The Novels & short Stories of F. Scott Fitzgerald
1. “‘Go on talking,’ said the big man“
2. “Let’s not get to know anybody, but just stay together”
3. “So many smart men go to pieces nowadays”
4. “Hollywood: This is no art... - this is an industry”
7. Parenthetical Reference
1. “‘Go on talking,’ said the big man.
‘I’ve been waiting to hear one of you fellows’”
In May 1916, F. Scott Fitzgerald sent the manuscript of his first novel to Charles Scribner’s Sons. The first title Fitzgerald gave to this novel was The Romantic Egotist1. Scribner rejected the manuscript, claiming that it was poorly organised and lacked a conclusion. But they encouraged him to revise and resubmit the manuscript of what was later to become This Side of Paradise , a tremendously successful novel. In 1918, Fitzgerald sent a hurriedly revised version of the novel, which he was still calling The Romantic Egotist , back to Scribner’s. He had not taken the trouble to work over it carefully, because he was convinced that he was going to die in the war. The manuscript was again rejected. Nevertheless, Fitzgerald decided to completely rewrite the story of The Romantic Egotist , after being discharged from the army in 1919. He shortened the original manuscript considerably and reorganised the whole novel, which had now acquired the working title The Education of a Personage2 .
In July 1919, he wrote to Maxwell Perkins, a Scribner’s editor who believed in Fitzgerald’s literary talent, that the new draft was “in no sense a revision of the ill-fated Romantic Egotist ” (L 155), although he admitted that it contained much material from the rejected manuscript (L 156). What made the new draft so much better in the eyes of his publisher, who finally accepted the novel and published it as This Side of Paradise in March 1920, was the sum of Fitzgerald’s many, this time careful, revisions.
This Side of Paradise is divided into two books. Book one bears the title of the first draft of the story, “The Romantic Egotist”, and book two is named after the temporary working title of the third revision, “The Education of a Personage”. Book one contains four, and book two five chapters. Several chapter titles, such as “Spires and Gargoyles”, are taken from chapters of the first version of The Romantic Egotist . The chapters of This Side of Paradise are further divided into sections. Here again, Fitzgerald kept many titles from The Romantic Egotist , like ‘Ha-Ha Hortense’, ‘Babes in the Wood’ and ‘The Devil’. ‘Babes in the Woods’ and ‘The Spire and the Gargoyle’ had also been the titles of two short stories, which he had published during his Princeton years in the Nassau Literary Magazine.
This Side of Paradise tells the story of Amory Blaine who is the romantic egotist and main protagonist of the novel. The story is told by an omniscient third person narrator who follows Amory’s point of view, and yet often expresses his own thoughts, as well. Book One covers the period from Amory’s childhood experiences in the Midwest, St. Regis preparatory school and his university years at Princeton, up to the First World War, when he joins the army as a second lieutenant without having graduated from Princeton.
Amory has all the qualifications for success. He has enough money to attend the best schools in the whole country and to travel extensively. He is extraordinarily intelligent and has an insatiable thirst for knowledge. He is one of the most attractive men at his school and good at sports. But his egotism and his obsessive social awareness prevent him from being happy. From the beginning, he tries to adapt himself to social hierarchies and to excel in them. Through football, he succeeds in his striving for social prestige, and when he is sidelined from football by an injury, he seeks to achieve popularity by writing for “The Daily Princetonian”, and actually earns admission to the prestigious Triangle Club. But when he fails in an important exam, he abandons his philosophy of success.
Towards the end of Amory’s college career, America enters the First World War and Amory dutifully enlists, foregoing his degree. His experiences in the First World War are described by the means of a correspondence between Monsignor Darcy, his mentor, and himself. The whole passage is formally detached from the rest of th]e book. It forms a separate short chapter, called “Interlude”, which interrupts the novel between Book One and Book Two. In the war, Amory loses two of his friends, Kerry and Jesse, and is informed that his mother has died, leaving him very little money.
After the war, Amory falls deeply in love with Rosalind, and she with him. For the first time, Amory is really in love with a woman. The love they share constitutes one of the most intense experiences Amory has ever had, and he is willing to sacrifice his philosophy of success for her and to accept an unattractive advertising job in hope of marrying her. But money plays too important a role for Rosalind to give up her wealthy lifestyle. Refusing to marry someone with great wealth, she breaks Amory’s heart and hurts his pride. This part of the story is written as a dramatic interlude. It is a play within the novel.
