F. Scott Fitzgerald: Orestes at the Ritz
by Maxwell David Geismar


1. A Promising Past

Perhaps he really didn’t invent the Jazz Age. “Safe upon the solid rock the ugly houses stand: Come and see my shining palace built upon the sand!”

But This Side of Paradise was the generation’s masculine primer, as A Few Figs from Thistles was the feminine —and as The Sun Also Rises was the second reader for both sexes. Among those not under forty today—including some who have taken to scolding a frivolous younger generation—almost all who could have read his first novel will have read it. Among the young, who will bother with this encyclical of an antique epoch? Nevertheless, it was hardly considered a novel when it appeared in 1920. It was a manifesto, it expressed one’s innermost convictions, it was perhaps the first “real” book one had ever read. Like most literary landmarks, it was so absolutely convincing as to seem unlike a literary landmark.

Irregular in exposition, broken in context, interrupted by poetic sequences, satiric reveries, charts, here were the authentic and almost secret observations of a typical young person of the age. “A chiel’s amang ye takin” notes”—and, faith, he printed them; and became the Fatal Man of an era. This child was, of course, Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald…

He was born September 24, 1896, in St. Paul, Minnesota, of “Irish and Maryland English stock “ The simple declarative statement holds a lot of complex grief for him. There was a certain friction in his mind between the “Minnesota Irish” and the “Maryland English.” Three impressive beats testified as to the Baltimore Cavalier heritage of gay blades and dancing belles. (Francis Scott Key was a great-granduncle; the family connection might seem a little remote, perhaps, for such nomenclative prominence.) But then there was the unaccented syllable. There were the less romantic, or positively grubby, hinterland origins.

Buffalo, where the future author traveled with his family, was not much better. As we shall see, a later Fitzgerald figure is to disappear in the wilds of this abandoned frontier. The inferior financial rating of the young Mid-westerner preoccupied his thoughts too. Was it by a stretch of a somewhat elastic imagination that he considered himself the poorest boy in a school of rich men’s sons? Among these eastern aristocrats he hardly needs to be reminded of his Catholic heritage; this is a crucial area of his work.

Fitzgerald went to the Newman School in Hackensack, New Jersey, and—’largely because of the Triangle Club”—to Princeton. In 1917 he joined the army. During the week-ends he began to work on his first novel. In 1919 he took a “poorly paid” job as advertising-writer, sold a story for thirty dollars, went home to rewrite his novel and—

In two months he had finished This Side of Paradise, which, highly successful, resulted in his selling stories to magazines; and his days of struggle were over.

This is taken from Fitzgerald’s account in Mr. Millet’s handbook; perhaps no other Contemporary American Author could have issued a statement at once so typical and so incongruous.

Certainly the festive days had arrived. Fitzgerald was “the brilliant, handsome author,” as he signed his letters, and no longer indeed “poorly paid.” “Do you mean to say we have only $600 coming in every month?” cries the young wife of The Beautiful and Damned during a financial ebb. “A subdued note crept into her voice.” These were Fitzgerald’s party days; the parties of The Great Gatsby; the big parties, as Edmund Wilson tells us, “at which Fitzgerald’s people go off like fireworks and which are likely to leave them in pieces.”

I needn’t mention the “exotic speeds” who flash through the pages of the early Fitzgerald, or the “young contralto voices on sunk-down sofas” which murmur such devastating remarks. I’ve kissed dozens of men,” says one of these girls in a notorious aside. “I suppose I’il kiss dozens more.” The sofa was the miseen-scene for the drama of the post-war decade, and the kiss was reveille for a generation that watched twilight fall over cocktails at the Biltmore, and dawn strike the windows of Childs” Fifty-Ninth Street. These are bright, trembling children whose destiny lies on the lips of any dancing partner they might embrace twice on the same evening. No other places are possible for, no other voices can whisper to, the young Fitzgerald.

There were others, however, who also accepted this place for home and these hours for life’s hours—the same American reading public which would, just two decades later, and just as eagerly, thumb a ride on the Joads’s jalopy and jolt along with John Steinbeck’s Okies… But it was the early Fitzgerald’s gift to endow his rather unreal creatures with a peculiarly touching reality. While a later sequence of American writers—though not always so convincingly—was to discover the soul of the dispossessed, he provided one for the elite.

Those were the salad days of the American twenties, and New York, as Fitzgerald recalled in The Crack-up, had all the iridescence of the beginning of the world. “The first speakeasies had arrived, the toddle was passee, the Mont-martre was the smart place to dance and Lilyan Tashman’s fair hair weaved around the floor among the enliquored college boys… We felt like small children in a great bright unexplored barn.” People were tired of the proletariat, Zelda Fitzgerald announced in Save Me the Waltz. (The early marriage of Scott and Zelda was in the style of the Jazz Age; and without Zelda, it has been said, there would have been no Jazz Age.) Everybody was famous then. “All the other people who weren’t well known had been killed in the war.” The David Knights of her own novel are the idols of a world where “it was always tea-time or late at night,” and like the Fitzgeralds, they leave New York—everybody was leaving, smelling of orchids and plush—for the French Riviera. And surely the group of tanned aristocrats whom the young American actress encounters in Tender is the Night: and their beach-parties and garden-festivals, their casual and instinctive air of possession and command over all the delicacies of existence; the intensely calculated perfection of their lives, like those of the “older civilizations”—surely this is the apogee of the vision of ease and grace which F. Scott Fitzgerald has pursued from Minnesota to the Cap d’Antibes.

Yet his days of struggle are not over; in the early nineteen-thirties he is just approaching a tortuous hour of decision. The corrosive vein in Fitzgerald’s penultimate novel, the reverberations of the crack-up, the cry of suffering—a suffering that has become hopelessly twisted and now finds expression in a deliberate perversion of the spirit: these accents of destruction will become familiar to us in the pages of our writer. They are all the more severe because he has traced a deep groove, and has now reached a maturity he has always feared. They are more intense because they come from precisely that European Riviera which has been a perpetual hope of refuge: a psychological Eden, a shining, scented garden of lost innocence where moral conflicts are out of order.

If the younger writer, then, spoke for a gay and pleasure-seeking youth, it was a demonic youth too; here is a kind of torment, though it has been tutored at Exeter, and the Furies are here, though now stopping at the Ritz. Was there ever a smoother surface to cover the emotional involutions? Yet the coiled emotions are responsible for the tension in Fitzgerald’s writing—this is what gives validity to his portrait of the Jazz Age: to such a giddy context and such luxurious monkeyshines. Through these Princeton proms and tea dances at Sherry’s and midnight dances in the Plaza, through these cocktails and hobble skirts and sunk-down couches—these cold enchantresses and pure kisses and negative contralto voices—the Fitzgerald hero is looking for his path of salvation: or at least for that form of “divine drunkenness” which may serve instead.—“There,” said Heine upon meeting Musset, “goes a young man with a promising past.” And this discerning half-truth about an earlier Child of the Century might apply almost as well to the later one.

We shall notice, too, the curiously involved design of the “past.” … But meanwhile the writer himself is not to remain among those other “rich ruins and fugitives from justice” who, listening eternally to “the coarse melodies of old sins,” exist on the derivatives of opium and barbital. From his eastern extreme, he will seek the lost star of his route in the furthermost reaches of the American West—in the California of The Last Tycoon. In one sense to follow his travels from west to east, and east to west, is almost to chart the typical movement of the rest of our American writers over the period from 1920 to 1940: this withdrawal and return is a cultural pilgrimage of some interest.

But the wanderings of F. Scott Fitzgerald are also a form of an older and even more cosmopolitan pilgrimage: one which springs from the hero’s consciousness of guilt and his need for expiation. “The Eumenides seized upon Orestes and drove him frantic from land to land.”

2. Far Behind the Veil

The Amory Blaine of This Side of Paradise was enchanting. There is no other word for it, and Fitzgerald uses this one often enough to leave no doubt in our mind. The pages of the novel are lighted up by Amory’s “peculiar brightness and charm” as by the glitter of an Athenian among the barbarians of St. Paul, Minnesota.

Amory is “typical.” But to be typical in the twenties was to be superior. At St. Regis and Princeton (and of course Amory goes to Princeton) his great struggle is to conceal “how particularly superior he felt himself to be.* And why shouldn’t he? Granting himself physical and social magnetism—“the power of dominating all contemporary males, the gift of fascinating all women”—Amory concedes his own infallible m.ental powers… There is a certain effort involved here, of course. To live by one’s code of “aristocratic egoism,” to move toward “a more pagan attitude,” one must be versed in the Byronic dicta, and Keats and Swinburne. Amory has also a rather distant knowledge of Marx, who can be invoked, upon occasion, to put the New Jersey bourgeoisie in its place: that is, the balcony.

Yet, is there any point to such intellectual achievement, or, in fact, to any form of contemporary achievement? The chill of modern times has penetrated the most exclusive walls, has touched the shining tapestries at the Ritz. And Princeton itself, for all its Gothic spires and wild moonlight revels, its melange of brilliant adventures and well-dressed philanderers, its sparkling big-game crowds and glittering caste system—even Princeton, which Amory loves, fails to give meaning to a barren age. “Here was a new generation, shouting the old cries, learning the old creeds … destined finally to go out into that dirty gray turmoil … grown up to find all Gods dead, all wars fought, all faiths in man shaken.”

There is, however, a fairly potent anodyne. The love scenes of This Side of Paradise were largely responsible, of course, for the novel’s underlying value to a generation which, like Amory, denied all underlying values. Amory saw girls— Does one need to continue the quotation?

Amory saw girls doing things that even in his memory would have been impossible: eating three-o’clock after-dance suppers in impossible cafes, talking of every side of life with an air half of earnestness, half of mockery, yet with a furtive excitement that Amory considered stood for a real moral let-down. But he never realized how widespread it was until he saw the cities between New York and Chicago as one vast juvenile intrigue.

And here they are, Scott’s girls. The flapper who is “ristly celebrated” for having turned five cartwheels in succession during the last pump-and-slipper dance at New Haven. The flapper who admits that love depends “on the things one has always been in tune with”—like, for instance, platinum watches. The flapper who has “permanently abandoned stockings.” The flapper who is longing for “a diet of caviar and bell-boy’s legs in half the capitals of Europe.” The flapper who divides her time between Ana-tole France and the Shimmy. —Here are Scott’s Flappers: whose usual attire is a diaphanous gown and a cigarette case, and whose usual occupation is yawning; whose favorite sound is a plaintive African rhythm at three o’clock in the morning, and whose favorite argument is “Shut Up”; whose zenith is a new hair-bob and whose nadir is to be seen talking to a boy.

These are undergraduate Madame Bovarys; this is the revolt of some very odd angels… But to summarize the post-war revolt in This Side of Paradise is to omit all the virtue of the novel. And when you begin to think about it, the novel is more complex than this glistening and entertaining surface might indicate.

For surely Amory Blaine—the conqueror of the Princeton proms with his “penetrating green eyes” and blond hair, his intricate knowledge of parlor snakes and kissable lips—is an odd figurehead for the Jazz Age. Does he recall at times a certain “ultra-poetical, super-aesthetical, green-ery-yallery, Grosvenor Gallery, je-ne-sais-quoi young man”? Then there is Nietzsche’s influence via The Smart Set, and the early Fitzgerald drew upon Compton Mackenzie’s Youth’s Encounter. Amory is actually a mixture of literary trends, as he is a dabbler in them. But primarily he is Scott’s exotic American child, and certainly Scott draws an exotic American childhood.

The central personage of this childhood is, of course, the glittering Beatrice O’Hara. From Beatrice, Fitzgerald tells us, Amory inherits every trait “except the stray inexpressible few which made him worth while.” In any case the accent on glamour marks both the mother and the son, but gets the son into scrapes from which the mother might more easily escape. Even in childhood Amory must exert all his legendary charm to escape from the predicaments to which his charm has brought him. If he lies by inclination, he must then lie through necessity, and sometimes, too, in desperation. Already in these early pages of Paradise, Amory reminds us of those gifted and devastating persons in life who are always more aware of themselves than we think, and even more incapable of dealing with themselves. In this volatile youth there are intimations of a vicious emotional circle from which Amory’s successors in Fitzgerald’s work, and Fitzgerald himself, are not to be exempt.

Amory’s “cynical kinship” with Beatrice not only colors all his other early relationships; it is the only valid human relationship he has. His father, Stephen Blaine, is noticeably absent from the boy’s scheme of reference, just as the mother herself remains an “O’Hara.” When Stephen Blaine dies, Amory is diverted by the incongruity of his father’s death with the “remote beauties” of Lake Geneva. What interests him much more than “the final departure of his father from things mundane”—what interests him particularly is the extent of the family fortune his father has left… In Amory’s fantasies of the millions he will inherit, and in Amory’s disgust when he learns that these millions have evaporated—here is our first glimpse of Fitzgerald’s own curious infatuation with wealth: an infatuation which in Amory’s case comes almost to supplant his affection for Beatrice.

