Short Stories of F. Scott Fitzgerald Summary and Analysis
Sunday had previously been a time for Joel Coles, a continuity writer, to stay in and catch up on work. However, on this particular Sunday, he is invited to tea at the home of Miles Calman, the movie director. He chats with Calman’s wife, Stella, and comments on the tension of the social scene associated with their circle. He hears Nat Keogh explain how he is paying a manager five thousand dollars a year to manage his expenses.
Coles had planned not to drink, as this would be seen in a better light by his boss, but he succumbs to a few highballs and decides to perform a burlesque based on a popular character in the business. His performance is an embarrassing failure, and Coles is disgusted with himself. He sends a note apologizing to Calman and receives a reply from Stella, saying all is well and inviting him to her sister’s supper the following Sunday.
The Calmans arrive at the supper having an argument. Miles Calman has had an affair with a woman named Eva Goebel and is in therapy as a result. He tries to explain the content of his sessions to Coles, who can only hear "gibberish." Coles realizes he is falling for Stella.
He returns to work on Monday, and all is industry. It is clear that Sunday is the only day not to be taken seriously by the film business. Calman reveals the hypocrisy of his relationship with Stella: he feels that the issues of his affair with Eva Goebel are dealt with, and yet he says if Stella were unfaithful, he would divorce her.
Stella asks Coles to accompany her while Calman is away. Calman is aware of the invitation, and as he can see that Coles is well-liked by both of them, he vacillates about whether to attend the ball game or the function with his wife.
Coles meets Stella at the theater. He is uncomfortable, feeling as if Miles is spying on them. He confesses to Stella that he feels as if he is a mere "pawn in a spite game" being played by Miles and Stella.
Regardless, Stella and Coles are together when a call comes in saying Calman’s plane has crashed. Coles offers to contact a friend to comfort Stella, but she says her friend was Eva Goebel. Stella wants him to stay. Coles sees this as a way of keeping Calman alive to her "as if Miles’ mind could not die so long as the possibilities that worried him still existed." He leaves Stella, bitterly acknowledging that he will be back.
Sunday is "not a day, but rather a gap between two other days." The implication is that Sunday is not observed as a day of rest, reflection or worship by those in the film industry. Joel Coles is obviously fairly new to this social scene: he is invited to his first tea at the Calman’s and decides to make a good impression. He opts to not drink alcohol in order to retain his professionalism and the respect of his boss. However, he soon ends up drinking cocktails: his first one given to him by Stella Calman. As Coles becomes more relaxed, he decides to perform a parody of one of the independent film producers. His idea is a flop, and Coles has put himself in the predicament he foreshadowed earlier in his conversation with Stella “Everybody watches for everybody else’s blunders.” Stella supports him during and after the embarrassing event, even inviting him to a supper the following week. There is a cynical suggestion that Coles provides a diversion from the impact of Miles Calman’s blunder – his affair with Eva Goebel. Both of the Calman’s appear to like Coles equally, and Miles seems only mildly concerned that Coles will escort his wife while he is away. He has already made it clear that he would divorce her if she were unfaithful: arrogantly asserting “I can’t have my pride hurt.”
Calman’s psychotherapy sessions seem to be an indulgence and a smokescreen to him actually tackling the root of his emotional problems. When her says it will take over a year for his life to be "cleared up," there is a feeling that this is an excuse for him to continue to behave badly, at least in the short term, and for him to absolve any responsibility for his behavior. Coles’ opinion that Calman’s explanations seem gibberish is probably right.
Stella’s "ice-water" dress is symbolic. It implies coldness, and indeed Coles is certainly uncomfortable in escorting her without her husband – so much so that he has a ridiculous fantasy that Miles is watching them. This appears childish, but the Calmans' cat-and-mouse games are quite infantile. Cole is aware that he is a pawn in their game, and yet cannot help himself being drawn to Stella. This is not a surprise – she is an actress, after all. He notes the "warmth and softness of her body thawing her cold blue costume" and knows he will regret being with her.
When the call comes in about Miles’ death, Coles is shocked that the game does not end – "Stella was trying to keep Miles alive by sustaining a situation in which he had figured." Coles has the courage to leave on this occasion, but his bitter tone indicates that this bond will continue.
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