ABSTRACT

Trains captured the imagination of young Scott. How could they not with the James J. Hill, who built the Great Northern line that ran from St. Paul, Minnesota to Seattle, Washington by 1893, as a family friend. The Fitzgeralds also relied heavily on railroads in their personal lives. They moved almost annually throughout Scott’s childhood, and his mother enjoyed taking him on trips to visit relatives and to retreat to warmer climates. Not surprisingly, trains, though typically overlooked in analyses of Fitzgerald’s fiction, appear throughout his works. Inspired by numerous trips to St. Paul from his New Jersey boarding school and Princeton, Fitzgerald wrote “A Short Trip Home” in October of 1927, and it appeared in the Saturday Evening Post two months later. This work has received little critical attention in part because it has been dismissed as a ghost story. On the surface, this Gothic tale seems to be about a spectral thug who extorts upper-class women on trains, but by presenting the protagonist, Eddie Stinson, as a type of ghost himself, Fitzgerald crafts a dual narrative that offers a chilling commentary about patriarchal power. Eddie proves to be no less ruthless than the apparition of Joe Varland and no less predatory in his relationship with Ellen Baker. For Fitzgerald, these ghosts reveal an America terrified of egalitarianism, and Eddie’s attempts to vanquish the spirit of a working-class gangster and “protect” Ellen make it clear that the real horror can be found in the nation’s fear of female autonomy and eroding class hierarchies.

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