Dan Cody and Pap- two sides of the same coin.

We were reading chapter 6 today in the brave new world of the virtual school:

Cody was fifty years old then, a product of the Nevada
silver fields, of the Yukon, of every rush for metal since Seventy-five. The transactions in Montana copper that made
him many times a millionaire found him physically robust
but on the verge of soft-mindedness, and, suspecting this
an infinite number of women tried to separate him from
his money. 
To the young Gatz, resting on his oars and looking up
at the railed deck, the yacht represented all the beauty and
glamor in the world. I suppose he smiled at Cody—he had
probably discovered that people liked him when he smiled.
At any rate Cody asked him a few questions (one of them
elicited the brand new name) and found that he was quick,
and extravagantly ambitious. A few days later he took him
to Duluth and bought him a blue coat, six pair of white duck
trousers and a yachting cap. And when the TUOLOMEE
left for the West Indies and the Barbary Coast Gatsby left
He was employed in a vague personal capacity—while
he remained with Cody he was in turn steward, mate, skipper, secretary, and even jailor, for Dan Cody sober knew what lavish doings Dan Cody drunk might soon be about
and he provided for such contingencies by reposing more
and more trust in Gatsby. The arrangement lasted five years
during which the boat went three times around the continent. It might have lasted indefinitely except for the fact  that Ella Kaye came on board one night in Boston and a
week later Dan Cody inhospitably died.
I remember the portrait of him up in Gatsby’s bedroom,
a grey, florid man with a hard empty face—the pioneer debauchee who during one phase of American life brought back to the eastern seaboard the savage violence of the frontier brothel and saloon. It was indirectly due to Cody that  108 The Great Gatsby
Gatsby drank so little. Sometimes in the course of gay parties women used to rub champagne into his hair; for himself he formed the habit of letting liquor alone.
And it was from Cody that he inherited money—a legacy
of twenty-five thousand dollars. He didn’t get it.’

It always makes me think about Cody in this novel – often passed over but a vital element of what makes Gatsby Gatsby. We were thinking about the ideas around this man – the veteran of the great rush Westwards to cash in on the finds of Gold and other precious ores in the Rockies. Such men were the 2nd wave of Pioneer. No longer working with an respecting the land they found, but taking form it with no intention of preserving it her saving it for future generations. Such rape of the environment made them exceeding rich, if they were lucky, and thus began the short cut of the American Dream which saw manifest destiny replaced by a new creed: the worship of wealth, hinted at by Gatsby himself – ‘a son of God… doing his Father’s work’.  No longer is this the work of compassion and brotherly love.

Thus from Cody, Gatsby learns. He may have the idea of his Platonic ideal in his mind as he rows to the boat, but it is a clear lesson he learns from his role model – from wealth stems everything – women, freedom and a form of power, yet we also note that like the Flying Dutchman, Cody is doomed to sail the seas without landing. The indication is clear – this is a path followed by one who may be prepared to lose his soul.

Other ideas abound here: the portrait is an item of high worth -one of the few personal possessions  in the house which suggests again some form of icon to be looked on with reverence. yet Cody is a ‘Pioneer debauchee’-  suggesting an intemperate drinker and womaniser. Indeed, Gatsby is so traumatized by Cody’s drinking that he does not drink at all, we are told. This may be true, or maybe the bootlegger does not drink his own liquor. The sight of the debauched Cody was not enough to make him think twice about entering the business of trafficking illegal alcohol. We moved form here to a quick disucssion of Huck’s Pap- who might represent the other extreme of debauchee   – one with the misfortune to be born 70 years too early for the gold rushes. He is no role model for the young Huck, who, Gatsby like seems to travel his way around the central states as he seeks to shake off his background – in this case the hypocritical ‘sivlilising’ of polite society.

Finally, Gatsby may have smiled and Cody offers him a ‘vague personal’ position in which he seems very much the factotum. Surely this position was not vacant?  Is this not another of the coy moments which suggest a sexual ambivalence in Gatsby’s background. Queer theory readings find much in the text to suggest that Nick is certainly open to temptation from mr McKie and his attraction to Jordan seems more based on her androgynous appearance than on her sparkling repartee. Just what was this ‘vague personal’ arrangement which began with Gatsby’s smile? We will never know, but it is hard to imagine Gatsby letting anything stop him from following this role model wherever he lead him.

My lesson is here, for those who can see my streams: Gatsby ch6 lesson