Here's the quote:

My commutation ticket came back to me with a dark stain from his hand. That any one should care in this heat whose flushed lips he kissed, whose head made damp the pajama pocket over his heart! (Fitzgerald p. 155).

The context is that Nick is on the train (on the hottest day of the year) heading to have luncheon with Daisy, Jordan, Gatsby, and Tom. The paragraph before this is the conductor exclaiming that it is hot.

From what I can tell the narrator is saying that he doesn't care about the conductor's sexual life, but I can't see how that is remotely related given the context. Anyone know what this quote is supposed to mean?


4 Answers 4


You should first ask who cares "in this heat whose flushed lips he kissed, whose head made damp the pajama pocket over his heart!" Who could the narrator know cares? The only person the narrator could know this about is the narrator himself. And if the narrator is talking about himself, it's a rhetorical statement; he is really reminding himself that he shouldn't be attracted to the conductor.

If we accept this interpretation, it's a subtle signal that Nick Carraway is gay or bisexual. There are other signals of this in the book, some less subtle. See this essay: Gay Implications in The Great Gatsby's Nick Carraway. At the time that Fitzgerald wrote, it was difficult or impossible to get a novel published if it discussed homosexuality in more direct terms, so clues like this were the only way to convey this information to the reader.


Nick was on the train from New York back to Long Island to meet Gatsby at the Buchanans for luncheon. Since he lived on West Egg, one must assume he was returning from an assignation in the city. Who had he woken up with previously there? Mr. McKee. The last time our narrator was liberal with ellipses was between the elevator with that gentleman and being in his bed. It is telling that in the previous paragraph, he speaks of the notion that "everyone suspected [him] just the same." That dark stained commutation ticket speaks of multiple trips within a specified period of time. Nick was "weary" at noontime. What had he been doing and with whom? That anyone should care, indeed.


Without re reading The Great Gastby I would suggest. "A stain from his hand" - could be an expression to suggest masturbation. Dark because someone finds sex nasty or because the object of the masturbation is unaccepted. I do remember the Great Gastby attempted to "expose" many nastiness conducts of the "high society" of London. "That anyone should care in this heat..." - or who cares? What in the world? Who told the person that their personal life is important or interesting to anyone else?, It's too hot for anyone to care. Or, the other characters are themselves too horny to care when they haven't satisfied their own desires. Portrait of selfishness and individualism. "Whose head..." - face - "made damp the pajama pocket..." -the pocket formed in the pajama around the genital area. Though I do not know who gave the ticket to who, I can infer it was a male. I could look for the book and read it again, but prefer to ask, who gave the ticket to who?

  • 2
    The commutation ticket was given by the conductor to Nick. I was under the impression the "stain from his hand" was the sweat from his hand since it was so hot, but your interpretation is very interesting!
    – Frank
    Oct 4, 2017 at 22:50
  • I get that interpretation from your comment on "sexual life". If this quote is to be looked at under a sexual context, each work could suggest sexual context. If I do not have that in my mind, I would analyze it this way "My commutation ticket came back to me with a dark stain from his hand..." (Can be sweat or can be who knows if he washed his hands.) "...That any one should care in this heat..." (The narrator is saying like if I care, all that's in my mind is this unbearable heat.) "...whose flushed lips he kissed...." (flushed lips, ufff, I sense a reference to toilets ((cont next comment)) Oct 6, 2017 at 13:42
  • -Did he washed his hands before he touched what I'm touching?-. However, I know that the expression means voluptuous lips. And it's supposed to be sensual on a woman. Due to this, I think sexual connotations are around. Still, all over my mind will the nastiness remain. He is somewhat saying this man is nasty and he had to take something from his nasty hands.) "...whose head made damp the pajama pocket over his heart!..." (pajamas - night and sex, sleeping, delirious-, head -to think, to dream, to imagine which is what is done during masturbation-, pocket- a pocket ((cont next comment)) Oct 6, 2017 at 13:43
  • a pocket formed in the genital area on the pajama but also a pocket is formed when masturbating-. a little more complicated but that's how I saw it. Again, is the person who gave him the ticket the same person he was referring to when he said: "That any one should care in this heat whose flushed lips he kissed, whose head made damp the pajama pocket over his heart! ? Oct 6, 2017 at 13:45

The heat in that chapter was related to the tension between Gatsby and Tom, as Tom had just found out Daisy was cheating him with Gatsby.

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    Welcome to Literature! Could you possibly edit this answer to expand on your point a bit, e.g. at least to mention explicitly the conductor quote which is being asked about in the question? You mention heat, but what's the connection between the conductor and the Gatsby-Tom tension?
    – Rand al'Thor
    Oct 26, 2017 at 9:20

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