s devices in this book which contributes to its perfect symmetry. The characters are drawn perfectly. Jordan is as shallow as Daisy, and a cheat as well.

        Was Gatsby really that bad? Isn’t he the embodiment of the American Dream? Is this book an indictment on that dream?

        I am thinking of w.k. kortas and his comment about Tender is the Night. Maybe I should go back (after my paper is DONE) and read that one.

      • Richard says:

        Klipspringer sure is the reader, with his livre exercises. 🙂

        Is Daisy really the embodiment of the American dream, though, and is ruthless materialism from nothing the way to it? Maybe it is, I would not know. I always imagined the dream was a brave advance into the unknown, freed from the shackles of an oppressive ruler, with commensurate reward.

        Now I have to read “Tender is the Night”. …like stout Kortas when with eagle eyes / He stared at the Pacific … or something like that. I shall save up for it.

        English barristers are referred to as counsel, solicitors, like me, nothing at all, which is appropriate, I suppose; “barrister” and “solicitor” are both terms protected specifically by law, though “lawyer” is not. Neither “counselor” nor, indeed, “counsellor” is a term used in England, except outside the law, so you flatter me unduly (as always). Still, I can pretend …Wonderful, counsellor, the mighty God, the everlasting father, the Prince of Peace…. Hmmmmm.

  6. Cheri says:

    P.S. I watched the 1066 video on your blog but could not comment because you closed comments.
    It made me dizzy and I had to turn it off after I handed Nick a tissue. All kidding aside, fascinating stuff.

  7. Christopher says:

    Is “The Great Gatsby” the perfect novel, and therefore the greatest novel? However, since it’s so short, is it, rather, a long short story, or even novelette, rather than a novel?

    So, is it fair to compare the literary merits of a 200 page “Gatsby” with the literary merits of a much longer work, say an 800 page “Anna Karenina”?

    How does “Tender Is the Night” stack up against “The Great Gatsby” among the literary cognoscenti? While their stories are prima facie quite different, I do detect a common theme – a man of means or substance destroyed by a beautiful but frivolous woman who gained emotional power over him.

    Was this the story of Scott and Zelda? So that in Jay Gatsby and Dick Diver we should see Fitzgerald? And in Daisy and Nicole we should see Zelda?

    Did, peradventure, Fitzgerald have the story of Sampson and Delilah in his mind when he wrote “Gatsby” and “Tender is the Night”?

    • Richard says:

      Is perfection in the eye of the beholder, Christopher, or does it belong to a higher order? Is it a general quality that appears irrespective of length, or is it confined to the matter in hand? Can comparison be made only of like with like?

      No, perfection is for God, beauty for Man.

      We have had a discussion before, Christopher, about the identity of an artist and his art. Whether the study of the artist’s own life, is a necessary means to the understanding of his art, or even relevant. Whether art is simply an infinite recycling of human experience, but in more vivid terms. That cannot be. It does not give credit to that which drives the artist to work in the first place, an exploration beyond all he knows. You undo his purpose and revert to the starting-point. The transcendent is reduced to a life story. You close the book with the finality of his mortality.

      Daisy’s outward appearance is one of frivolity, but it masks her tragedy: a deep dissatisfaction and no courage to escape from it. At least Myrtle tries. What of Zelda in the light of this?

      Delilah deliberately set out to destroy Sampson, a femininity on an entirely different scale.

      • Christopher says:

        That Delilah deliberately set out to destroy Sampson is neither here nor there. That she was the instrument of his destruction is what’s relevant.

        That Daisy and Nicole didn’t deliberately set out to destroy Jay and Dick is neither nor there. That they were the instruments of their destruction is what’s relevant.

        Also, what’s relevant is that Sampson, as well as Jay and Dick, were attracted to untrustworthy women. Despite their extraordinary gifts and power, they let their fatal attraction to these sorts of women get the better of them.

        You raise the issue of whether “………The transcendent is reduced to a life story……….”. I suggest that the drive for transcendence, and particularly the male drive for transcendence, comes simply from a wish to show how much better he is than all the other fellows.