Having learned that “money determines the direction of love” (Mangum LF 958), Amory realises that he hates poverty and he even goes as far as to preach socialism. Deeply frustrated by his loss, he drinks himself almost to death. While his alcoholism first makes him even more desperate and purposeless, he gradually experiences a deep self-realisation and comes to see his own selfishness. Interestingly, the more he loses, the more he is inclined to help other people, like his friend Alec, for example. He sacrifices himself for Alec, although he is the brother of Rosalind who has so indelibly hurt him. The truth is that in helping Alec, Amory is also acting selfishly because he acts out of a sense of his own nobility.
In the final line of the novel, Amory claims that now, finally, he knows himself, “but that is all” (TP 260). He achieves a portion of self-knowledge, but at the cost of losing his money and his dearest friends and spoiling his youth. He concludes that he must embrace his selfishness and no longer try to banish it. He accepts what he has been through, who he has become, and even who he will be in the future. While one might congratulate him on this insight, one must obviously also criticise him for his inability to overcome his egotism, which has caused him so much misery.
Although the plot is sufficiently coherent, on the whole, the sections of This Side of Paradise are often a bit disconnected from each other, and so are the paragraphs. The chapters and sections report various instances of Amory’s life in a strictly chronological order. But they often start in medias res with hardly any relation to the preceding subchapter, which makes it sometimes difficult to follow the story. The intention of the narration is obviously less to follow the thread of a story than to make a sketch of Amory Blaine. In this way, the book is less like a traditional story and more like a portrait. It reads like a photograph album, with many snapshots in it. And snapshot is the word Fitzgerald himself uses in one of the titles of the sections, called “Snapshots of the Young Egotist”.
In a photograph album you often put the exact date when the picture was taken below the photograph and you sometimes describe in a few words the occasion on which the picture was taken. Fitzgerald proceeds similarly in This Side of Paradise to connect the often pretty loosely related scenes. A reference to time is made at the very beginning of almost every section in the novel. “On the last night of his first term” (TP I 26), “October of his second last year at St. Regis” (TP I 29), or “five months since he and Rosalind had met” (TP VI 201) not only place the events narrated in terms of time but also geographically or in reference to other important events.
Obviously related to this incoherence of individual sections, is the fact that Fitzgerald switches between different genres in This Side of Paradise . The novel includes passages of all three genres, poetry, drama and prose. The First World War Interlude, for instance, although very short, is written in the epistolary mode, in contrast to the rest of the novel. After the Interlude, Book Two begins with the insertion of a passage of drama. The dialogue form beautifully captures the intensity of Amory and Rosalind’s interchanges. This is especially true for passages like the following:
ROSALIND: I love you–now. ( They part .) Oh–I am very youthful, thank God–and rather beautiful, thank God–and happy, thank God, thank God (TP V 170)
In terms of narration, the form of a play also gives Fitzgerald the possibility to condense his story even more. Descriptions are left out and the focus is entirely on the action. And of course, the individual word receives much more attention in this dialogue form. The words are more powerful than if they were incorporated in whole paragraphs. The fact that the words stand a bit apart lets them develop their whole effect. Furthermore, the quality of the prose changes completely in utterances like Rosalind’s desperate “Oh, I want to die!” (TP V 176). This could almost be a Shakespearean line, whereas Amory towards the end of the novel speaks in completely different words about his plan to commit suicide: “Cel’brating blowmylife. Great moment blow my life. Can’t tell you ‘bout it” (TP VI 183).
Fitzgerald’s prose style is, for most of the novel, characterised by relatively short, paratactic, grammatically rather simple and straightforward sentences. Sometimes, Fitzgerald decides to connect those simple phrases by simply stringing them together without any conjunctions, like in “The violins swelled and quavered on the last notes, the girl sank to a crumped butterfly on the stage, a great burst of clapping filled the house” (TP I 28).
Although sentences are normally rather short, paragraph length as well as sentence length varies considerably. The paragraphs are remarkably longer in passages where there is only little direct speech (TP IX 242). Unusually long paragraphs and sentences are found in the descriptive passages. The sentences, and also the lines in the dialogue passages, in contrast, are often very short. Consider the following example, for instance.
