Life was "getting worse" for the little piggies, while, by contrast, the bigger piggies "always had clean shirts." Now, I'm not going to veer off into the topic of The Great — big pig — Gatsby's shirts. You know if you've read "The Great Gatsby" or seen the movie that a huge to-do is made at one point about how many beautiful shirts Gatsby had.
But here in this Gatsby project, we look at one sentence in isolation. That way, everyone's on the same footing. You don't have the little readers and the bigger readers. Life isn't getting worse for some of us and just fine for others. We gather here, in the daily post, to consume one sentence, so let's lunch.
Let's know each other by first names. Here we are equals. We have all read the sentence, and we can all very well speak out about it. Here, we actively exclude extrinsic evidence. About the book, I mean. We're free to drag in anything else, such as The Beatles, as betamax3000 did so well in yesterday's Gatsby thread, the one about warm human magic.
So pig, then. Pig, not pork. Which makes us think that the clerks and bond-salesmen are little piggies. The men eating humble food — all the humbler for saying pig, not pork — in a dark, crowded place. A pigsty? Our narrator is crammed in close quarters with them as he chows down. He's on familiar terms with them: He calls them by their first names. He's a member of the herd of little piggies.
Did you notice the words are right there one after the other: little pig? As a competent and tolerant reader, you can tell it's the sausages and not the pigs that are supposed to be little, and as a picky reader, you might say it's bad writing to permit that ambiguity to survive the final draft. But maybe the writer wanted you to see little pig. And the bigger question is why insert the pig at all? We'd presume that sausages were pork. Obviously, Fitzgerald wants us to think about pigs and think about the men as pigs. He wasn't as blunt as Mr. Harrison, but he was calling these guys pigs.
Another reason to throw pig in there, permitting the ambiguity, is to call the sausages little without being too aggressively Freudian about saying little sausages and making us think too quickly — before we'd noticed all these other things — of pricks.
ADDED: Meade, helping me proofread, questioned "herd" as the proper collective term for pigs. I know there are some other options, but I like it because it evokes Jesus:
Some distance from them a large herd of pigs was feeding. The demons begged Jesus, “If you drive us out, send us into the herd of pigs.” He said to them, “Go!” So they came out and went into the pigs, and the whole herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and died in the water. Those tending the pigs ran off, went into the town and reported all this, including what had happened to the demon-possessed men. Then the whole town went out to meet Jesus. And when they saw him, they pleaded with him to leave their region.