There are few family ties which can restrain Amory’s appetite for glamour, for drama, and for riches. Similarly, there is little feeling, among all these allusions to European resorts, of a native countryside—or a country—to which Amory belongs. Minneapolis, whither he repairs after one of Beatrice’s breakdowns that “bore a suspicious resemblance to delirium tremens,” is notable chiefly for “the crude vulgar air of Western civilization.” While the East, for the infant expatriate, has become chiefly a haven for aliens. At Princeton Amory early notices—and quickly dispenses with—a Jewish youth whose temperament is contrasted with that of truer Princeton-ians. And the “tiresome” First World War brings Amory into unpleasant contact with the new Americans. His “spirit of crisis” soon changes into one of repulsion, surrounded as he is by these Greeks and Russians-He thought how much easier patriotism would have been to a homogeneous race, how much easier it would have been to fight as the Colonies fought, or as the Confederacy fought. And he did no sleeping that night, but listened to the aliens guffaw and snore while they filled the car with the heavy scent of latest America.

Yet behind all of Amory’s pretense and prejudice—this glittering adolescent surface so narrow in scope and restricted in its values—there are sometimes the more strident accents of a midwestern boyhood, just as a harsher truth—and still perhaps that of childhood—will underlie Fitzgerald’s own pretenses in the work to follow This Side of Paradise.

Is it curious that a “vision of horror” should follow hard on the death of Amory’s father?—this father who has been a rather unpresentable wraith in the boy’s earlier history, and whose demise had seemed so tactless amidst the Swiss beauties? By now such “visions” have become familiar to Amory Blaine. The death of a college friend who has been killed in an auto accident also haunts him. Like something from a misty tragedy played far behind the veil, and yet, he feels, inexpressibly horrible, “like blood on satin,” the scene returns to his consciousness. Out on a Broadway spree, Amory is forced to leave his party: the laughter, the liquor, the girls—his partner’s “sidelong suggestive smile”—repel him. On the train for Princeton, the presence of a “painted woman” across the aisle fills him with nausea. There is a strong sexual coloring, of course, to these fits of revulsion—a revulsion that had seized the early Amory on the occasion of his first young kiss: “disgust, loathing for the whole incident.”

Yet this is an “incident” toward which Amory’s whole life—his sense of drama and charm, his pretense and prejudice alike, his entire education and his inclination—has been directed. And the underlying ambivalence of This Side of Paradise is brought to a focus, just two years later, in Fitzgerald’s second novel. [Flappers and Philosophers, in 1920, a collection o? lighter commercial tales, is interesting chiefly for the light it throws on Fitzgerald’s own idiosyncrasies, and also, in such “fantasies” as “The Off-Shore Pirate,” on the popular notion of the Jazz Age.]

Less generally remembered today, and without the elements of popular appeal that marked This Side of Paradise, The Beautiful and Damned is by all odds a better work. Wealth is still the central aspiration, or obsession, of Scott’s second novel: the new hero, Anthony Patch, seems to be merely a later Amory Blaine. Yet the continuation of Amory’s story is so much better here, the qualitative difference is so marked, that it is no longer quite the same story. Even more than Amory, Anthony Patch is the product of enfabled luxury. His father dies in the best hotel in Lucerne. This time the departure of his parent from things mundane is accepted less casually by Scott’s exotic child:

In a panic of despair and terror, Anthony was brought back to America, wedded to a vague melancholy that was to stay beside him through the rest of his life… At eleven he had a horror of death… To Anthony, life was a struggle against death, that waited at every corner.

Oddly enough, however, Fitzgerald transfers Amory’s earlier feelings about his father to Anthony’s feelings about his grandfather. Old Adam Patch is a robber baron of such magnitude that “the men in the republic whose souls he could not have bought … would scarcely have populated White Plains.” Adam is the source of Anthony’s presence in society and of his future expectations, and again the boy, considering his grandfather as—literally—a precious nuisance, “had hoped to find the old man dead.” But finding Adam in good health instead, he manages to conceal his irritation. Some golden day, Anthony tells himself, he would have Adam’s millions. “Meanwhile he possessed a raison d’etre in the theoretical creation of essays on the popes of the Renaissance.”

A theoretical creation: for while Anthony does eventually publish a piece in The Florentine, primarily he does nothing—and “manages to divert himself with more than average content.” (To divert oneself is still the ambition of Fitzgerald’s heroes.) If one, moreover, reads a chapter of Erewhon, takes a bath (Scott’s young men take many baths) , chatters about luscious debutantes with Richard Caramel and Maury Noble, has an egg-nogg at five—and if, more soberly, one goes once a week to one’s broker and twice to one’s tailor—it is still possible to achieve this ambition.

Richard Caramel represents the intellectual pursuits in The Beautiful and Damned; through him we get Fitzgerald’s view of his own profession—a view that extends from Amory Blaine’s aversion to the “birds” at Princeton to the odious philosopher of Flappers and Philosophers. Both Anthony and Maury Noble are obviously superior to Caramel; he feels it and they admit it. Poor Caramel, whose increasingly vapid literary career shows the futility of all serious work, is in fact a perfect stooge for Maury’s “divine inertia”—behind which lies a surprising maturity of purpose: “to become immensely rich as quickly as possible.” And as Anthony dines and shops and gossips with these familiar Princeton boys—who are however no longer quite boys—one notices that even the intense and impossible love affairs of This Side of Paradise have receded from the horizon, Anthony does have a mildly diverting flirtation with his Geraldine—a “little usher from Keith’s”—a “woman of another class.” But strange as it may seem, Anthony tells Maury, “so far as I’m concerned, and even so far as I know, Geraldine is a paragon of virtue.”

What is stranger perhaps in these opening pages of The Beautiful and Damned, is the extent to which Scott’s hero has withdrawn from even that limited contact with experience which Princeton had given him. Anthony’s distaste for the American scene around him has increased. Now the United States almost seems to be personified in the figure of Adam Patch; a grotesque, disagreeable figure who provides Anthony with the means to forget his origins. These American leaders are “little men … who by mediocrity had thought to emerge from mediocrity into the lustreless and unromantic heaven of a government by the people.” Has the Gettysburg talk taken an interesting modern turn? When, moreover, in a fascinating episode of The Beautiful and Damned, Gloria Gilbert identifies herself with the American middle class— this class (to Scott the word is synonymous with caste) with its “brummagem” clothes and its brummagem manners—Anthony is appalled by such “blasphemy from the mouth of a child.” And as for the lower orders of American society: why does poor Caramel, in order to prepare his new book on the slums, insist on mucking around with those “bewildered Italians”—those aliens, the debris of Europe, who keep on arriving, and all “with the same wrongs, the same exceptionally ugly faces and very much the same smells”?

Yet Anthony Patch’s career, which starts out so enchantingly, soon begins to deteriorate. And his eventual marriage to Gloria Gilbert, the glamorous “speed” of Amory Blaine’s youth, but one who is no longer going around with “first-rate men,” is the marriage of the now anguished egoist with the now distraught narcissist. For Gloria— this “Nordic Ganymede” with her Gum Drops—i” Fitzgerald’s full-length flapper, and through Gloria Fitzgerald portrays the true quality of his typical heroine: her impatience with men and her vanity “that was almost masculine,” her beautiful and immaculate body that is incapable of passion and can hardly tolerate physical contact; the gum drops, indeed, that she must chew to avoid chewing her nails; and by contrast the cool perfection of her brow. “No love was there, sure; nor the imprint of any love.”

However, as Anthony traces each developing “wrongness in the case” of the Jazz-Age Baby (this is skillfully done in the novel, and here Fitzgerald first uses a Henry Jamesian technic), the unraveling of Gloria’s temperament leads him in turn to a parallel realization of his own imperfections. Fitzgerald’s mythological reference is apt: and clinging to this shining, hard, dominant Ganymede—a cup-bearer to strange gods—Anthony Patch himself takes on the role of the volatile, uneasy, and even perhaps betrayed, un-Nordic woman.

But then, “betrayed” by what insatiable demands of his own temperament? Fitzgerald is aware of this too, but records it only partially and imperfectly. Meanwhile, Anthony’s “erotic sensibilities,” which have remained calm before his little Geraldine’s eager compliance, are stirred by Gloria’s inaccessible coldness. And this desire is matched by a passion “to possess her triumphant soul”—to humble her, that is: to break her.

Now the narcissism of these two becomes more pronounced. Were they earlier such ecstatic “twins,” mirrors of each other’s glitter, “stars,” each playing to an audience of two? At this point also, held together by their common weakness while their points of difference become points of friction, they are still “each engaged in polishing and perfecting his own attitude.” Their pathological interdependence becomes more obvious. —“Her arms sweet and strangling were around him.”—Caught up in their obscure and anguished struggle, their accents of defiance toward the outer world grow harsher, their emphasis on self-gratification—and on the “gay and delicate poison” of liquor—grows more violent. “Never give a damn,” Gloria cries. “Not for anything or anybody … except myself and, by implication, for Anthony.”

And soon this “implication” is barely stressed.

While the love affair in The Beautiful and Damned goes downhill, goes into the abyss, Fitzgerald’s earlier superior disdain for the United States undergoes its own change. The history of the republic, Maury Noble tells us in a moment of inner revelation, is the history of a usurping vulgarity—

“We produce a Christ who can raise up the leper—and presently the breed of the leper is the salt of the earth. If any one can find any lesson in that, let him stand forth.”

Again the World War brings into focus the increasing misanthropy of Fitzgerald’s figures. At target practice Anthony recites Atalanta in Calydon to an uncomprehending Pole. As a nurse, Gloria’s martial ardor is dampened by the fact that she may have to treat wounded Negroes. And in the station, parting for battle, the glances of these contemporary patriots stretch across “a hysterical area, foul with yellow sobbing and the smells of poor women.”

Similarly, in the increasingly tortured thoughts of Fitzgerald’s aristocrats, the American “aliens” assume a new perspective. Did Amory Blaine quietly dispense with his Jewish youth at Princeton, and the earlier Anthony Patch briefly note the Jewish men “with their fatuous glances and tight suits”? The later Anthony perceives that these people are becoming at once the maggots and the rulers of “his” country. New York, he feels, can no longer be disassociated from the slow upward creep of this race, “slathering out on all sides.” Gloria’s friend Bloeckman, the movie magnate who gains wealth and power, takes on respectability, style, and changes his name to Black, comes to stand for the race. In a final scene, Anthony, drunk and despairing, voices his accumulated bitterness: “Not so fas’, you Goddam Jew—” The profound sexual frigidity of Gloria herself—as it becomes quite clear in her thoughts about bearing children: “Motherhood was also the privilege of female baboons”—extends moreover to the whole concept of fertility, and to these immigrants as the product of a conspicuous fertility.

“Millions of people, swarming like rats, chattering like apes, smelling like all hell … monkeys! … For one really exquisite palace I’d sacrifice all of them.”

And the rest of the Patches” story in The Beautiful and Damned is not difficult to anticipate.

There are the continual quarrels that leave Anthony feeling like “a scarcely tolerated guest” in his own home, and Gloria openly contemptuous of a husband who is “an utter coward” about the phantasms of his own imagination. There are the parties which these two modern lovers fall back upon, as, losing the last traces of concern for one another, each is more surely tied to the other by a common guilt, a common sense of ruin. —These drunken parties, lasting for days, attended by a shifting stream of friends, acquaintances, and finally strangers, which the Patches endure “as they endured all things, even themselves”—which they awake from, nauseated, capable only “of one pervasive emotion—fear,” and to which they are irresistibly drawn back.

It is interesting to notice, incidentally, that during the maddest of these brawls, Gloria remains “faithful,” though “freshly tinted and lustful of admiration.” And while Fitzgerald strips in the songs—

I left my blushing bride
She went and shook herself insane
So let her shiver back again

and:

The pan-ic has come over us
So ha-a-s the moral decline

—with this Jazz Age chorus of dissolution, and with the familiar sense of horror that has come, toward the closing pages of The Beautiful and Damned, to settle and spread over the Patches” unique and sparkling love, we reach the end of Scott Fitzgerald’s Jazz Age romance.