“Chocolate sundae,” he told a colored person.
“Double chocolate jiggah? Anything else?”
“Why–yes.” (TP II 34)
The language in this passage is informal and the dialogue is mainly functional. Amory wants to order something in a restaurant. It is not surprising, therefore, that there is not a single unnecessary word in Amory’s exchange with the waiter. But this dialogue is not an exception as regards the succinctness of the sentences. In Amory’s interior dialogue towards the end of the novel, the sentences and lines are even shorter.
Q. – Very afraid?
A. – Just passively afraid.
Q. – Where are you drifting?
A. – Don’t ask me!
Q. – Don’t you care? (TP IX 237)
This interior dialogue, in which Amory’s restlessness is supposed to be made clear, shares another feature that is typical of the direct speech passages in the novel: the absence of an auxiliary verb. Of course, this is almost always due to the informality of the dialogues, like in such examples as “Got a hammer?” (TP II 35), “Play at St. Regis’s?” (TP II 36), “You going out for anything?” (TP II 36) or “You men going to unpack?” (TP II 37). Fitzgerald, however, goes even further than that. Whereas these sentences can be regarded as still more or less complete, grammatically, Fitzgerald, just after Amory’s interior dialogue, uses incomplete bits of phrases to describe Amory’s confused thoughts. Now, there is often not even a full verb there, any more. Consider the following example: “Apartments along here expensive–probably hundred and fifty a month–maybe two hundred. Uncle had only paid hundred a month for whole great big house in Minneapolis. Question–were the stairs on the left or right as you came in” (TP IX 239). These phrases are elliptic in some way or the other. They either lack an auxiliary verb, a full verb, a pronoun or some other word.
In the descriptive passages, Fitzgerald’s prose is slightly different. Sentences are longer and grammatically more complex and, in contrast to the informal dialogues, they are more sophisticated and sometimes even have a poetic touch, as in: “Overhead the sky was half crystalline, half misty, and the night around was chill and vibrant with rich tension” (TP I 12). Fitzgerald’s way of expressing himself is more subtly differentiated in these poetic prose passages than in the dialogue passages. The words are carefully chosen and sometimes combined, as they are often in poems, in a rather unidiomatic way. Vibrant with rich tension , for example, is an uncommon combination of words. Nevertheless, those lines are precise, balanced and lively. The concreteness is often due to the various adjectives and adverbs. Sometimes, Fitzgerald even uses several adjectives to characterise one single noun, like in “crisp autumnal twilight” (TP I 29), “hoarse, furious whisper” (TP I 29) or “staining, glorious heroism of plunging, crashing bodies and aching limbs” (TP I 29).
Consider also the following passage, where the descriptions of sounds and smells are combined. “He [Amory] heard from below the shrieks of laughter, and smelled the vapid odor of hot chocolate and tea-cakes as he silently followed mother and daughter down-stairs. The sound of the graphophone mingled with the voices of many girls humming the air, and a faint glow was born and spread over him” (TP I 14). The adjectives vapid and hot are concrete words and help to describe the smell vividly and precisely. The last sentence, and especially the last phrase, has a strong poetic touch. The humming goes beautifully together with the girls’ voices , but the last phrase about the glow which was born and spread over him is unusual and provides yet another example of Fitzgerald’s startling poetic descriptive passages. These sophisticated passages, contrasted with the many informal student speeches or even careless utterances of intoxicated people, like for instance Amory mumbling “Los’ idealism, got be physical anmal” (TP VI 183) show how stylistically heterogeneous Fitzgerald’s prose in This Side of Paradise is.
Besides the poetic prose passages, Fitzgerald also worked independent poems into the novel, but the way in which he links them with the rest of the novel is not really convincing. At times, the poems are brought in rather awkwardly. Amory’s first poem that is incorporated in the text is prepared for, or rather, not prepared for, in the following unsatisfactory way: “Amory fell in love again, and wrote a poem. This was it:” (TP I 15). The short sentences explain the occasion for the poem but provide a rather banal link between the poem and the text. In a letter to Shane Leslie, dated from May 1918, Fitzgerald agrees that, in the second revision of The Romantic Egotist , the verses had been “too obviously lugged in” (L 393). Nevertheless, he stuck to the poems in This Side of Paradise because he could not force himself to sacrifice them, although they obviously do not add much to the overall quality of the book.
