People over forty can seldom be permanently convinced of anything. At eighteen our convictions are hills from which we look; at forty-five they are caves in which we hide.
The omniscient narrator here illustrates with an effective metaphor the transience and irrationality of youth. Marjorie is irritated by the gauche nature of her cousin, Bernice, and complains to her mother about having to take her to social occasions. Marjorie is convinced that popularity is everything: the narrator reflects that this is a view she will change with age.
But toward the women she felt a definite hostility. Myra, her future sister-in-law, seemed the essence of spiritless conventionality. Her conversation was so utterly devoid of personality that Sally Carrol, who came from a country where a certain amount of charm and assurance could be taken for granted in the women, was inclined to despise her.
Sally Carrol emerges as one of Fitzgerald's new type of heroines. She is beautiful, adored by the men around her, but also assertive, quick, clever and forward-thinking. She had believed that to marry a Northerner would mean an interesting life after her looks faded. Here she learns that the attributes she has are not shared by the Northern women she encounters.
Ardita's face became suddenly radiant, and with a little laugh she went swiftly to young Moreland and looked up at him without a trace of wrath in her gray eyes.
"Will you swear," she said quietly, "that it was entirely a product of your own brain?"
"I swear," said young Moreland eagerly.
She drew his head down and kissed him gently.
"What an imagination!"she said softly and almost enviously. "I want you to lie to me just as sweetly as you know how for the rest of my life."
Ardita has been a spoiled young woman, focusing only on herself until her uncle's yacht is taken over by Curtis Carlyle. She discovers that the man she has fallen in love with is not a dashing fugitive but a young man she earlier refused to meet at her uncle's request. Ardita is charmed by the deception, and wishes to spend her whole life similarly duped. Here she typifies Fitzgerald's heroine in preferring fantasy and romance over real life.
She would talk the language she had talked for many years - her line - made up of the current expressions, bits of journalese and colllege slang strung together in an intrinsic whole, careless, faintly provocative, delicately sentimental.
Edith Bradin is a socialite typical of Fitzgerald's heroines. Here Fitzgerald indicates that Edith's lines are rehearsed, planned and therefore artificial. The careful way that such young people plan to appear careless is a recurrent theme in Fitzgerald's stories. Edith is careful to engineer her language to be current, social, appropriate to her peers and attractive to men.
A grotesque picture formed itself with dreadful clarity before the eyes of the tortured man - a picture of himself walking through the crowded streets of the city with this appalling apparition stalking by his side. "I can't. I can't," he moaned.
People would stop to speak to him and what was he going to say?
Robert Button is horrified that his child is not normal. Having been asked to take his baby home - a child with the body of a seventy year old - Robert Button is panic-stricken. The drama and self-indulgence with which he reacts to the situation is reminiscent of Victor Frankenstein's revulsion and rejection of his creation when it comes to life. Robert Button can only see how the unusual situation affects himself - not his son.
He doubted only whether he had made his bribe big enough. God had His price, of course. God was made in man's image, so it had been said: He must have His price.
Braddock Washington is clearly mad, but there is a vulgar, warped logic to his attempt to bribe God. Washington's family has managed to evade any form of justice to date, despite extravagant and egregious wrongs. They have captured and killed anyone who threatened their lifestyle without remorse or consequence. Washington equates his supreme wealth with supreme power. He is wrong in believing that he actually has either. His bribe, of course, does not work and his property is destroyed.
He wanted not association with glittering things and glittering people - he wanted the glittering things themselves. Often he reached out for the best without knowing why he wanted it - and sometimes he ran up against the mysterious denials and prohibitions in which life indulges.'
Dexter Green has money but remains desolate and miserable when he comes across something that he cannot have. Like many of Fitzgerald's characters, Dexter is motivated by possession, not love. He is intrigued by Judy Jones and wants her at the points in their lives when he cannot have her. His fascination with Judy ends when he hears she is no longer beautiful: he wanted only to possess the beautiful Judy, and now she was gone.
Let me tell you about the very rich. They are different from you and me. They possess and enjoy early, and it does something to them, makes them soft where we are hard, and cynical where we are trustful, in a way that, unless you were born rich, it is very difficult to understand. They think, deep in their hearts, that they are better than we are because we had to discover the compensations and refuges of life for ourselves. Even when they enter deep into our world or sink below us, they still think that they are better than we are. They are different.
The omniscient narrator is expressing a considered and harsh observation on the rich. They appear here as almost another species, and it is implied here that the very rich can never be anything else. Even if they lose what they have, they will always be who they are.
As one rereads a tragic story with the defiant hope that it will end differently, so he went back to the morning, to the beginning, to the previous year. But the tide came thundering back with the certainty that she was cut off from him forever in a high room at the Plaza Hotel.
The inevitability of aging and loss is a lesson learned by Jacob Booth in his support of Jenny Prince. He rejects her naive advances at the beginning, only wanting her when she becomes unattainable. He has wanted her to experience true love, but is destroyed when he realizes that she will not share this experience with him. The analogy of re-reading a tragic story is carefully placed here to remind us that Jacob has constructed his own tragic love story.
Family quarrels are bitter things. They don't go according to any rules. They're not like aches or wounds, they're more like splits in the skin that won't heal because there's not enough material.
Charlie Wales' observation is vivid and astute. The simile used here is as graphic and raw as family disagreements can be. Marion's distrust of her brother-in-law is indeed as sensitive as a physical injury, and the wounds that each has left on the other are deeply painful, if only in an emotional sense.
Short Stories of F. Scott Fitzgerald Questions and Answers
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Judy invites Green to dinner. He comes from a poorer background than Judy. He does not have the family "pedigree" that she does. He does not want to dress or act carelessly to turn off Judy, his love interest.
Study Guide for Short Stories of F. Scott Fitzgerald
Short Stories of F. Scott Fitzgerald study guide contains a biography of F. Scott Fitzgerald, literature essays, quiz questions, major themes, characters, and a full summary and analysis of selected short stories.