What a curious romance it is—these two figures favored above all others (in their thoughts certainly, but in fact too) who seek each other above all else, and can barely tolerate each other; and make their love an absolute, and are incapable of love … And if Fitzgerald’s second novel is marked by a gain in the writer’s comprehension of his theme, in a way it is a rather curious gain. The Jazz Age figures in The Beautiful and Damned are so clearly the projection of those in Fitzgerald’s earlier work, and Fitzgerald sees them so clearly now—it is as though he had quite understood the implications of his material from the start. This maturing step in Scott’s craft carries him rather too swiftly across the line of maturity, just as the earlier Amory Blaine and the Eleanor of Romilly County abruptly cross the abyss between youth and age. Where This Side of Paradise marked the first brilliant flaring of Scott’s talent. The Beautiful and Damned is in some respects the sputtering-away of the bright flame. The two brief years which have elapsed between the two novels appear to have encompassed two decades of bitter experience: an experience that has no sufficient counterpart in the external facts of the writer’s life over this period. [Arthur Mizener’s essay on Fitzgerald in The Sewanee Review, Winter, 1946, has noticed this quality in Fitzgerald’s second novel and is in general very sensitive to the emotional undertones of Fitzgerald’s writing.]

For with Anthony Patch’s perception of Gloria’s true nature, the Fitzgerald hero is brought almost to the last reaches of disintegration—indeed the conviction takes root in Anthony’s mind that he will go mad.

It was as though there were a quantity of dark yet vivid personalities in his mind, some of them familiar, some of them strange and terrible, held in check by a little monitor.

The “monitor” has of course been Anthony’s image of Gloria Gilbert as an absolute ideal to which he can dedicate himself: this absolute and impossible ideal which he has used to shield his own temperament from himself—this image of perfection which has been, as he now realizes, “the chief jailor of his insufficiency.” But now the monitor, the jailor, has deserted its post; and Anthony has become “a confused spectre, moving in odd crannies of his own mind”—

Indeed he seldom made decisions at all, and when he did they were but half-hysterical resolves formed with the panic of some aghast and irreparable awakening…

It is interesting, too, how both the cultural and the more purely personal elements of this rather intricate artistic pattern seem to groove into each other. For a writer who disdained any contact with his own society, and in point of fact had too little, Fitzgerald’s opening accent on entertainment—these girls, yachts, dances, and parties—was not inappropriate to the post-war decade of the early nineteen-twenties. This stress on Flaming Youth was the reflection of a generation that had seen its own youth threatened or consumed by flame; a generation that, in whatever new style it may choose, we are likely to meet again in the nineteen-forties.

But the concept of an irresponsible individualism was also the Jazz Age’s heritage from the Gilded Age. It was, in its origins, the moral, or immoral, bequest of a new American money society to its children in the second and third generations, just as the nineteen-twenties capped the entire historical cycle from 1860 on, and most sharply illuminated its meaning. And Fitzgerald’s accent on youth is also the reflection of a wider cultural background—pioneer and pragmatic, in the forests and in the factories— which has always prized efficiency above sobriety and the effective above the reflective: a society which itself has sometimes believed that maturity is the infinite extension of adolescence. We have noticed how limited a view of youth Fitzgerald shares with his people—and how limited a notion of pleasure these pure pleasure seekers display, their life being centered around their libido, and their libido centered around their lips. The refinements of sensuous excitation in the European tradition, from Sade, say, to the Symbolists, are certainly absent from the American version of the life of the senses.

It should be apparent, too, what a particularly American notion Fitzgerald has of a ruling class without a sense of responsibility for, or even a curiosity about, the country that has furnished the sources of its power. To be sure, he is dealing chiefly with the third generation. He is writing a sort of postscript to the Great American Fortunes: he is recording the history of this class as it may occur to a Tommy Manville rather than a Jay Gould… And in some respects one may prefer the crude American ancestors to their cosmopolitan heirs, because a will to power is more diverting, at least, than a whim for pleasure; and maybe a thoroughly bad character is preferable to no character at all. (Although it is amusing to notice what miracles of persistence and ingenuity are accomplished by Fitzgerald’s figures in their attempts to get money without earning it.)

And thus accepting all the benefits of their social status without a notion of their status in society, Fitzgerald’s young men are no longer even “wild.” They have lost their initial and rather circumscribed flair for adventure. Like the early heroes of John Dos Passes, they are eminently respectable dilettantes, as nerveless as their grandfathers were nervy. You might say that in some curious form of sociological compensation, the descendents of a financial oligarchy that dealt only with the harsher modes of reality—survival, cunning, force—have lost all contact with reality.

But have they … quite? In the dialectic of Fitzgerald’s evolution, the “thesis” of glamour has its antithesis in the accompanying sense of horror that is always in the background of his work. We shall see how the whole glittering post-war tableau which Fitzgerald has unveiled in the pages of This Side of Paradise and The Beautiful and Damned—how this whole lucent panorama from caviar to yachts springs in large part from a darker search for deception. “I want you to lie to me,” the Fitzgerald female will cry—“for the rest of my life.” And the Fitzgerald male will echo this feverish demand for illusion. “His was a great sin who first invented consciousness.”

The obsessive nature of the enchantment emerges, in fact, as the dominant theme of The Beautiful and Damned. (I need hardly mention how the title itself marks this; Scott’s titles, usually revealing, are often among the best in our language.) In the forced and rather confused ending of Fitzgerald’s second novel, moreover, it may seem that the destructive element has actually broken through the polished surface which has hitherto served as its mask.

In the writer’s work over the next decade you will see the continuation of his search and the more hesitant and reluctant attempt to unfold that counter theme of “some aghast and irreparable awakening.”

3. To West Egg

Published in the same year as The Beautiful and Damned, 1922, Tales of the Jazz Age contained two notable stories. [The Tales as a whole are thinner and more popularized than those of Flappers and Philosophers, more extreme in their accents of vanity and material arrogance, and in their underlying note of abasement. It is interesting to notice Fitzgerald’s stress on youth and on sterility (see his ode to the children of the rich in “O Russet Witch”). And also on a special sense of magnificence in life, accompanied by a special sense of disaster, or retribution, as in “The Lees of Happiness,” a tale which, as he says, came to him “in an irresistible form, crying to be written.”]

The first of these, “May Day,” almost summarizes, in sixty pages, the drama of the post-war decade. In “the great city of the conquering people,” with its triumphal arches and jeweled women, the Yale Men, props of a new American aristocracy, serene in their soft woolen socks and yellow pongee shirts, lunch together “en masse.” (Whitman’s democratic phrase has suffered from an odd dislocation in the modern text.) Warm with liquor as the afternoon begins, the aristocrats gossip: Are narrow ties coming back? There never was a collar like the Covington. —In the Gamma Psi party they scent the fragrance of a fashionable dance—exciting, sweet—and their stimulation is carried over to Fitzgerald’s girls—such as Edith Bradin, thinking of her own shoulders, eyes, lips. “She had never felt her own softness so much nor so enjoyed the whiteness of her own arms. “I smell sweet … I’m made for love.” “

Indeed, in the concentration of “May Day,” Fitzgerald has almost turned the paraphernalia of adolescence into the trappings of empire. The description of the Gamma Psi dance is remarkable. But this American undergraduate dominion, hardly established, is already trembling. The turbulent scene of 1919, the scene of Barbusse and Dos Passos, has reverberations even here. Edith’s brother is a Socialist Avho pours “the latest cures for incurable evils into the columns of a radical weekly newspaper.” Outside of Delmonico’s the mob is gathering while “a gesticulating little Jew with long black whiskers” (Trotsky, no doubt) delivers a revolutionary harangue. Two drunken, clownish soldiers, who accidentally become involved with the polished intricacies of the Gamma Psi dance, are the liaison-officers between these two worlds.

Or rather perhaps, in Fitzgerald’s eyes, they are some sort of missing link—ugly, ill-nourished “devoid of all except the lowest form of intelligence.”

The entire mental pabulum of these two men consisted of an offended nasal comment extended through the years upon the institution—army, business, or poor-house—which kept them alive.

To heighten the deft splendor of his dancing collegiates, what better contrast can the writer find than these two boorish representatives of the people cavorting in the back-pantry of Delmonico’s? Here the fraternity life is more elaborate and placed still further outside the currents of ordinary American life: an “ordinary” life that in turn, exemplified as it is by the aliens and radicals outside of Delmonico’s, seems even more rabid or vulgar… Yet it is interesting that Fitzgerald should assign to one of these common soldiers—Carrol Key—the proudest part of his own name, and the central figure of “May Day” is again not in the inner circle. [The heroes of a series of Fitzgerald’s short stories—the “outlaw” Daly-rimple of “Dalyrimple Goes Wrong,” the “buccaneer” Carlyle of “The Offshore Pirate,” the Jim Powell of “The Jelly Bean,” who is “a running mate of poor whites”—are all outsiders who resort to illegal means of achieving wealth and social position.] Fitzgerald’s Gordon Sterrett is the exile of Gamma Psi. The urim and thummim of the elite are viewed by the outcast, the children of the rich are richer and more childlike; it is through Gordon’s feverish and importunate eyes that “May Day” achieves its special quality. In Fitzgerald’s next tale, moreover, the split in the writer’s point of view widens, and reaches a point of tension.

The tale was designed, Fitzgerald says, utterly for his own amusement, and certainly “The Diamond as Big as the Ritz” begins as such. The Washingtons” mansion, perched on a diamond mountain in the Rockies, and first seen beneath a sunset like a gigantic bruise, “from which dark arteries spread themselves over a poisoned sky”: this fantastic property claims luxury enough to satisfy the most insatiate child of our century. This is an “exquisite chateau” indeed—with its halls of marble, its furs and jewels and faint acciaccatura sound of violins, and silky Russian wolfhounds and many-hued cordials, and its darkies ignorant of the Emancipation and delighted with their lot. This is a Kubla Khan of modern materialism complete with automatic baths and pneumatic lifts, barbed-wire fortifications, anti-aircraft guns, and practically painless lethal chambers.

The point is that the Fitz-Norman Culpeper Washing-tons, who are direct descendants of George Washington and Lord Baltimore (as Fitzgerald has linked his name with the vulgarest representative of the people in “May Day,” he suggests here an association with the extremes of moneyed aristocracy)—the Fitz-Norman Washingtons have cut themselves off from all outside contact in order to preserve their diamond mountain. They have corrupted their government to keep their land. They have turned the clock back to keep their slaves. They have had to “liquidate” their unwitting guests and the more indiscreet members of their own family: pinned to the altar of their wealth, they have had to become inhuman. In his hour of extremity, and in the general tradition of the Robber Barons, the last of this line, Braddock Washington, tries to bargain with the Lord Himself.

Yes, “The Diamond as Big as the Ritz” may start as a fantasy of extravagant luxury, but it soon becomes a fascinating parable of the American propertied class. The symbolism is curious, too, towards the end of the story, when this apostolic seat of divine fortunes is discovered by some jeering, plebeian aviators. (Again Fitzgerald telescopes two social spheres.) As the “exquisite chateau” yields to the exigencies of change, and is blown to bits by its owner’s hand, Kismine, alone of the Washingtons to escape, snatches a handful of diamonds to carry her along in the outside world. Only they turn out to be rhine-stones.

The parable is all the more interesting because one can hardly tell to what degree it is deliberate. While the Fitzgerald figure moves steadily away in fact from his vision of wealth, and becomes more clearly the outsider and outcast in the Jazz Age, he clings to the vision even more avidly in fancy. As the vision becomes more plainly a delusion, the delusion becomes precious… John Unger, who is Fitzgerald’s condemned visitor to the Washington’s estate, is freed by its destruction to return home to liis middle-western town of “Hades.” But he returns to the sunless abode of the ghosts of the dead with little evidence of exhilaration. Perhaps love is a form of divine drunkenness, John tells Kismine, and youth is a form of chemical madness—but “How pleasant then to be insane!” For—

“There are only diamonds in the whole world, diamonds and perhaps the shabby gift of disillusion… His was a great sin who first invented consciousness.”

Has John Unger forgotten, then, at the close of “The Diamond as Big as the Ritz,” has he—after his sojourn in the doomed chateau—forgotten the lights of Hades, U.S.A., which for a moment at the story’s opening, seemed to burn against the western sky, “full of a warm and passionate beauty”?

There is little that is warm or passionate, at any rate, in Fitzgerald’s 1923 “comedy,” The Vegetable—or From President to Postman. As you might guess, the play is a take-off on American politics in terms which may suggest the later Kaufman-Ryskind musical, Of Thee I Sing. Like Wintergreen, the Jerry Frost of Scott’s play is a typical citizen snatched from his native haunts in order to be made our Chief Executive. “Did you ever—did you ever have any ambition to be President?” Jerry asks his brother-in-law, Mr. Fish, who is incidentally an “undertaker from Idaho.” “Of a company?” asks Mr. Fish, thus presenting the conditioned reflex of the nineteen-twenties. And while Mr. Fish becomes Senator Fish (“That’s where you get the real graft.”) and the U.S. Treasury becomes a sort of private checking account for the President and his Pals (Fitzgerald’s personal fantasy here is the fantasy of his period too)—the rest of the play elaborates this thesis.