In contrast to This Side of Paradise , there are no poems to be found in Fitzgerald’s other early writings. Obviously, Fitzgerald did not like the idea of including poems in his short stories. Among his early short stories are writings like “The Cut-Glass Bowl” and “May Day”. “The Cut-Glass Bowl” was published in Scribner’s Magazine in May 1920 and “May Day” appeared in The Smart Set in July of the same year. “The Cut-Glass Bowl” is a remarkable story, abundant in metaphors and symbols. It tells the story of Mrs Piper, who receives a huge cut-glass bowl from a suitor whom she rejects. He give it to her as a kind of farewell present saying that she was as hard, as beautiful, as empty and as easy to see through as this fashionable bowl made out of cut-glass (CS 10). Evylyn Piper, now married with Mr Piper, a successful businessman who is seldom at home, is unfaithful to her husband. One day, when Mr Piper comes home unexpectedly, her secret lover, Gedney, has to hide himself in the dining room. When he tries to get out the back way, he touches the cut-glass bowl with his arm and is discovered by Evylyn’s husband.
The Piper’s relationship suffers from that incident and this is only the start of a whole series of tragic events. Her husband starts drinking to forget his problems with his job. Their daughter, Julie, cuts herself on the wretched bowl and becomes diseased with blood poisoning, which makes it necessary to amputate her hand, and finally, the Pipers also lose their son, Donald, in the First World War and the letter informing them of his death is found in the cut-glass bowl. This is too much for Evylyn. “If Evylyn’s beauty had hesitated in her early thirties”, Fitzgerald writes, “it came to an abrupt decision just afterward and completely left her” (CS 22). As the cut-glass bowl becomes a metaphor for fate and the symbol for all the misery of the Pipers, the fading of Evylyn’s beauty becomes symbolic of the development of the misery of the Piper family.
The story is about loss in the sense that Julie loses her hand because of blood poisoning, Harold Piper loses his position in his company and the Pipers lose their son Donald in the war. Evylyn Piper’s personal loss is different. After her affair with Gedney is discovered, she loses her charms and attractiveness (CS 13). But much more important is what she experiences internally. She loses her illusion. The illusion of not having to worry about financial matters, of being attractive, also to other men, and of living in a happy family. After the first catastrophe, the discovery of her unfaithfulness, comes the purification. She realises how much she really loves her husband and how indelibly she has hurt him (CS 14). But it is too late. Harold, who loses both his company and his illusions about the faithfulness of his wife, is getting more and more indifferent about things. He does not love Evylyn really, anymore, and he does not care about their children. Evylyn, Fitzgerald writes, “did her best to be cheerful under the wearying depression of living with a disappointed man” (CS 22/23).
Up to that point, the story is mainly about disillusionment. But when the news about Donald’s death in the war reaches the Pipers, the topic of loss is brought in again. The passage where Evylyn realises that the letter is from the War Department, breaks sad news, and is to be found nowhere else than in the big cut-glass bowl, is especially convincing. “She knew it lay there in the big bowl with her name in ink on the outside and her soul’s death within” (CS 24), Fitzgerald writes, and the she knew is repeated three times to stress Evylyn’s depressed state of mind.
One of the qualities of the story is to be found in the fact that Fitzgerald is able to make something as abstract as fate as concrete as a cut-glass bowl, although the parallels at times lack plausibility3. What is weak about the metaphor is the fact that, in the end, Fitzgerald insists too much on the link between the bowl and the Pipers’ fate. The bowl, Fitzgerald writes, “seemed to be smiling now, a very cruel smile, as if to say: ‘You see, this time I didn’t have to hurt you directly” (CS 25) and he comes back to the parallel again when he attributes the phrase “You see, I am fate [...] and stronger than your puny plans” (CS 25) to the cut-glass bowl. These statements are too explicit to be still artful. Fitzgerald probably realises that there is something wrong with the metaphor and feels a need to make it clear. It is not so much the metaphor that does not work, but Fitzgerald, who, by making it too explicit, spoils it.
