January 14, 2013

"There is no confusion like the confusion of a simple mind, and as we drove away Tom was feeling the hot whips of panic."

There are different minds and different confusions, and perhaps each is unlike every other. That possibility is not excluded by the assertion that "There is no confusion like the confusion of a simple mind." All we know is that we are looking at the specific confusion that is the confusion of a simple mind, the unavoidable inference that Tom has a simple mind, and that the manifestation of this specific form of confusion feels like hot whips of panic.

This is our Gatsby sentence today. Do you identify with Tom? Do you panic when confused? Do you experience panic as hot whips? I think it's more likely that you don't identify with Tom. He's driving away from whatever is confusing him. (How about figuring things out, loser?) He's too simple to do anything but run and panic. And he's flogged absurdly by his own flaring inability to deal with anything at all challenging.

Yes, drive away, Tom, you pathetic little man.


ricpic said...

Hey, at least Tom had the cojones to drive away. Most people, well, a lot anyway, first panic and then go into complete paralysis. Not me! Not Me!

Erika said...

When some of these literary posts are way over my head, I most assuredly drive away before I can say something betraying how little I understand what's being discussed--because then I would suffer the hot whips of panic at having said something stupid.

The Godfather said...

"hot whips of panic" is terribly overwritten -- imagine that! Scott Fitzgerald overwriting! -- but the part about the confusion of the simple mind is astute. When simple or stupid people get overwhelmed by events, ideas, challenges, and yet feel, as Tom does, that they must be in control, it's a dangerous situation.

wyo sis said...

Hot whips of panic/full tilt boogie?

WestVirginiaRebel said...

I'd call it a strategic retreat, the hot whip of withdrawal.

Lem said...

What Erika just said.

Carnifex said...


I just wanted to fill you all in...my dad died Friday morning due to complications from his cancers. Thanks for all the prayers and well wishing I recied from the
althouse gang... they were appreciated.

Call your loved ones if they aren't with you and tell them you love them. If they are with you, why hte hell are you here? Go hug and kiss them.

Thank you all. I'll be in touch.

m stone said...

What's the context? Context is everything.

wyo sis said...

Sorry, Carnifex. Prayers continue for you and the rest of the family.

edutcher said...

Sorry, Carn, tough row to hoe.

As for the sentence, Tom is not driving away, everyone else is.

Not unlike the man going to St Ives.

DADvocate said...

I don't panic or drive/run away. But, I like hot whips. Ooooo, baby.

bagoh20 said...

...... Nevermind. I gotta go. See ya.

Lem said...

Waiting To Panic - Cover

I'm sitting
I'm standing
I'm thinking
I'm thinking
I'm walking
I'm running
I'm thinking
I'm thinking
I'm waiting to panic
I'm thinking
I'm thinking
I'm thinking
I'm thinking
My head is exploding
Like an atom bomb
Like a mushroom cloud

BTW, The name of the Abandoned Pools album, which features this song, is Armed to the Teeth

David said...

"Hot whips of panic" overwritten?

No, because the rest of the sentence is prosaic and simple.

Ann Althouse said...

"What's the context? Context is everything."

Not when the point is to take things out of context. Feel free to write your own blog.

traditionalguy said...

Interesting truth expressed in that Fitzgerald sentence. In fact that is why trial lawyers/counselors are hired. We are not confused by the rumors of law and fear of troubles from it.

We sometimes tell the panic stricken client, " don't get nervous until I do."

So thank God for the simple minded who are smart enough to fight confusion by hiring us. Especially the rich ones like Tom.

Lem said...

I want to believe, to have faith...

I believe complicatedness diminishes faith, whereas simplicity enriches it.

Ultimately that believing makes the complicated simple.

Or not.

kentuckyliz said...

I like hot whips of panic. Vivid image.

I'm very sorry for your loss, cfex.

CWJ said...

Re Althouse,

Taking it out of context, there's nothing to indicate that Tom is among the we driving away. Tom could be sitting confused on the front porch watching the "we" drive away for all the sentence alone indicates.

You're the one adding context.

Lem said...

Confusion is often subject to reassignment... or something.

Lem said...

Lets suppose confusion and panic are not good traits or whatever...

Why do we have them then?... that would be simple question to ask.

They must have been good for something sometime... I can see panic not being very sexy.

Confusion is a pre-existing condition?

Lets say a mathematician is working on a difficult problem for months and months... can it be said he is confused up until the moment he finally gets it?

Or is that my simple mind trying to cut down to size a brilliant mathematician?

Valentine Smith said...

Once again our narrator shows his contempt for those he considers beneath him i.e., that Gatsby fellow and now for Tom.

Here's where the narrator is myopic. The cause of confusion may be uncomplicated, but the state of confusion itself is identical regardless of the intelligence of the one experiencing it. Emotion is neither simple or complex, it's raw and undifferentiated. Hence it's the situation itself that determines the state and extent of the confusion not intelligence. In fact, the more intelligent one is the more ability to comprehend one's situation (unless it is immediately life-threatening when intelligence is irrelevant). Without knowing the situation, I can only conclude that the narrator has it exactly backward. There is no confusion like that of a complex mind. Once again our narrator has demonstrated his unreliability. Also, confusion does not necessarily lead to panic but rather panic necessarily leads to confusion. I am beginning to assume our narrator is always drunk when he utters these statements. Or badly hungover. Or crazy like his eff'n wife.

As for the inappropriate metaphor of hot whips for panic, I think our narrator has unintentionally revealed his own sado-masochistic streak. There is nothing as likely to focus the mind as the feeling of hot whips. Rage would most certainly ensue even if it were bound up with pathetic whimpering.