The political material in The Vegetable certainly has possibilities for satire. There is a scene on the Supreme Court (led by Judge Fossile) that also foreshadows a section of /n all Countries by Dos Passos, reporting on American justice a decade later. But Fitzgerald’s little comedy too clearly shows his own bias. He is not at all concerned, as Dos Passos is, with the human implications of our cultural patterns. He represents merely the distaste of the moneyed elite for the bourgeois makers of money. Again accepting, and in fact clutching after the spoils, he regards the victors with contempt. His satire of the golden calf is directed against the owners of the herd, not against the animal… The Vegetable shows up the complete identification of diplomacy with dollars in the political reign—I should say, the interregnum—of Harding and Coolidge. But the value of the play derives from the fact that Fitzgerald himself so perfectly and unconsciously illustrates the national trait he is attacking.

With what, furthermore, does the writer contrast the ignorance and avarice of the political bosses in the nine-teen-twenties, whom he sees through his own curiously ignorant and avaricious eyes? Jerry Frost—this average citizen who is projected into the climactic American dream of parking his toothbrush at the White House—has a salary of three thousand a year and a wife, “Charl-it,” whose attractions “have declined ninety per cent since her marriage.” Just as Jerry’s salary represents the financial lower depths to Fitzgerald, and Jerry’s wife is a relic of American love, so his father, “Dada,” is too old even—

for the petty spites which represent to the aged the single gesture of vitality they can make against the ever-increasing pressure of life and youth.

This is, so to speak, parenthood in a democracy. Charlit’s sister Doris, “who knows a few girls who know a few girls who are social leaders,” is a member of that portion of the middle class whose single ambition, like that of Scott’s shop girls in “May Day,” is to ape the aristocracy—though again Scott’s contention is not that they shouldn’t, but that they can’t.

And to descend this American social scale from the low to the lowest, Fitzgerald presents, in Mr. Snooks the bootlegger—who looks like “a race-track sport who has fallen into a pool of mud,” but whose behavior indicates that Scott has never talked with these enterprising middlemen of the Jazz Age—in Mr. Snooks, Fitzgerald presents the American proletarian or criminal class.

This is a far reach from another racketeer, James Gatz of North Dakota: in the serenity of The Great Gatshy, two years later in 1925, the writer achieves a remarkable resolution of these earlier and acrid opinions. While the little play outlines the juvenile and weak Fitzgerald, the novel prefigures the eloquent and mature Fitzgerald. Thus the wonderful opening passages of the novel—the lyric passages on New York in early summer, when nature is doing her chores all over again but in a manner that is just a little hurried and self-conscious, the leaves bursting forth on the trees “just as they grow in fast movies”—almost come as something of a shock.

At the Buchanans” Long Island “Georgian Colonial mansion” which is framed by a half-acre of deep, pungent roses, Tom Buchanan, the former Yale football hero, powerful, cruel, arrogant—“one of those men who reach such an acute limited excellence at twenty-one that everything afterward savors of anti-climax”—is a little artificial and feverish, too. There is an opening tableau. The “enormous couch,” the two women in their fluttering white dresses: Daisy Buchanan, with her wealth, the “singing compulsion” of her voice, and her impersonal eyes “in the absence of all desire”; and Jordan Baker, motionless on the divan, with her chin raised a little “as if she were balancing something on it which was quite likely to fall”—this characteristic gesture which Jordan will resume at the close of The Great Gatshy though, indeed, whatever she has been balancing has fallen. While outside the Buchanans” place, just across the way, but in West Egg, Gatsby himself, who has met Daisy so many years before, and fallen in love, and built his life around the vision of Daisy’s elegance—outside, at night, Gatsby watches the green light on the Buchanans” pier.

In a way this is all familiar, of course. The enormous couch is the one which Amory Blaine viewed as the stage for many an emotional act, and which Fitzgerald himself has used for the central drama of the Jazz Age. But just as the couch has changed its psychological dimensions and has become the center of a more sober scene, and is even faintly suggestive of a quainter, pre-jazz age when ladies more innocently reclined, so this typical Fitzgerald world has changed in all its dimensions. Daisy and Tom Buchanan, who drift from Hot Springs to Palm Beach or to “wherever people played polo and were rich together,” are certainly the Anthony Patches of The Beautiful and Damned or the Jeffrey Curtains of “The Lees of Happiness.” [What Fitzgerald has done technically in The Great Gatsby is to bring over the tight, well-knit, and sometimes trick patterns of his short stories to the irregular and broken novel form which he has been using in This Side of Paradise and The Beautiful and Damned. So every symbol and almost every detail here is meticulously plotted, and usually balanced off later on in the story. In fact, Gatsby was probably the most perfect example of a planned novel in our modern tradition up to this point— planned, I mean, in this mathematical sense of a Bach concerto—though The Sun Also Rises, a year later, was to match it and The Sound and the Fury, in 1929, was to outdo it.] Yet why does Fitzgerald’s narrator almost immediately notice the “basic insincerity” of Daisy’s warm and thrilling voice, and the fact that her sad and lovely face with such bright things in it seems suddenly to carry “an absolute smirk”? Tom Buchanan, too, with all the elaborate and aristocratic luggage of “May Day,” is the Yale man in retrograde, and one who now displays a polished distemper that is a step—an irrevocable step, however—beyond Anthony Patch’s anguished outbursts. Where Anthony had pinned his misery on the “aliens,” Tom argues the necessity for a “dominant race.” Something, Fitzgerald adds, was making him “nibble at the edge of stale ideas, as if his sturdy physical egotism no longer nourished his peremptory heart.”

Directly after these opening scenes of Gatsby, filled as they are with such promise and splendor and disturbing as they are in their undertones, we are introduced, about halfway between East Egg and New York, to Fitzgerald’s “valley of ashes.” And with this desolate and quite literal waste-land which rims the Buchanans” mansion, and over which brood, from an advertising billboard, the immense and vacant eyes of Doctor T. J. Eckleburg, Oculist—the stage is set for the final tragedy of the novel.

The feeling at once of intimacy and of distance that one has in reading The Great Gatsby is due simply to the fact that while Fitzgerald has used all the elements of his hitherto dominant literary pattern, he has broken the pattern and regrouped the elements. So the Buchanans, who are Scott’s modern American aristocrats—the elite whom Amory Blaine’s every breath was drawn in tribute to, and every talent exercised in pursuit of—are now seen in a sharper, less favorable light. It is in this shifting focus of Fitzgerald’s values that James Gatz of North Dakota assumes his importance—this obscure western adolescent whose first glimpse of life came on the millionaire Cody’s yacht, whose first glimpse of Daisy crystallized this childhood vision, and who, raising his empire of “drug stores,” transforming himself into the mysterious Jay Gatsby— rather as Bloeckman had into Black—now attempts not merely to recapture the past in his imagination but to make it repeat itself in actuality. “I’m going to fix everything just the way it was before.”

Gatsby’s is again an apparently typical design in the writer’s work. The early dread of poverty and renunciation of his own origins and family, since “his imagination had never really accepted them as parents at all”; the search for an elegance that is epitomized, as in “The Off-Shore Pirate,” by the linked symbols of the yacht and the girl; the fantastic Oxford background that Gatsby claims; the “universe of ineffable gaudiness” that he sets up and his deep, mono-maniacal drive to make the future—at any rate—work; the sense of “complete isolation,” finally, that surrounds Gatsby in the midst of his prodigious parties (“but no one swooned backward on Gatsby, and no French bob touched Gatsby’s shoulder”)—all these are familiar symptoms. “Through all he said,” Scott’s narrator tells us, “I was reminded of something—an elusive rhythm, a fragment of lost words, that I had heard somewhere a long time ago.” Indeed Nick Carraway should remember this, while step by step, at first out of curiosity and amusement, then with a growing concern, he retraces the life of James Gatz. —And his own. For it is Nick’s increasing sympathy with Gatsby that brings about his sharpened perception of that aristocratic world toward which Gatsby’s lifetime of devotion has been directed. Are Gatsby’s parties, like his entire establishment, an appalling display of a “vast, vulgar and meretricious beauty?” Are the sight-seeing East Eggers, who are drawn to these parties nevertheless, offended by the raw vigor of West Egg, by the fate of its inhabitants herded along “a short cut from nothing to nothing”? The names of the two towns suggest more than a topographical proximity. Then there are Gatsby’s too transparent fictions. “What part of the middle west do you come from?” “San Francisco, old chap.” “I see.” Yet these fictions, and the urgent and desperate conviction behind them—are they really very different from those of Jordan Baker, the socialite golf champion who has also begun dealing in subterfuge because she can’t stand being at a disadvantage? In a remarkable aside, interesting in itself but particularly so for the advocate of Amory Blaine and Anthony Patch, Fitzgerald adds: “It occurred to me that there was no difference between men, in intelligence or race, so profound as the difference between the sick and the well.”

And which are the sick? Tom Buchanan finally beats down Gatsby’s ignorant and impossible dream; but does his “impassioned gibberish” really mark a triumph of the aristocratic code over the vulgarity of the arriviste? The drama of The Great Gatsby moves toward a crescendo. Daisy, driving Gatsby’s car, kills Myrtle Wilson by accident or intention. Gatsby assumes the blame, and Daisy and Tom Buchanan allow him to. Nick Carraway watches as these two East Eggers are brought together in a bond of common weakness, as Daisy makes her decision to return to her own orbit, “fresh and breathing and redolent of this year’s shining motor-cars and of dances whose flowers were scarcely withered.” And when Gatsby, betrayed, becomes even more urgently aware of “the youth and mystery that wealth imprisons and preserves,” of Daisy gleaming like silver, “safe and proud above the hot struggles of the poor,” Nick makes the whole issue explicit. “They’re a rotten crowd… You’re worth the whole damn bunch put together.”

What Nick Carraway is “reminded of in this story, of course, is the fact that Fitzgerald is working out an underlying but hitherto submerged or “recessive” thesis in his own work. Jay Gatsby himself is the full projection of those previous adventurers, like Jim Powell, Carlyle, and Dalyrimple, who go beyond the conventions in their single-minded emphasis on the conventional life of luxury. And there is little doubt that The Great Gatsby as a whole is a response to a major strain in Fitzgerald’s temperament— the strain of the outsider, the strain of the “unadjustable boy” who hurried down corridors at St. Regis, jeered at by his rabid contemporaries, mad with common sense”— the strain of “May Day” and Gordon Sterrett, the outcast of Gamma Psi. The dissident notes in Amory Blaine’s own slavish emulation of the elite have given Fitzgerald’s work timbre when it seemed hollowest; here the writer has formed the counterpoint that has been hitherto implicit. In the tale of Jay Gatsby and the East Eggers Fitzgerald has clarified both the goal of Gatsby’s struggle and the nature of the struggle itself.

But notice that Gatsby is also a new social character-one who has no proper education and not the slightest pretense to breeding, who never grew up in Geneva and never went to Yale; whose only clubs are “trade associations,” whose clothes are primary rather than pastel, and whose method of conversational approach ranges from “chum” to “old chap.” Gatsby is diametrically opposed to all of Fitzgerald’s handsome, luxurious, and cultivated young men, and the first of the major figures to flaunt such handicaps. For F. Scott Fitzgerald, in fact, for this prime Muse of the Jazz Age, James Gatz of North Dakota—granting the inevitable exception of his millions—is almost the equivalent of a proletarian protagonist. Yet, as the Great Gatsby, he is more than a class symbol. He is a sort of cultural hero, and the story of Gatsby’s illusion is the story of an age’s illusion, too. The bare outlines of his career—the upward struggle from poverty and ignorance; the naive aspirations toward refinement and the primal, ruthless energy of these aspirations; the fixation of this provincial soul upon a childlike notion of beauty and grace and the reliance upon material power as the single method of satisfying his searching and inarticulate spirit—these are surely the elements of a dominant cultural legend in its purest, most sympathetic form. And through a consummate choice of detail Fitzgerald has made the legend live. Gauche, ridiculous, and touching as James Gatz is, he is surely our native adolescent, raised on the western reverberations of Vanderbilt and Gould, entering a new world full of shining secrets “that only Midas and Morgan and Maecenas knew”—a barefoot boy in the land of steel, and even, in a rather deeper sense, a cousin, say, of Huck Finn, but now drifting in the eddies and backwaters of the Long Island So-ind. Whatever there is of permanence in The Great Gatsby derives from the fact that here, by one of those fortunate coincidences which form the record of artistic achievement, the deepest inner convictions of the writer have met with and matched those of his time and place. The “illusive rhythm, the fragment of lost words” that Nick Carraway tries to recall are the rhythm and words of an American myth. “But they made no sound, and what I had almost remembered was uncommunicable forever.”