        That this wish is heavily disguised, or outright denied, is neither here nor there. That this wish is the ultimate driver is what’s relevant.

        • Cheri says:

          You raise a evocative topic, Christopher… the one about transcendence. While I agree with your observation about the male drive for transcendence, I’m not sure most people today have any sense of it, nor are interested in something beyond their reach.

      • Richard says:

        “…….these sorts of women………”

        Such delightfully burnished mysogyny, Christopher! What a veritable orchard there is of trees that bear the fruit of the tree at the centre of the garden! Which of us gullible males will get there first?

        I can’t wait to read Tender is the Night now. I have acquired the complete works of FSF for my Kindle Paperwhite at the crippling price of £1.29, so I shall be able to read it in the dark.

        • Christopher says:

          You can also see the 1962 film of it on YouTube.

          Happy reading.

          • Cheri says:

            Gentlemen, Thank you for wrestling with tough literary questions while I continued to write my thesis. I am on the last chapter and conclusion now with a personal due date of January 15. Please forgive my absence from your enthusiastic comments. 🙂

          • Richard says:

            I’m glad Dick is a fictional character, Christopher, since I feel no compassion for him whatsoever. He is vain, clever, charismatic and over-privileged, has a roving eye and takes advantage of vulnerable women – not least his wife – is casual about medical ethics and is the author of his own decline through drink.

            Were the book a biography, however, I’d feel some pity for the wasted life and promise. You suggest it is in some symbolic way autobiographical. Am I then to feel sorry for Fitzgerald through the medium of his novel? It seems an awfully painful and tortuous route to sympathy.

            Fitzgerald’s evocations, insights into human emotion and destiny, sense of wholeness in diversity and luscious words are, of course, intoxicating.

            • Cheri says:

              Fitzgerald lived a pathetic life. He died in the arms of a Hollywood publicist at the age of 44. He was a drunk and a womanizer. But he knew how to write and rewrite and rewrite his words until, as you say Richard, he produced an “intoxicating” pieces of literature, evocative, provocative, and in my view, pristine.
              Most of the great writers lived pathetic lives full of drugs, alcohol, binges, sex outside of marriage, prescription drug abuse. Some would say this life is not pathetic…

              • Cheri says:

                In fact, read Norman Mailer’s bio…OMG

              • Richard says:

                How people choose to lead their lives is up to them, provided they do no harm.

                Great literature may be produced by them, but that is incidental. The question is whether they or their lifestyle is responsible for what they write. Either way, there is pathos. Those aspiring to a literary career might be advised to take the sober alternative, notwithstanding the precedents. One recoils into the self, the other seeks the transcendent.

                I take two passages from Tender is the Night, one intoxicating, universal, the other the result of intoxication, however much worked and re-worked. Guess which is which, and you concede the point, assuming you challenge it, Cheri. That resulting from intoxication, I would say, is not “pristine”.

                “… Rosemary followed him into the half darkness. Here and there figures spotted the twilight, turning up ashen faces to her like souls in purgatory watching the passage of a mortal through. There were whispers and soft voices and, apparently from afar, the gentle tremolo of a small organ. Turning the corner made by some flats, they came upon the white crackling glow of a stage, where a french actor–his shirt front, collar, and cuffs tinted a brilliant pink–and an American actress stood motionless face to face. They stared at each other with dogged eyes, as though hey had been in the same position for hours, and still for a long time nothing happened, no one moved. A bank of lights went off with a savage hiss, went on again; the plaintive tap of a hammer begged admission to nowhere in the distance; a blue face appeared among the blinding lights above, called something unintelligible into the upper blackness… [from pt 1, ch 4]

                “… Then the storm came swiftly, first falling from the heavens, then doubly falling in torrents from the mountains and washing loud down the roads and stone ditches; with it came a dark, frightening sky and savage filaments of lightning and world-splitting thunder, while ragged, destroying clouds fled along past the hotel. Mountains and lakes disappeared–the hotel crouched amid tumult, chaos and darkness. [from pt 2, ch 9]

              • Richard says:

                OMG. Another assignment! You are a stern taskmistress. It might be a bit late…
                Where’s the bottle?

