A Petronian Brothel in The Great Gatsby
Fitzgerald seriously considered naming The Great Gatsby after Trimalchio, an excessively wealthy, flamboyant ex-slave who stars in the most famous fragment of Petronius’s Satyricon. Discussions of the echoes between these two novels usually concentrate on Trimalchio, whose nouveau riche pretensions align with those of Jay Gatsby. This paper advances a broader approach that accounts for fragments of the Satyricon other than Trimalchio’s banquet. In particular, the so-called Quartilla episode in Petronius helps to illuminate the impact of female sexuality on Fitzgerald’s narrator during a drunken gathering at Myrtle Wilson’s apartment.
Rose MacLean is Assistant Professor of Classics at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Her research focuses on Roman imperial culture, including Petronius, and her first book will address the role of freed slaves in the development of social values under the Principate.