So, too, in Nick Carraway—the cautious observer on the fringe of the conflict of East Eggers and West Eggers, the sober “narrator of the tale”—Fitzgerald expresses a kind of farewell to Gatsby’s illusion and his own. Perhaps it is worth noticing that it is the same crude, vulgar air of Western civilization which had once caught Amory Blaine “in his underwear, so to speak,” which now gives Nick his sense of perspective. After all, Nick tells us. The Great Gatsby has been a story of the West. “Tom and Gatsby, Daisy and Jordan and I, were all Westerners, and perhaps we possessed some deficiency in common which made us subtly unadaptable to Eastern life.” And when the story of the West is over and the blue smoke of brittle leaves is in the air and the wind blows the wet laundry stiff on the line, Nick decides “to come back home.” [It is interesting to notice that here the Fitzgerald figure turns to his father for guidance, while in the two previous novels the background of the hero is always “European,” the American hinterland is viewed with scorn, and the dominant parent is, as we have seen, the mother… In terms of craft, I have discussed the technical connections between The Great Gatsby and My Antonia in the passages on Willa Gather’s earlier novel of East and West.]

As you read it, then, the novel seems superbly done. The spell of Fitzgerald’s writing in these passages, the delicate evocation of a story behind the story, are quite stunning. And while the development of the craft is a factor in this, there is also the development of a point of view that makes the craft possible. While Fitzgerald has blocked out the discordant areas in his own temperament and objectified them in terms of the characters and groups of characters who form the novel’s tension, he himself has gained a serenity and perspective that are remarkable for the tormented, inchoate author of This Side of Paradise. And yet, after the novel’s clcsing meditations on time and the past—on “the fresh green breasf of the new world” which had once been offered to Dutch sailors” eyes, and on Gatsby’s dream which had always been behind him, “somewhere back in that vast obscurity beyond the city, where the dark fields of the republic rolled on under the night”:

So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.

--after these lovely dying cadences which bring the novel to its full stop, why do we, all the same, have another and different sense of loss—that this novel, which is so good, could not have been just a little better?…

The Great Gatsby is surely a maturing step in Fitzgerald’s artistic education; it marks a major shift in the writer’s values very much like the one he has showed us in Nick Carraway’s human education—but then where has it fallen short? In spite of the advance which it marks over The Beautiful and Damned, why does the earlier story still stick in our minds, while this one, like Daisy’s perfume, fades? What is the subtle deficiency that the novel shares with its Western characters, and what has gone out of Fitzgerald’s work, for all its gains?

Perhaps you should remember that the geographical and psychological conditions of Nick Carraway’s decision to come back home are fulfilled only in The Last Tycoon of 1941, and then only partially: the western scene that Fitzgerald returns to is not quite Nick’s western scene, the return is not altogether a happy one.

And meanwhile the fifteen years between The Great Gatsby and Fitzgerald’s last novel are years of continuous doubt, of ebbing vitality, of spiritual trauma.

4. Down the Labyrinthine Ways

Rose-colored sables, diamond garters, gold-heeled slippers, brooches, pendants, pearls and all. Rags Martin-Jones, slipping in on the Majestic for a look at New York’s hot spots, is another one of Scott’s glamour girls.

But still engaged in the pursuit of entertainment. Rags is a glamour girl who is rather more decadent than her predecessors and not quite decadent enough to be more interesting. Reminding us of the old Fitzgerald, she serves chiefly as a contrast for the new. While most of the stories in Scott’s third collection, All the Sad ^oung Men, in 1926, continue to center around pleasure, their undertones, like their title, are somewhat lugubrious.

Poverty, for the recent spectator at West Egg, has hardly become more alluring. “The poor go under or go up or go wrong or even go on, somehow, in a way the poor have,” Scott remarks in “The Sensible Thing.” “The Adjuster,” too, opens with the refrains of the epoch Scott loved—

At five o’clock the sombre egg-shaped room at the Ritz ripens to a subtle melody—the light clat-clat of one lump, two lumps, into the cup and the ding of the shining teapots and cream-pots as they kiss elegantly in transit upon a silver tray. There are those who cherish that amber hour above all other hours, for now the pale, pleasant toil of the lilies who inhabit the Ritz is over—the singing decorative part of the day remains.

And yet the passage itself seems to contain the movement of six years in little more than six lines. The elite who now adorn these chambers are altered in texture; the familiar place has unfamiliar accents. The heroine is barely twenty-three years old, to be sure, but she has a home, a husband, a baby—and the jitters. “Don’t you see how bored I am? … I want excitement; and I don’t care what form it takes or what I pay for it, so long as it makes my heait beat.” And though Luella Hemple becomes a model wife and tends her husband through his nervous breakdown, [The heroes of All the Sad Young Men are, generally, studies in masculine defeat. The Anson Hunter of “The Rich Boy,” a later cousin of Anthony Patch and Amory Blaine, takes refuge in a rather sadistic code of honor; while the Fitzgerald figure of “Winter Dreams”—an interesting and crueler version of the Gatsby theme—is ruined by his dream girl (“the most direct and unprincipled personality with which he had ever come in contact”) and must finally surrender even his illusion of the past.] she also becomes a sentimental and unreal figure while, in its labored moral ending, the story shows the uneasy character of all the stories in the volume.

This is the postscript to the Jazz Age. In these tales Fitzgerald has thrown over the thin and shining values of the post-war years; although he still cherishes the lilies who inhabit the Ritz, it is with a sense of their pale and pleasant toil. Still, the accent on “discipline” in these tales, the recourse to suffering, and the acceptance of martyrdom as a norm of behavior, in tones which are reminiscent of the Louisa May Alcott who was ever “duty’s faithful child”—these show quite as clearly the writer’s belief that there is nothing else in life worth living for. The alternative to sheer vanity is apparently sheer torment.[This is also a typical sentiment in the early Hemingway or Elinor Wylie, say, and in the majority of younger writers during :he nineteen-twenties. The causes of it, again, are more complex than the post-war weariness and go directly back to the nature of American life over this period. But, in any case, there is not much evidence here of that buoyancy which, in an earlier American generation, had marked Sherwood Anderson’s surrender to the vicissitudes—“one flood following another”—of ordinary existence, or Willa Gather’s final acceptance of the “mockery and torment and heart-break” of life.] “I’ve got theatre tickets,” Luella Hemple finally admits to her husband, “but I don’t care whether we go.” Luella’s renunciation marks the apex of an adult life for Fitzgerald, and compensates for the lack of any solid relationship between the Hemples, or between them and the “two children” who pop into the story and splice the strands of marital felicity.

There are homes, there are marriages, there are children in the tales of All the Sad Young Men. The hero of “The Baby Party” examines his young daughter carefully “as a definite piece of youth” before turning her back to her nurse. In much the same fashion Fitzgerald now examines the pieces of maturity. And in this context of shifting values, it is not surprising that Fitzgerald should revert to a religious theme which has had its persistent undertones in his work. “Absolution” is interesting for its view of another youthful hero. Rudolph Miller is “a beautiful, intense boy of eleven” whose eyes “like blue stones” may recall Amory’s, “green as emeralds.” (And by and large the Fitzgerald irises are ornamental as well as optical.) Of all the sad young men, Rudolph is perhaps the only one to achieve real stature—he is the saddest and youngest—but his method of achieving it is odd.

He is already absorbed in sex and in sin; he belongs to those, as Fitzgerald says, “who habitually and instinctively lie”; at confession he accuses himself of “not believing I was the son of my parents.” Right in the Fitzgerald grain, Rudolph has also presented himself with a more suitable and soniferous name; in this case it is Blatchford Sarnem-ington. “When he became Blatchford ... a suave nobility flowed from him. Blatchford lived in great sweeping triumphs.” And “Absolution” concerns itself with the curious relations of Blatchford Sarnemington and God— a God whom Rudolph deliberately tricks and who, recognizing Rudolph’s talent for deception, retaliates by ignoring him…

An invisible line had been crossed, and he had become aware of his isolation—aware that it applied not only to those moments when he was Blatchford Sarnemington but that it applied to all his inner life. Hitherto such phenomena as “crazy” ambitions and petty shames had been but private reservations, unacknowledged before the throne of his official soul. Now he realized unconsciously that his private reservations were himself—and all the rest a garnished front and a conventional flag.

These “private reservations” are to form the core of the boy’s life henceforth… He gains power by the realization of his isolation. He tells himself that “there was something ineffably gorgeous somewhere that had nothing to do with God” and that indeed God must understand that he, Rudolph, has sinned, ultimately, for the greater glory of God—“to make things finer in the confessional, brightening up the dinginess of his admissions by saying a thing radiant and proud.”—All the same, when Scott’s hero walks back to his pew, “the sharp tap of his cloven hoofs were loud upon the floor, and he knew that it was a dark poison he carried in his heart.” And as Rudolph braces himself in the conviction of his immaculate honor, “horror entered suddenly in at the open window” of the confessional, while outside—

For five hours now hot fertile life had burned in the afternoon. It would be night in three hours, and all along the land there would be these blond Northern girls and the tall young men from the farms lying out beside the wheat, under the moon.

The “horror,” of course, is not unlike that which forms a somber background for Amory Blaine’s radiance in This Side of Paradise^ or the “enormous, terrified repulsion” which seizes Lois in “Benediction.” Moreover, the conjunction of sin and sexual fertility in “Absolution” leads directly back to the strange scene in The Beautiful and Damned where another blond Northern girl, Gloria Gilbert, escaping into the dark from her companion’s sexual advances, hears Maury Noble confess to his own private reservations. Maury, too, has become adept at fooling the deity. “I prayed immediately after all crimes until eventually prayer and crime became indistinguishable to me.” In a tortured and confused sermon which at once recalls the Eugene O’Neill of Days Without End and follows in some part the career of Fitzgerald himself, Maury describes his flight from a Hound of Heaven who still prowls through the Jazz Age. Seek refuge as he may in beauty or in the intellect, in vice, in skepticism or in boredom, he is still pursued—

“Protect myself as I might by making no new ties with tragic and predestined humanity, I was lost with the rest. I had traded the fight against love for the fight against loneliness, the fight against life for the fight against death.”

—and overtaken.

This suave nobility and sense of panic, these private reservations, this flight from life, and premonition of a death that waits at every corner—of a dark poison and of cloven hoofs: it is this entire cluster of psychological elements, presented here in their religious guise, that has rested at the bottom of Fitzgerald’s work and that is now rising to the surface. And, though the elements will shift in focus as they have already shifted in each novel of Fitzgerald’s, and though now the scene will be remote from the wheat fields of Dakota, it is this cluster of conflicting emotional elements that gives Fitzgerald’s next novel its peculiar and fascinating intensity.

For now he tries to penetrate the “labyrinthine ways” of his own mind—and uncover the mounded dust of the years to where, like Francis Thompson’s, his mangled youth “lies dead beneath the heap.”

The lapse in time between All the Sad Young Men and Tender is the Night in 1934 is interesting in itself. (John Jackson’s Arcady, a little pamphlet published in 1928, describes the possible feelings of the father of a member of the Lost Generation, in a rather incredible way.) And through the opening pages of the new novel there is the sense of a sharp change. The young actress who first appears “on the pleasant shore of the French Riviera” is physically in the direct line of Fitzgerald’s girls. She has golden hair, she is eighteen, the dew is still on her.

But Rosemary Hoyt is also quite moral, hard-working, and, with her “virginal emotions,” specifically “American.” “There she was—5o young and innocent … embodying all the immaturity of the race.” She is very different from the anguished butterflies of Scott’s youth. In fact she is Scott’s first heroine to break from a sharply circumscribed, almost rigid feminine type. So too, Rosemary’s mother, the tough and devoted Mrs. Elsie Speers of the novel, hardly resembles the fabulous Beatrice Blaine. And it is against this background of sober American virtue that we are introduced, first to the little group of middle-class American tourists who rather repel Rosemary, and then to the gathering of bronzed “aristocrats” who attract her and lead her in turn to Mr. and Mrs. Richard Diver.