Less symbolic but also mainly concerned with disillusionment is Fitzgerald’s short story “May Day”. It is a long, dark depiction of post-war life in New York City. “May Day” shows how the soldiers return to America after the war and, unable to find neither work nor their people, drift around purposelessly. The only concern they have, besides getting drunk to forget their pain, is to find somebody whom they can blame for their misery. The socialists are a welcome prey, which is absurd, because these people also fight for social changes. But the homecoming soldiers like Gordon Sterrett simply want to have a good time at last and to forget their traumatic experiences of the First World War. After Gordon realises that nothing will ever be as it was before the war, he starts drinking heavily. “I used to think I was clever, talented, an artist”, he tells his former girlfriend Edith at a party, “Now I know I’m nothing” (CS 49). When he finally, after many escapades, realises that he is “irrevocably married” (CS 73) to a girl called Jewel Hudson, whom he does not love, he takes a revolver and shoots himself.
Fitzgerald in This Side of Paradise has Amory declare that “war killed individualism” out of his generation (TP VI 196). In “May Day”, he elaborates this thought. One of the striking characteristics about “May Day” is the fact that people are often referred to not by their names, but by some conspicuous physical feature of theirs. Gordon is “the man with the blood-shot eyes” (CS 64), Dean is “the promenader with the prominent teeth” (CS 64), Key is “the tall soldier with the weak chin” (CS 62) and Jewel Hudson is “the over-rouged young lady” (CS 55). It is a way of showing how little they all matter as individuals.
As in “The Cut-Glass Bowl”, Fitzgerald again finds some especially appropriate and concrete adjectives to describe in a few words what is going on. When Fitzgerald writes that people “were torn between intermittent convulsive laughter and sudden spasmodic discussions of politics, college, and the sunny state of their dispositions” (CS 71) he needs only few words to express so many things. Phrases like “intermittent convulsive laughter” and “sudden spasmodic discussions” are examples of Fitzgerald’s concrete and powerful prose style.
In the summer of 1920, Fitzgerald began working on his second novel. He gave it the temporary working title The Flight of the Rocket . In February 1921, he finished it and after sending the draft to Edmund Wilson for editorial advice, he sent a typescript of the novel, now titled The Beautiful and the Damned , to Harold Ober, his agent. In contrast to This Side of Paradise , The Beautiful and the Damned was serialised and appeared in the Metropolitan Magazine between September 1921 and March 1922, before it appeared in book form in March 1922, published by Scribners. Although it received mixed reviews, The Beautiful and the Damned nevertheless sold 40,000 copies in one year. This Side of Paradise and The Beautiful and the Damned are alike in that they are both divided into books, chapters and sections. But whereas This Side of Paradise consists of two books, the first one being divided into four and the second one into five chapters, The Beautiful and the Damned consists of three books, containing three chapters each. The Beautiful and the Damned is also slightly longer than This Side of Paradise4 .
In terms of content, there are a number of similarities between the two novels. The main character of The Beautiful and the Damned , Anthony Patch, resembles Amory Blaine in many ways. Like Amory, he is a narcissistic young man who has problems in finding a place to fit in, but he is even more self-destructive and less self-aware than Amory. While Amory finally obtains some degree of self-realisation, Anthony completely lacks it from the beginning to the end. The only trait of which he is partially aware, although he is unable to do anything about it, is his idleness, which stems from his illusions about his putative inheritance and in the end destroys him.
Expecting every day to inherit an incredible amount of money from his fabulously rich grandfather, Adam Patch, and constantly waiting for the old man’s death, he feels that he cannot possibly work, having enough money at his free disposal for the moment. But as his grandfather does not want to die, and as Anthony marries a beautiful, but also spendthrift woman, called Gloria, their financial situation constantly worsens. Gloria resembles Rosalind in that she is also “just a little girl” (TP V 180) who likes “sunshine and pretty things and cheerfulness” (TP V 180) and utterly dislikes normal people.
The very moment Anthony and Gloria are a couple, they become miserable. After a year of sweet idleness, Gloria becomes pregnant and aborts the baby. They are both unable and unwilling to assume responsibility. They smoke and drink excessively. Although they are enjoying themselves, their marriage is unhappy. They often argue heavily and after only a short time, they enter an enduring stage of disillusionment. Anthony tries to solve his problems by the means of getting drunk every other evening and he even has an affair with another girl, called Dorothy Raycroft, while being in a training camp for US soldiers waiting to be shipped to France.