        • Cheri says:

          I look forward to your reviews, as always, Richard.

    • Cheri says:

      It is one of the most perfect novels in the American literary canon. I believe that a 200-page novel can be compared to a longer novel. The standards are the same. It may be harder to write the perfect novel in 200 pages than in one long tome. There is more room for error in a longer work, don’t you think?
      I have not read Tender since college, so I am not capable of answering your very good question. Yes, your thematic observations are spot on. This theme was one Fitzgerald explored in his work, short stories included. Have you read Zelda? Very interesting reading. I do not see Zelda in Daisy, at least not much. No Zelda in Jordan Baker.

      I don’t know the answer to your Samson and Delilah question but I like the comparison.

      • Christopher says:

        ”…….No Zelda in Jordan Baker……..”

        Jordan Baker was lean, athletic, small breasted, played golf (a man’s game then), and was altogether very boyish, making it altogether possible she was homosexual.

        If so, you’re probably right in saying there was no Zelda in Jordan Baker, unless, of course, Zelda was of the same putative sexual persuasion as Jordan.

        You doubtless know of the school of thought which says that, while Nick Carraway did find Jordan attractive, this wasn’t enough to overshadow his primary repressed lust for Jay Gatsby. Nick, by virtue of his biographical details, would appear to have been Fitzgerald’s stand-in. What, then, was Fitzgerald disguisedly saying about himself in the novel?

        Here’s a *thoughtful piece* about all this that you may find of interest.

        • Cheri says:

          Yes, Christopher I have heard that interpretation, but I do not see where in the novel the “primary repressed lust” for Gatsby was.(sorry for this lousy sentence…) Have I missed something? Could this interpretation be a modern interpretation?

          • Christopher says:

            “……Could this interpretation be a modern interpretation?…….”

            I think, yes. This interpretation says more about us and our cynical and knowing culture of today than it does about Fitzgerald and his times.

            If Fitzgerald lived today and wrote “Gatsby”, it would be very different. He would write it much more circumspectly, not wanting readers to get the wrong ideas about him and the novel’s characters.

            Fitzgerald doubtless felt free to write about the characters in “Gatsby” as uninhibitedly as he did because homosexuality in his time was beyond the pale. It therefore wasn’t suspected between people unless flaunted, which wasn’t likely because it could lead to jail.

            Hence Evelyn Waugh in “Brideshead Revisited” felt free to depict the youthful and close, but almost certainly platonic friendship of Charles and Sebastian in the way he did. Yet it’s almost de rigueur today to say the relationship was homosexual.

            The past is a foreign country. They do things differently there.

  8. Cheri says:

    Can you provide more evidence for your premise? I am not sure I agree with it at all. Of the two examples you provide, I’ll take a guess and risk error. The first selection is one over-written and under intoxication. The second is intoxicating in both in expression and image.

    • Richard says:

      Yes. One is the imprint of a consciousness altered by a chemical: it is a free run. In the other Fitzgerald stretches his will to capture and accurately record a certain awareness — he aspires to a common and noble humanity. One is art, the other is not.

      I’ll see if I can identify something in The Great Gatsby that yields to the same test. Meanwhile, I defer to the teacher and reluctantly accept that the work is pristine. You will be right – again – inevitably. Tch.

    • Christopher says:

      The author of this book (a woman) has picked only male authors as examples of authors who drank to excess.

      Do her choices imply that no female authors take to the bottle to excess, I wonder?

      • Cheri says:

        In American literature from 1650 onward, the anthology overflows with male writers. By the time we reached the 20th century, people like (as you know!) Willa Cather, Edith Wharton, and many fine poets–Elizabeth Bishop, Sylvia Plath, etc. were putting their individual stamps on the canon.