The Divers!—so warm and glowing in these opening pages of the novel, with their “special gentleness” and “far-reaching delicacy” and their power of arousing “a fascinated and uncritical love,” not to mention their money, their air of possession and their command over all the amenities of life which, to Rosemary, contains a purpose and direction “different from any she had known.” With what delight does the dewy young American girl come upon this alluring menage—recalling perhaps the similar apostrophes of a Eugene Gant upon the first glimpse of that cultivated Rosalind in her feudal castle on the Hudson. Here Scott’s Rosemary has a conviction of homecoming—“of a return from the derisive and salacious improvisations of the frontier.” This is a typical and almost stereotyped scene, however, in the annals of provincial American writing. There are also Howells and Garland in Boston, Willa Gather in the musical circles of Ghicago, Dreiser among the financial titans of New York. This is indeed the silent wild surmise of our new Gortezes, charting the eastern shores from their frontier peaks. —And surely too the Riviera Divers represent the last and desperate attempt of Fitzgerald himself to grasp that vision of ease and grace he has pursued from Minnesota to the Gote d’Azur.

But it is to Rosemary’s “immature mind” that the grace of the Divers” life is revealed; and Fitzgerald now more specifically defines the nature of this obsessive vision. Nicole Diver is charming indeed, she is the “furthermost evolution of a class”—

For her sake trains began their run at Chicago and traversed the round belly of the continent to California; chicle factories fumed and link belts grew link by link in factories; men mixed toothpaste in vats and drew mouthwash out of copper hogsheads; girls canned tomatoes quickly in August or worked rudely at the Five-and-Tens on Christmas Eve; half-breed Indians toiled on Brazilian coffee plantations and dreamers were muscled out of patent rights in new tractors… She illustrated very simple principles, containing in herself her own doom.

While the tone is somewhat uncertain here (Fitzgerald is not quite at ease among the industrial processes) we must realize that the writer is developing a sense of his American cultural patterns—these “very simple principles” which Fitzgerald’s people have reflected so beautifully and hitherto so innocently.

The new intellectual framework is clearly articulated in Tender is the Night. In fact the novel is probably overloaded with references to the American frontier and the American empire, American ducal families, American men and women, American manners, clothes, faces, and even American trains—absorbed as they are “in an intense destiny of their own.” Here the writer has not only disentangled himself from his own earlier aspirations and stepped aside, like Nick Carraway, to observe the habits of the American sheltered class. He has stepped outside this class. And if here Fitzgerald fails perfectly to convey the elegance of the Divers’s circle, it is simply because he has moved too far beyond it. The process of disenchantment has become one of disengagement. For these glamorous aristocrats who are first introduced to us through Rosemary’s young eyes are actually a collection of idle and unhappy expatriates; and as for the Divers themselves, of course, theirs is an appalling story of disintegration.

Although part of the novel’s interest comes, again, from the delicate unfolding of its central “mystery,” the plot can be summarized more or less concisely. In the spring of 1917, some ten years before Rosemary’s advent, Doctor Richard Diver has arrived in Zurich to continue his studies. But in treating the young Nicole Warren, whose nervous breakdown has resulted from her incestuous relationship with her father. Diver is caught up in her beauty and helplessness. Married to her, he is held at the start by his love for her, and then by her almost total dependence on him. (Nicole has periodic reversions to insanity during the course of the novel.) The Warren millions complete Diver’s encirclement—his professional ambitions are dissipated, his talent unravels into the meaningless sort of social charm which has intrigued the innocent American actress.

The theme of Tender is the Night, then, is that of the Divers’s strange past—and of their equally strange present, for as Dick loses, Nicole gains control of, their life together. This is certainly a full-sized theme, and as Fitzgerald develops this dubious, shifting, intricate relationship, many sections of the novel are illuminating in the extreme. But why is it that the parts are always better than the whole—that the novel, filled as it is with fascinating insights, written very often with all of Fitzgerald’s grace, still seems curiously off center?

One should notice the paradoxes. While Fitzgerald’s new American sense pervades these pages, it can hardly be said that this sense is either immediate or affectionate. It is more often abstract, ambiguous. Dick Diver’s single moment of genuine identification with his native ground occurs, directly after his father’s death, in a cemetery in Westmoreland County, Virginia, and Diver’s thoughts are of “the souls made of new earth in the forest-heavy darkness of the seventeenth century.” At last attempting on his foreign shore really to come to grips with his own society, Fitzgerald does find that distance lends enchantment. But it must be the distance of two centuries as well as the span of an ocean, and what the writer seems to cling to are the mouldering dead of a half-imaginary epoch. *Good-by, my father—good-by, all my fathers.” Similarly, while Fitzgerald places the scene of Tender is the Night in a center of psychiatric healing, and uses a psychiatrist for his hero, and fills his story with psychological lore, he hardly views psychiatry as the new salvation. Indeed, Dick Diver is ruined by the patient he has “cured”—while Nicole, a perverse phoenix arising from the ashes of her distorted youth, achieves her “freedom” through becoming vicious.

Certainly, too, it is a series of horrifying episodes which gives the story its underlying power. The savage downward spiral of the musician, Abe North, very early foreshadows the fate of all the major figures in the novel. And even the minor personages—the “hopelessly corrupt” young Spaniard, Francisco, the decadent English lesbian. Lady Caroline, the exhibitionistic American, CoUis Clay, who lies drunk and naked on his bed before the aggressive stare of Nicole’s sister, “Baby” Warren—even these minor portraits, acrid and mephitic, and accompanied by such scenes as those in the nightmarish chambers of Dohmler’s Sanatorium—this last resort of “the broken, the incomplete, the menacing of this world”—or in those other sealed-off chambers near Lake Geneva where Nicole’s incestuous father is now dying: all this contributes to the continuous tide of dissolution upon which the Divers are swept outward beyond all chance of rescue…

And as these two former lovers still cling to each other in an embrace that has become, however, a paroxysm of self-survival, as Nicole finally reverts to the type of amoral wanton that was implicit in her earlier fantasies of filth, and as Dick, sliding downwards through all the stages of moral collapse, loses even his powers of decision and bodily control, the penultimate accents of Tender is the Night are surely those of a blind and frantic death struggle. “You used to want to create things—now you seem to want to smash them up.” —“You ruined me, did you? Then we’re both ruined.”

These accents of destruction are familiar, of course; they carry us back to the pages of This Side of Paradise and The Beautiful and Damned. But the crack-up in Tender is the Night is all the more severe, as I suggested earlier, precisely because it follows such a deep groove, and because Fitzgerald reveals it with the conviction of maturity. It is more intense because it is pictured from precisely within that European Riviera which has always been, as in the case of Anthony Patch, a last hope of refuge. And it is more appalling because it extends, finally, to the craft of the novel itself. The wavering motivation, the artistic confusion in the last sections of the book—the sense one has of brilliant and disordered fragments—make it really seem to be the diary of a collapse; a diary written by the subject of the collapse, the one who, viewing all the symptoms so intimately, is the least likely to get at the source of the illness.

Tender is the Night, then, is a novel of lost causes, or lost cures, as it represents Fitzgerald’s most precipitous descent into the abyss, and fulfills the pattern of disaster which has been the core of his work. Yet what actually lies in these depths where now the writer wanders, without light, through Keats’s “tender” night? What discordant impulses have led Fitzgerald to make this recurrent plunge into darkness? And what is the nature of that destructive element most sharply felt in these pages, if perhaps even here, towards the end, rather opaquely described? For one has the curious impression at times that the novel is really about something else altogether—and yet Tender is the Night is certainly at the center of Fitzgerald’s recurrent aesthetic conflict and brings into focus some of the more obscure elements we have noticed in his previous work.

In a way, Fitzgerald’s entire story to this point is a postscript to our baronial days that might be entitled “The Great American Fortunes—Fifty Years Later.” And for the children of the rich it was a simple step to project the new American Success Story completely out of the American scene: to move forward on the one hand, as Fitzgerald did, beyond the spires of Manhattan to the salons of Paris and to the Cap d’Antibes. And on the other hand, and omitting Minnesota entirely, just as T. S. Eliot had instructed a generation in how to omit Missouri, to move backward to Fitzgerald’s feudal southern aristocracy… It isn’t impossible also, for these two extremes to meet. In the memory of a seventeenth-century Baltimore Cavalier society, with its gay blades and dancing belles, lies the vision of a lost paradise which Fitzgerald revived for the descendants of Morgan and Vanderbilt.

Yet Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald’s ties with the South are somewhat more complex than this, too. If he is, in memory and desire at least, a southern gentleman, in a still deeper spiritual sense, and rather in the manner of the Poe whom he invokes in his earliest novel, he is an “illegitimate” southern gentleman. In Tender is the Night the strain of the “outsider” in Fitzgerald has actually led into the strain of the outlaw and the illegitimate has become the illegal. It is interesting to realize how large an emphasis Fitzgerald has placed on violence, from the earliest fantasies of Amory Blaine to the pirate Carlyle, the bandit Dalyrimple, and the gangster Gatsby. Probably the writer’s outward concern with theatrics is matched only by this inner preoccupation with crime. * And these feelings—which have again emerged in the religious stories: in the “enormous terrified repulsion” of “Benediction,” in the “dark poison” of “Absolution” and in these tales” underlying sense of moral isolation and of hounded flight—are inextricably involved with the sexual issues in Fitzgerald’s work. As early as Amory, too, “the problem of evil … had solidified into the problem of sex,” and the profound sexual revulsion of Fitzgerald’s heroes had become quite clear.

What shall we say now concerning those sparkling Jazz-Age lovers whose highly tactile bodies are balanced by their quite untouchable emotions, and whose exquisite delight in romance is inevitably accompanied by their acute distaste for passion? Those flappers who are prepared to risk all for an embrace—but an embrace, cold, calculated, and histrionic, which itself risks nothing; who are so full of sensuous attraction, but an attraction apparently as much above natural as it is above social law—and as unfulfilled as it is unobtainable? In essence these are dream women… And Fitzgerald’s heroes, from Jay Gatsby to the Munro Stahr of The Last Tycoon, still haunted by his dead wife’s smile, are, in fact, living in dreams: in an impossible past that denies all the possibilities of the present.

They are lovers, in short, for whom love seems impractical; and the nature of their past may indicate the reasons. You may remember the essentially feminine quality of the young men who stem from the Beatrice Blaine of This Side of Paradise: the vanity, the wiles, the delicate sensitivities of these graceful, indolent, clinging young men:

There is also a concurrent sense of guilt from the first scenes of This Side of Paradise —and Amory’s visions of a horror “like blood on satin”— to the final scenes of The Last Tycoon where the Fitzgerald heroine will feel the full impact of her father’s “producer’s blood,” their “charm.” And in turn, from Gloria Gilbert and an array of other early “Ganymedes” to Nicole Warren, the Fitzgerald heroines have been given essentially masculine attributes. [In this connection Fitzgerald has even further modified the plot of the standard Success Story, since, culminating with “Baby” Warren—type of the American female who has “made a nursery out of a continent”—and the later Josephine, the railroad heiress whose every glint is a spike, the Fitzgerald women are actually portrayed as the true heirs of the Robber Barons, dominant though sterile.] Following this pattern, the symptoms of sexual ambivalence run through Fitzgerald’s work—along with those of a still deeper emotional conflict.

Just as the Fitzgerald heroines are the dominating forces in his work, they are also cast in an almost identical mold. [Among the first of Fitzgerald’s heroines, the distracted Eleanor of This Side of Paradise is already cast in the mold, as is the Josephine of Taps at Reveille, one of Fitzgerald’s last heroines.] We have noticed the curious resemblance of a whole line of them; while the tonal similarities of their names—Isa-belle, Eleanor, Gloria, Nicole—suggest the actual similarity of their temperaments.f Are they dream women, indeed, not unlike Edgar Allan Poe’s Eleanora and Ligeia and Madeline? Possibly Fitzgerald drew his names from this source; the reference, at any rate, is illuminating. For Poe is concerned, of course, with the love of “cousins,” just as Fitzgerald’s earlier lovers proclaimed themselves to be “twins.” Very much like Fitzgerald, Poe is concerned with the mutual adoration of these related, and extravagantly beautiful, and finally altogether perverse lovers: in “The Fall of the House of Usher” this becomes quite specifically the dark and illegal love of brother and sister. Poe is deeply concerned with this—not to mention the “nervous maladies” and “mysterious disorders” of his lovers, or the burying-alive of these bewitching and diseased beings, or that final persistent desire for those now fatally pure and entombed bodies… Poe is directly involved with the emotional consequences of the incest taboo, in short: a taboo which is hardly less directly implicit in the whole range of Fitzgerald’s writing.

