It is unimaginable to think that one of the novels considered as The Great American Novels, The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, was originally titled Trimalchio in West Egg. (Trimalchio — a wealthy, but very vulgar emancipated slave — is a character from the famous satirical novel, Satyricon, by Petronius written in 1 A.D.) Thankfully Zelda, Fitzgerald’s wife, and legendary editor, Maxwell Perkins, convinced him to select The Great Gatsby as the final title, inspired by Alain-Fournier’s haunting Le Grand Meaulnes (Augustin Meaulnes, the protagonist, searches for his lost love, Yvonne de Galais). Below are some of the surprising original or working titles of famous novels that were changed because the author changed his or her mind or an astute editor stepped in to shape literary history. The original title of the novel is followed by the actual title.
The Last Man in Europe by George Orwell (1984)
Mistress Mary by Frances Hodgson Burnett (The Secret Garden)
The Mute by Carson McCuller (The Heart is a Lonely Hunter)
Nothing New in the West by Erich Maria Remarque (All Quiet on the Western Front)
Panasonic by Don DeLillo (White Noise)
Second-Hand Lives by Ayn Rand (The Fountainhead)
Twilight by William Faulkner (The Sound and the Fury)
War by Toni Morrison (Paradise)
The Year of the Rose by Edith Wharton (The House of Mirth)
The Undead by Bram Stoker (Dracula)
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For further reading: Brewer’s Curious Titles by Ian Crofton, Cassell (2002)
Now All We Need is a Title: Famous Book Titles and How They Got That Way by Andre Bernard, Norton (1996)