  9. Richard says:

    As I read the comments from you and Christopher here, I become painfully aware of a serious lacking in my appreciation of fictional characters. Whilst I recognise the complexity in a well-written character and its correspondence to reality, I am quite unable to interact with it in the way you both do.

    That is why, I think, I deny the relevance of an author’s personal life to his art.

    • Richard says:

      In the course of my work over a number of decades I met a large number of people as individuals, each different and complex, struggling in a great variety of situations. In order to do my job properly, I had to respond in certain standard ways, intellectually and emotionally. This habit leaked into the rest of my life and, having freed myself from it, more or less, while blogging, I find it is still present, with a vengeance, in my reading.

  10. Richard says:

    Forgive me for shifting the debate rather on the nature of beauty, but here is another similar divide in painting — I quote from a review by Richard Dorment today in The Daily Telegraph about an exhibition at Petworth House, Sussex.

    ”……Look at the suffusion of soft light in which Turner bathes ‘Petworth, Sussex, the Seat of the Earl of Egremont, Dewy Morning’ , where the distant house viewed across the water could be mistaken for an Italianate palace such as Claude might have painted. In his famous watercolours showing interiors at Petworth in which ghostly figures move through the rooms dissolved in light, Turner conjures up not so much what he saw but what he felt about the house and the people in it.

    By contrast, Constable is the painter of ordinary life and everyday landscape. Even if the painting technique in ‘The Hay Wain’ and ‘The Leaping Horse’ was radically modern, the subjects were humdrum. He once wrote that it was the business of the painter ‘to make something out of nothing’ — an extraordinary statement for its time because it implied that beauty is independent of subject matter…..

    Is beauty in the eye of the beholder, or is there a universal essence which the artist seeks? Are the two mutually exclusive? Are they independent or interrelated?

  11. Cheri says:

    There is a universal essence. They are not mutually exclusive. They are not interrelated.
    Your artistic examples make a solid case.
    The delay in responding, Richard, is that for some odd reason, your comment needed to “Be Approved.” Isn’t that ironic?

    • Richard says:

      Sometimes irony suggests strange, or inexplicable, or coincidentally appropriate or inappropriate.

      At other times, irony is a crisp opinion or sustained treatise that conveys the precise opposite of what it appears to say, with the object of exposing a hidden fallacy or highlighting a deeper meaning or the inherent humour in a situation. It is identified from a knowledge of how the author thinks or from the context.

      The former is usually an observation by a third party, who adopts it, the latter the intention of the speaker or writer.

      I have so confused myself now, I do not know how to answer your question. 🙂 But it does seem relevant to this discussion. Is all art irony?

      Interestingly, with regard to the two paintings, one could swap the paintings round and the reviewer’s comments would still be valid. Now isn’t that ironic!

      It continues to be a vexed question whether concentration on a writer’s life and circumstances distorts our understanding. There are important messages, say, for all generations in The Trial and in Austerlitz that are in danger of being lost if we engross ourselves too much in the authors’ conscious or unconscious motivations to the exclusion of the work itself.

      .In Fitzgerald, we have the author clouding his own message. The result is the travesty of the 1962 film Christopher refers to. The screenplay blocks out Fitzgerald’s remarkable achievements in implication and suggestion and makes them crudely express, so losing the essence of the novel.

      On the other hand, your approval settings may require moderation if a comment contains more than two links.

      • Cheri says:

        A discussion of irony is sure to make my head swim. I once told a classmate that the presence of irony in the world is what let’s me know there is a higher power out there. When his wife jumped on that comment and asked me to elaborate, I was tongue-tied.

        I do believe there are a number of authors whose lives are inextricably tied up in their work. Eugene O’Neill, Franz Kafka, Edith Wharton, Ken Keseys, and the like.

        Then there are the Arthur Millers, Mark Twains, Ernest Hemingways, etc. whose are not necessarily connected to their themes, structures, etc.

    • Richard says:

      The eye of the beholder is part of the universal essence, and inevitably interrelated, which contradicts what I’ve just said about the study of authors’ motivations. Ironic!

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