This may also clarify that “inexpiable, mysterious crime” of Manfred’s to which Fitzgerald’s first hero refers, since we know that Byron’s emotional life flowed in similar channels. In Fitzgerald’s work, however, it is impossible (if it were profitable) to identify the real origins of this intricate web of feeling. Is it simply a final literary identification with Poe himself, the “dispossessed” Southern writer to whom in other respects Fitzgerald seems to link himself? Or does it derive from some early, unrecorded childhood relationship—a relationship like the central one in Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury perhaps, where the child’s distinction between the desire and the deed, the “imaginary” and the “real,” is uncertain and, indeed, unimportant, and where the stigma of “sin” eventuates peremptorily from some alien adult orbit?

The Beatrice Blaine of This Side of Paradise, from what we know of the writer’s history, is a completely fictional mother. Yet does the entire emotional sequence refer back again to some such feminine image of whatever complex origin: an image that in point of fact colors almost every thought and feeling of the young Amory Blaine, that is almost completely expunged at the close of Fitzgerald’s first novel, but that nevertheless continues to be prismat-ically refracted in a series of Fitzgerald’s glittering and neurasthenic heroines? —In this event, at least, the apparent obscurities and discordances of Tender is the Night are partially clarified. For the “hidden” emotional relationship of father and daughter, of Nicole Warren and that mysterious, shadowy father who is the true source of destruction in the novel, becomes a shield for the emotions of a mother-son relationship. Dick Diver’s suffering would become in turn an act of penance and purgation —and purged, he is free at last to return to the home of his fathers.

Perhaps you ought to keep in mind that this is a deep and abiding theme in the arts from the time of the Greek “myths.” A little later we shall notice some of its more uneasy modern manifestations. And in our own artist’s last two works, covering the last seven years of his life, this cultural and psychological pattern will be continued. —But notice meanwhile that Fitzgerald’s Dick Diver, leaving the festive Riviera shore which has been the scene of his mortification, and having nevertheless blessed this shore “with the sign of the papal cross,” does return to the American earth which has been equally the object of his divided emotions.

This return of the native is not quite in the manner of a Sherwood Anderson figure once again greeting the farming settlements of his youth. Nor is it like Nick Carra-way’s coming back home to his own Middle West. In fact, Dick Diver has rather the air of a pallbearer than of a prodigal son as he opens his little office in upper New York State, and fails, and moves along from one American town to another, and finally disappears in this frontier wilderness.

Deus misereatur… In the closing passages of Tender is the Night, all the same, there is a sense of retribution and of absolution: even in such a return to BuflFalo, or Batavia, or Lockport, U.S.A.

5. The Eumenides at Home

Taps at reveille, in 1935, is Fitzgerald’s last and in some respects his most interesting collection of tales. Where the earlier volumes of short stories have accentuated the note of material splendor, and a sort of spiritual frenzy to possess this splendor, this one is built around the theme of error and remorse. [The incidental tales In the collection reflect Fitzgerald’s familiar notions. In “The Last of the Belles,” for example, the South is represented by a delicate lady, the North by an illiterate though engaging ruffian. In “A Short Trip Home” the Fitzgerald heroine gets mixed up with a ghost— the ghost of a racketeer.]

In “Two Wrongs,” Bill McChesney, a handsome and gifted show-producer whose wife has lost her baby while he has been out on a drunken binge, atones by sacrificing himself for his wife’s artistic career. There is a God here, though maybe He is somewhat histrionic also. (What is really here is a primitive and almost mythological sense of retribution: the price of a happy soul is a damned soul.) Joel Coles, in “Crazy Sunday,” is an amplified portrait of McChesney. He has spent his childhood between London and New York, “trying to separate the real from the unreal.” As a Hollyivood script writer he is still cursed by “the dramatic adequacy inherited from his mother”: there is a party scene at which Joel, drunk and exhibition-istic, does a good job of ruining his own career… This is probably the single best story of Taps at Reveille, but the point of the volume is in the “Basil and Josephine” sketches which open Fitzgerald’s last collection of tales and in “Babylon Revisited” which closes it.

It is interesting, too, in so far as Tender is the Night marks a point of final dissolution in the series of dissolving experiences which form Fitzgerald’s career, that his emphasis should now come to rest on the American origins of his central literary characters. With these eight scenes from the life of Basil and Josephine (they were apparently intended to form the nucleus of another semi-autobiographical novel) we move much more directly into the writer’s past: into that vulgar midwestern background at which his earlier figures had sneered when they did not shudder. Like Amory Blaine, Basil is an attractive and effeminate adolescent—in a curious transmutation he is phonetically linked with the names of Fitzgerald’s major heroines. But where Amory had boasted of, Basil now meditates upon, his exotic American childhood: a childhood which opens, again, with the note of “sin,” with fantasies of crime and fears of insanity, and with the conviction of being “morally alone.”

Love is merely another channel for Basil’s egocentric charm, and a channel that leads all the more certainly to shipwreck. A curious series of adolescent heroines is listed here, recalling those “Harrison Fisher girls on glossy paper” to whom Basil, reality continually disappointing him, or he it, has paid reverence: There is the precocious Imogene and her yacht; the dazzling Miss Erminie Gil-berte Labouisse Bibble of New Orleans whose imperishable smile conceals the limited mentality that is manipulating a set of priceless molars. Heir to this grimace and to millions of dollars, there is Josephine herself, the beautiful, hard, and almost vicious “speed” of these tales who, accepting “the proud world into which she was born” just as her railroad-building ancestors did theirs, moves through it, implacable and unsatisfied—“every glint a spike.”

With these little details, Fitzgerald has placed Josephine in her American cultural context. (Notice how she is dominated by a desire for power over men, not for a relationship with them; or how, again, morally tainted as Josephine is, she is hardly aware, in the American moral framework, of her own corruption.) More precisely here than in the earlier case of Nicole Warren, Scott has defined the real milieu of his heroine—and of the other descendants of the American ruling class around whom his writing has revolved: these sweet-smelling children of the rich who combine their ancestors” social irresponsibility with their own personal irresponsibility… With a smile that is not a smile, a mouth twisted by “a universal compassion” but an expression not quite that of compassion, and eyes shining as if with fever while she torments her lover for her own altogether empty purposes “as if they had been two other people,” F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Josephine, the Last of the Flappers, is rather different from those first enchanting girls who danced to meet the tinsel dawn of the nine-teen-twenties.

The Left Bank is also a ghost town after the advent of the American Depression, and the Charlie Wales of “Babylon Revisited” is caught up in nightmarish memories of fluttering thousand-franc notes and hangovers that lasted for weeks and screaming girls in public places and men who locked out their wives in the snow because the snow of 1929 wasn’t real snow. “If you didn’t want it to be snow, you just paid some money.” Here, too, the big party is over (the elegiac tone is similar to Hemingway’s in “The Snows of Kilimanjaro”) and Fitzgerald’s hero, who is desperately trying to salvage what can be salvaged, thinks he knows the meaning of the word “dissipate”: “to make nothing out of something.” Yet Charlie Wales has something of Basil’s earlier faith in his capacity to endure and survive: “to shake oflF the blood like water” and to carry his wounds with him “to new disasters and new atonements.” In a way he hasn’t an altogether wrong view of his own situation:

“I heard you lost a lot in the crash.”

“I did … but I lost everything I wanted in the boom.”

“Selling short.”

“Something like that.”

And with these tones, and with this touching although hardly very glamorous or glittering middle-aged midwestern character of Fitzgerald’s last period, we are on the edge of Fitzgerald’s last novel.

It isn’t a far jump in one respect from the French to the American Riviera of The Last Tycoon in 1941. Still, what an odd itinerary Fitzgerald has followed in order to complete the circuit of his American withdrawal and return. Remember his travels East from the “barbarian” atmosphere of St. Paul to the Princeton circles of Paradise, the New York society of The Beautiful and Damned, and the Long Island society of The Great Gatsby. And still East: for Nick Carraway comes back to his western people, but his literary mentor travels on to Paris and Cannes and the cultivated sensibilities of Tender is the Night. East— but while Dick Diver, fleeing from a dissolute European scene, returns to “bury” himself in Buffalo, Fitzgerald himself sharply reverses his own course across an ocean and a continent. He crosses the Atlantic, slips by East Egg and Minnesota, and—almost as if he were drawn to the furthermost reaches of the American West by the memory of a lost frontier—arrives for his salvation in Hollywood.

Certainly this is a dramatic design for our whole literary movement in the nineteen-twenties and -thirties. It summarizes a chapter in modern American literature. It telescopes the history of our literary exodus and return during the last half-century from Henry James to Ernest Hemingway. And while Fitzgerald was racing from riv-iera to riviera, remember also that back home the socioeconomic system whose effects he was in part escaping from, and whose product, in his own cultural innocence and elegance, he most surely was—that back home, during the depression years, the financial order of Coolidge and Hoover—“the great machine,” as Dos Passos said, “for which they slaved”—was cracking up. And a new generation of American novelists, from Tom Wolfe in the streets of Brooklyn to John Steinbeck and his California Okies, was just then coming to grips with its native land.

In this sense Fitzgerald’s return to Hollywood reflects the contrasts of two diametrically opposed periods in our national life. Now, too, that Editor Anderson of Marion, Smyth County, Virginia, was looking down from his southern hills upon those shining, glass-brick factory walls which had put an end to Winesburg, and to an earlier American age. Yet where else, during the boiling American thirties, could F. Scott Fitzgerald go? We have seen the writer’s cultural disestablishment from earliest childhood: his almost compulsive fixation on that one-half of one per cent of the American people who themselves have constituted a rootless ruling class; and his earlier ignorance of even the cultural configuration represented by that ruling class. During his growing disenchantment with this class, perhaps his only remaining deep and instinctive contact with all the myriad phases of life in the United States was with the show business. From the Amory Blaine who saw life as a stage to the young actress of Tender is the Night, the histrionic impulses of Fitzgerald’s people are dominant. In the flux and dissolution of his earlier values, they alone remain stable.

Although Hollywood isn’t the most propitious home for an American writer to return to, it was almost Fitzgerald’s only possible home… And partly through his own limitations and his increasing awareness of them, who was better suited to deal with the kaleidoscopic Dream Factory of the industrial United States?

As for the sparkling native scene, with its Lions and Wolves and Nymphs, its pasteurized Galahads and coif-fured Lady Godivas: Hollywood, the home of the close-up, the build-up, the frame-up; land of frocks and frills where, as Fitzgerald notes, “a mixed motive is conspicuous waste” and Thorstein Veblen bows to Groucho Marx; where twice daily an altogether new Cinderella turns in her Pumpkin for a Packard (because the glass slipper comes in adjustable sizes) and each night the American Bitch Goddess orders a thousand angels to dance on the brow of a Queen: this, our own Hollywood, the S.R.O. Nirvana of the mechanized opium-eaters where at last Fitzgerald’s haunted memory of eastern elegance hits an all-time high as the western star cries Heigh-o Silver—certainly this native scene has been brought to us before, but never more delicately than in these weird episodes which form the running satiric background of The Last Tycoon.

Done with a beautiful technical virtuosity, these episodes have all the sparkle of Fitzgerald’s earliest novels; and what’s more, the glittering surface now belongs, not to a limited and adolescent, but to a relatively complex and adult, world. Against the continuous Hollywood foibles in The Last Tycoon, Fitzgerald puts the episodes of Hollywood’s ability and ingenuity, all its rich talent, which in the case of Munro Stahr finds a proper direction. In the Heavenly City of a nation “that for a decade had wanted only to be entertained,” Stahr is also the apotheosis of sobriety. And surely this movie producer who lives completely in his work, whose “studio is really home,” this gifted and tragic despot is Fitzgerald’s most appealing hero.

As the final projection of the child of the Jazz Age, however, Munro Stahr is a particularly curious figure. A poor and uneducated New York Jew who is the spiritual prince of cinema’s inner sanctum, Stahr is hardly reminiscent of Fitzgerald’s first hero to whom even the cream of the Ritz was watery, or of that Anthony Patch, obsessed by the sprawling, slithering “aliens,” who finally called Bloeckman—an earlier, less flattering version of Stahr—a “Goddam” Jew.” It is no less interesting to discover that a Negro is the final test of Stahr’s own stature. You may remember the fisherman whom Stahr meets on the beach at Santa Monica, and whose conviction that the movies are worthless makes Stahr revise his whole production schedule—this obscure Negro man who had come out “to read some Emerson,” Fitzgerald tells us, and who goes off unaware “that he had rocked an industry.”

This is an odd transformation for a writer who has clung to a feudal southern aristocracy when he wasn’t panting after a blond northern elite. It is a transformation which brings into focus the reversal of Fitzgerald’s values which is embodied in The Last Tycoon and for which his abrupt geographical reversal from east to west was the prelude. It is difficult to ignore Fitzgerald’s final stress on poverty as against wealth, on character as against charm, on energy and work as against grace and ease, and even on the alien toilers as against our native Princetonians. Munro Stahr is without doubt an archetypal American whereas a whole row of early Fitzgerald figures have tried desperately to become archetypal Europeans. And just to complete the picture, I ought to point out that Stahr, who is a sympathetic but exacting autocrat, is as clearly the dominant father in Fitzgerald’s last novel as the exotic Beatrice Blaine was the dominant mother in Fitzgerald’s first novel.