The war, however, is over before Anthony’s regiment is sent to Europe and he can return to Gloria and occupy himself with the trial which they are running to appeal against Adam Patch’s will in which he had disinherited them before dying. Life has become utterly meaningless to Anthony and Gloria and they have to move to a cheaper apartment several times to cut down their expenses. In deep desperation, Anthony kills his mistress Dorothy who had suddenly turned up in New York. A few hours later he learns that they have won the trial and receive thirty million dollars from Adam Patch’s fortune.
In terms of plot, The Beautiful and the Damned can roughly be divided into two parts, the central event and turning point being Adam Patch’s will in which he disinherits Anthony. The first half of the novel shows how Anthony and Gloria are dreaming, and, in fact, living their dreams about what life is going to be for them when they are rich, and, waiting only for the money, they become bored and start ruining each other and themselves. In the second half of the novel, they are painfully cured from their illusions, but, still clinging to them, they sink even deeper “into despair and self-destruction” (Mangum LF 961) until they finally win the trial against Adam Patch’s will, and have to realise, that they have paid a high price for it.
The prose in The Beautiful and the Damned is different from that of This Side of Paradise . There are a number of exceptionally long sentences in the novel, amounting sometimes to no less than eighty words. These embedded sentences, which are to be found quite often in The Beautiful and the Damned , are often too heavy, syntactically complex and simply overloaded. What makes them even heavier is the pompous language in phrases like “glancing around with eyes whose irises were of the most delicate and transparent bluish white” (NS 482) or in words like “anaesthetic” or “opalescent” like in “opalescent dreams of future pleasure–the mutual heritage of the happy and the damned” (NS 746).
Even worse are descriptions like the following: “The stark and unexpected miracle of a night fades out with the lingering death of the last stars and the premature birth of the first newsboys” (NS 519). The choice of words is, in this context, unbearably poetic, completely out of place, and the effect is that of heavy, ponderous kitsch. The images are too far fetched and clumsily brought in. What is astonishing, is the fact that the characters almost always speak correct Standard English, even when they are in informal situations and also, yet more strikingly, when they are drunk.
The many digressions and pseudo-intellectual debates in The Beautiful and the Damned are boring, odd and pointless, and a number of other long passages where direct speech is entirely absent are not very interesting, either. Book three is slightly more interesting, but still not as good as most of This Side of Paradise . The problem is that there is nothing really new in The Beautiful and the Damned . It is more or less the same story as in This Side of Paradise , only told less interestingly. Although there are many fewer poems included here than in his first novel, the story somehow lacks a straight-forward, interesting plot. Instead of being an elaboration of the disillusionment topic of This Side of Paradise , it is only a weak variation and, for the greatest part, a repetition of it.
“Winter Dreams”, one of Fitzgerald’s most famous short stories, appeared in the Metropolitan Magazine , ten months after the publication of The Beautiful and the Damned in book form, in December 1922. As in The Beautiful and the Damned , faded beauty and lost dreams play an important role in “Winter Dreams”. Dexter Green is in the end painfully cured from his illusions about Judy Jones, a beautiful rich girl who is made miserable through marriage with a man who treats her badly. The plot is not very complicated. A beautiful girl has short affairs with a “varying dozen” (CS 374) of men, of whom Dexter is one, and when she finally decides to marry, she picks out the wrong one.
1 F. Scott Fitzgerald, This Side of Paradise , ed., Patrick O’Donnell, London, Penguin, 2000, 251.
2 All information concerning the publication history of This Side of Paradise is taken from Patrick O’Donnell, “Introduction”, F. Scott Fitzgerald, This Side of Paradise , ed., Patrick O’Donnell, London, Penguin, 2000.
3 This was suggested by Sascha Wyniger in Prof. Rehder’s Research Colloquium, Winter Semester 2002/2003.
4 All information concerning the publication history of The Beautiful and the Damned is taken from Jackson R. Bryer, “Chronology and Notes”, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Novels and Stories 1920-1922 , New York, The Library of America, 2000.