On the other hand, panic is like spinning underwater in a strait jacket, where up down and left or right have no meaning whatsoever. Panic is utter helplessness with nowhere to turn. Until you slap yourself with hot whips and snap out of it.

I tire of these twisted ramblings.

Lem said...

Panic... the fiscal cliff... the trillion dollar coin.

Who is to say that the value of the dollar has not been reassigned, just as other values have?... and while this readjustment goes on some of us are confused... and others are panicking.

The gun grab could not have come at a worst time.

Lem said...

Emotion is neither simple or complex, it's raw and undifferentiated.

Two people with very dissimilar IQ's could have an identical experience at a hunted house.

Lem said...

Take the hunted house as a hypothetical.

Dante said...

I'll take a stab at this. Driving away in confusion can be better than some alternatives. It's frankly an arrogance of the human mind that there is nothing we can't find in nature, that if only we understand its nature, it will be tame and under a law-like control.

As a very simple example of this, researchers in Norway wanted to publish how they had taken the H1N1 flu and converted it to a form easily transmitted between humans. Never mind that such a flu would cause a worldwide flu pandemic like we humans haven't seen since the WWI outbreak. And even the purported goal, to come up with quicker flu vaccines could easily work against the entire stupid idea of publishing. As in, the elect could generate a vaccine (for the elect), and then publish their results.

Sometimes it is best to NOT embrace understanding, sophistication, and knowledge; after all, it's killing Western Civilization.

Understanding is not a cure all. Nor is sophistication, which I will equate with fakers, those who think they have good abstract analytical skills, but deep down know they do not. I have no deeper disdain than for glib wordy hypocrite fakers who profess to understand everything.

Sometimes recognizing confusion and running from it, like running from publishing an article on how to make a killer flu, is the right thing to do. Get a safe distance away, then understand it. And if Fitzgerald is saying anything else, he needs to re-read "The Death of Ivan Ilyich," which I hope we all recall when thinking about the Liverpool protocol as a necessary extension of Obama Care, which is a logical extension of our screwed up anti-family society.

Meanwhile, on a lighter note, I did something that I normally do not do. That is, I learned a new word Contralto, as a part of the Gatsby series, and applied it to my everyday life. I was reading up about Tolkein's various invented Elvish Languages, and enjoying the melancholic way Enya sang both Quenyan and Sindarin in the fellowship, and recalled a song that made me feel that way.

The song is composed by Lisa Gerrard in her own language that she began inventing since she was twelve. According to Wikipedia, she is a Contralto.

Here she is, in Milan, singing in her own language, her own song, looking beautiful and statuesque Now we are free, which some may recognize as from Gladiator. And it sounds every bit as good.

For those who did not know a Contralto, now you do. Listen to the way she brings her voice down, precisely at the moment you expect it to go up, and the warmth that pervades.

Rusty said...

Sometimes it's fun to be the cause of the "hot whip of panic".

Robert Cook said...

"Yes, drive away, Tom, you pathetic little man."

Hmmm...quite a drought of human compassion in this remark.

Rusty said...

Lem said...
Emotion is neither simple or complex, it's raw and undifferentiated.

Two people with very dissimilar IQ's could have an identical experience at a hunted house.

Only if both the IQs were very low.
Reason tells us that there are no such things as ghosts. Therefore there is a reasonable explanation as what is causing what is going on inside the house.

supermagicman said...

Re, Valentine Smith

There is no absurdity like the absurdity of the self aggrandized wordsmith. There is no greater pain than having to feel the hot whips of narcissistic prose.

...written by someone calling themselves 'Valentine.'

supermagicman said...

Dante, are you selling crazy?

Anonymous said...

If he were feeling the Cool Whip of panic perhaps he is a slice of pumpkin pie.

A slice of pumpkin pie can become paralyzed by the fear of imminent eating, it will just sit there on the plate, doing nothing.

Anonymous said...

Without knowing it was from Gatsby this line could easily be taken from some hard-boiled pulp novel (back to Spillane?)

"There is no confusion like the confusion of a simple mind, and as we drove away Tom was feeling the hot whips of panic. I had grown tired of Tom and his mewling ways: one hand on the wheel, I slapped him sharply with my other gloved hand.

'Tom, if you can't be a man then at least be a QUIET little girl and hold my purse."

Tom's lips moved like weak fish but no words came out, just a defeated mumble. He could feel the warmth of the just-fired gun even through the leather of the purse.

It's a hard life, being a dame in a world of weak men, but you do what has to be done. I wiped the remaining drops of blood from my stockings and headed for downtown, to see the last man who had ever pulled my fire-red hair and lived to see the morning; Tom would have to wait in the car..."

Leslie Graves said...

This is a great sentence. The first part works so hard to draw one into feeling companionable with the narrator's condescending judgment about the way that people with simple minds get confused...people who are not like those of us reading the sentence, who presumably do not have simple minds.

And then boom, we find out that the way that people with simple minds react to confusion is by feeling "the hot whips of panic" and at least some of us then think, "Well, wait. That's how I react."

And then you're confused about whether this sentence is inviting you to condescendingly contemplate the way it is for simple minds when they are confused, or whether you're one of those simple minds yourself. Which puts you where in regard to this sentence?

Crunchy Frog said...

I like Simple Minds. They were one of my favorite 80s Brit-pop bands.

Dante said...

Dante, are you selling crazy?

What, about the Norwegians who wanted to post the recipe for a super-flu? I mean, a really deadly one?

Or the cool sounding Gibberish Lisa Gerrard uses in her songs? Contralto, it's one of the esoteric words leftist English professors like to collect, and that make them feel masters of the universe.