Was F. Scott Fitzgerald the early chronicler of the American Success Story in its purest and most exalted form, moreover, the natural folklorist of the nineteen-twenties, the divine soothsayer of those economic princes and princesses whose kingdom consisted of diamonds? Then notice the stress here on Hollywood’s duds, flops, and has-beens. The bankrupt producer Manny Schwartz who opens the novel; the drunken writer, Wylie White, whose career has come to a dead end; the industrial magnate, Mr. Marcus, whose once brilliant steel-trap mind is now intermittently slipping; old Johnny Swanson, once as big as Tom Mix; Martha Dodd, the “agricultural girl” whose beauty has washed out; and Cecilia herself, the innocent young Bennington girl who during the course of the novel suffers “an immersion in the family drain”—these are among the Hollywood citizens who walk along “Suicide Bridge” with its new fence, and give The Last Tycoon its own undertones of ruin.

Is there still one remaining constant in all this flux? Has Fitzgerald returned quite deliberately to this California scene for his last portrait of the “age of glamour”? Even the sparkling Hollywood decor, into which Scott puts his last impulse of enchantment, trembles under the reverberations of time and change. The writer for whom the revolutionary roar of Europe in 1919 could barely stir the drawn curtains of the Ritz, nor the rioting mob outside of Delmonico’s mar the light clat-clat of afternoon tea—this prime story teller of a boom-town America now” speaks of the Bonus Army, of labor troubles and early Fascists, and of the rich who since 1933 “could only be happy alone together.” Indeed Scott’s Cecilia returns to Hollywood “with the resignation of a ghost assigned to a haunted house.” And the driving intensity of Munro Stahr—the preoccupation with his dead wife, the disregard of his precarious health, the half-deliberate “perversion of the life force”—springs from this inner knowledge. The Last Tycoon is the perfection—and deterioration—of his type.

Thus the firm of Maecenas, Morgan & Fitzgerald closes its doors. This is a final step in the history of our writer’s partnership with the American rich—a dissolving partnership, as we’ve seen, and one that works its way from the top down: from Amory Blaine to James Gatz, the poor boy whose struggle to ape the elite first fully shows them up. Though Munro Stahr represents the positive factor in this radical change of Scott’s values—though he represents a natural rather than a ceremonial aristocracy, and a New rather than an Old World order of things—Stahr is meant to portray the historical ending of this order, too. The writer who has fled throughout his life from any contact with a vulgar American social arrangement, has returned home to record its peak and its passing.

Ave atque vale. In the scene with the Communist organizer Brimmer, Stahr loses his control. And with Stahr’s surrender, to drink, to his own “increasing schizophrenia,” and to a future which he must accept but cannot belong to, the story reaches its climax. “Is this all?” Brimmer thinks. “This frail half-sick person holding up the whole thing?” Stahr, Fitzgerald tells us in his notes, “is to be miserable and embittered toward the end.” There is to be “a bitter and acrid finish”—and with this we have boxed the compass of Fitzgerald’s wanderings and must take a final reckoning of his entire course.

For the particular sort of ambivalence we have noticed in other areas of Fitzgerald’s work operates here also. The “moral,” even the fact, of Fitzgerald’s last novel, was predicated in his first novel. Was wealth an absolute goal to the young Fitzgerald? It was a goal which hardly yielded absolute returns—rather, in fact, the contrary. It was only when Amory Blaine lost his money, his social position, his entire career, that he felt he knew himself. As we have seen, the older and wiser Anthony Patch of The Beautiful and Damned repeats Amory’s pattern even more frantically. (“Do you think that if I don’t get this money of my grandfather’s life will be endurable?”) And is Anthony’s reward, then, after having finally gained his object, to be bundled off to Europe: a completely disorganized and half-mad cripple? It is a short move from the hero of this parable to the Dick Diver who is clearly ruined by Nicole’s fortune.

Furthermore, just as “poverty,” for the earlier Fitzgerald heroes, meant merely the loss of one’s hereditary fortune, so wealth itself represented merely an entrance into the charmed circle of the elite. And we have traced Fitzgerald’s underlying revolt against not only money but social position itself—the strain of the outsider and the outcast of Gamma Psi. When Fitzgerald records the antics of the rich in The Great Gatsby, it is with the increasing realization that he is as much James Gatz as he is Nick Carraway. Yet the “western spectator” who returns home at the novel’s close is a splitting-off of Fitzgerald’s personality—an illuminating flare, so to speak, but one that fades into darkness… The emotional compulsion still persists. Almost a decade after Fitzgerald has reached his conclusion as to wealth and social position, he has become, in Tender is the Night, more “eastern”—and wealthier—and more despairing. The hero who returns home is a shell of Nick Carraway, just as Anthony Patch was a shell of Amory Blaine. And it is only with this second descent into the abyss—the second almost total destruction of his hero— that Fitzgerald reaches a point of catharsis and a sense of a new beginning.

Isn’t this a curious sequence of events? Although one is forced to pursue wealth, it is with the firm conviction that one’s true salvation lies in poverty. Although one seeks outward social position at all costs, it can be achieved only by an inner betrayal. Although an unearned fortune and an ambiguous place among the elite are the only ends for the early Fitzgerald protagonist, the same fortune and place are the surest means to disaster… And Fitzgerald continues to cherish these ends—these means—until he comes, indeed, to the edge of disaster.

In this chain of events it becomes apparent, too, that Tender is the Night again occupies a central place: here, in this eastern elegance, is the climax of the search: here is the sharpest cycle of destruction; here is the moment of purgation and regeneration. [In its central framework, Fitzgerald’s career has the elements of a primitive fable. So it is interesting that the process of atonement in Teti-der is the Night should take place near that Geneva scene where Amory Blaine first announced the fortunate death of his father. It might almost seem that Fitzgerald’s dualism of “East” and “West”—of Europe and America—is in part a concealed form of a deeper parental ambivalence. At least no one could represent the European mother country more glamor-ously than the Beatrice Blaine who initiates Fitzgerald’s career—and no one embodies the democratic America of the Founding Fathers more fully than the Munro Stahr ^vho closes Fitzgerald’s career.

A similar parental conflict, incidentally, can be observed in the career of Henry Adams, and probably the whole cultural conflict of East and West in American literary thinking could stand a closer examination, as Ferner Nuhn has already shown in his excellent study. The Wind Blew from the East.] And whatever the nature of the incest-taboo which is also at the center of the search, the shadow that lies over Fitzgerald’s heroes—from Amory’s sense of “horror” to the nervous collapses of Anthony Patch and Dick Diver and the “increasing schizophrenia” of Munro Stahr himself—is hardly a literary mannerism. This is indeed a distraught Narcissus who gazes down at his shining image.

An image, mirrored in water, which cannot be washed away for all Fitzgerald’s equal insistence on a completely pure body and spirit—his refusal to accept the slightest ordinary human blemish. (Very likely Fitzgerald’s addiction to histrionics is a variation on this theme, since the actor playing a role can assume a personality to cover his own.) You may remember how the writer’s initial aversion to poverty—and the “aliens”—sprang from this curious fastidiousness. “It’s essentially cleaner to be corrupt and rich than it is to be innocent and poor.” But the paired adjectives here are illuminating. To be rich, then, is to be corrupt? And is it through the absolute pursuit of wealth—through this immaculate materialism, so to speak—that one hopes to escape the tainted spirit? … But then, at the same time, by deliberately seeking out corruption, may we not the sooner perhaps embrace the inevitable disaster: the retribution and atonement that we are, in fact, looking for?

It is certain, at any rate, that Fitzgerald’s search for glamour, as the writer himself sensed from the start, was hardly a superficial one. Only a ghost-ridden talent could abandon itself so completely to these trivialities, invoke such an odd species of defiance against the stern reckoning of the Rock. Vanity of vanities, all is vanity: then let us exalt vanity alone… Twilight falling over cocktails at the Biltmore, midnight striking for the dancers at Delmonico’s, and dawn touching the glass at Childs” Fifty-Ninth Street: these few brief hours alone stand between us and the Furies. And here, too, is our most certain meeting—for in this modern version of the myth, it is just here that the Furies lounge and gossip: it is at the Ritz that they have their suite. The method chosen by the writer to drug the moment of awakening is the method that most surely hastens it. The flight from reality is the path of destruction.

Now in truth there is only the alternative of “diamonds or disillusion” in the whole world. And if love is a form of divine drunkenness, and youth of chemical madness—“how pleasant then to be insane.” And his was a great sin indeed “who first invented consciousness.”

Although this deeply felt and disturbing emotional conflict at the center of Fitzgerald’s work gives it a hidden force, however, it is the same emotional conflict that finally prevents Fitzgerald from realizing the force and depth thc.t are actually implicit in his work. Thus we have the final cleavage of this tragically divided writer: the cleavage of his writing itself. On the one hand, the “psychological” novels—The Beautiful and Damned and Tender is the Night—intense, powerful, and unco-ordinated: the force of their discordant impulses reflected in the ragged ending of the first, and the disorderly ending of the second novel. And on the other hand, the “social” novels—The Great Gatsby and The Last Tycoon—very skillful, often superb technically, and yet curiously hollow at times, and in a sense quite “unreal” underneath, since they reflect without carrying through the real emotions of Fitzgerald’s writing.

One needn’t labor the loss here, or the wider cultural implications. The young Fitzgerald, disowning his own heritage, leaving his criminals just on the edge of “crime,” attempting with all his tormented heart to pass as a Nordic —this Fitzgerald was in the American grain. [American audiences have never been very sympathetic to such themes as incest. Even today the familiar reaction is distaste or ridicule. Yet it is curious to notice how important a theme it has been in our own literature, from Melville and Poe to O’Neill or Faulkner. Perhaps it is such a basic theme that our writers can hardly afford to ignore it.] The rich, too, are an American novelist’s natural prey, just as the nineteen-twenties and nineteen-thirties were among the best decades in the nation’s history to observe the rich in the polar extremes of their existence. Between the Boom and the Bust, between the billboards and the breadlines, there was certainly need for a new Henry James: for a post-Versailles, post-Proustian, and thoroughly acclimated James to record the entrance, the strutting about and the exit of the indigenous millionaire. But the writer who was in some respects best qualified to fill this role in the younger generation was at once too close to his theme and too remote from it, and meanwhile our true drama lacked its true voice.

Yes, The Great Gatsby fades a little with its last “dying fall”—but it is still the warm and touching chronicle of our deceptive native romance, just as “The Diamond as Big as the Ritz” is among our best shorter parables of wealth, as “May Day” has all the faintly bitter fragrance of the age of pleasure, and as The Last Tycoon is still the closest that an American novelist has got to the truth about the histrionic home of the Success Story. Although Fitzgerald remains the folklorist of the rich in their more restricted aspects, and, like his own Munro Stahr, who had never learned enough about the feel of America, still retains “a certain half-naive conception of the common weal,” there are few others who could have given such a bright and glowing intensity to such a shallow world. Once having known them, is it easy to forget the flappers who dwelt in diaphanous gowns and subsisted on caviar: inviolable and distraught spirits who wavered between the classics and the shimmy? In another respect, moreover, even the account of Fitzgerald’s illusions has a memorable quality.

For the suite at the Ritz, the pursuit of a youth without prospects, the slow and tortured realization of “the wrong-ness in the case” of the Jazz Age itself—in this respect Fitzgerald’s own history provides us with an invaluable natural history of his period. And isn’t it possible, in respect to the entire decade of the nineteen-twenties—wasn’t it a sort of Narcissus, in love with its own glittering image? Our writer’s preoccupation with the illegitimate and the illegal is not so remote from the time of Insull and Teapot Dome. As a historical epoch, the American twenties also tried to bargain with God, and who shall say what sense of moral isolation or of hounded flight did not dwell in the blacked-out conscience of the age: this age in itself beautiful and damned, for which horror and death waited at every corner, and whose youth may seem “never so vanished as now.” Taps sounded for it, certainly, at reveille. In the shadow of the Second World War, it had its own appointment with the Furies.


Chapter Five of the book “The Last of The Provincials: the American novel, 1915-1925: H. L. Mencken, Sinclair Lewis, Willa Cather, Sherwood Anderson, F. Scott Fitzgerald”, by Maxwell David Geismar


Перевод: Ф. Скотт Фицджеральд: Орест в отеле «Риц» (А. Петриковская).

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