“I hear distant thunder about Ernest… .”—Fitzgerald to Gerald Murphy
Writers, said Ernest Hemingway in Green Hills of Africa, should work alone. Hemingway was thinking of the dangers of cliquish inbreeding, the vitiating consequences of depending too exclusively on the stimulation provided by other writers. “They should see each other only after their work is done, and not too often then,” the novelist added. “Otherwise they become like writers in New York. All angleworms in a bottle, trying to derive knowledge and nourishment from their own contact and from the bottle. Sometimes the bottle is shaped art, sometimes economics, sometimes economic-religion. But once they are in the bottle they stay there. They are lonesome outside the bottle.”
Perhaps it was the fear of being trapped inside some such “bottle” that prompted Scott Fitzgerald to leave New York hastily for Europe in the spring of 1924. Certainly the routine of wild parties, extravagant spending, and the bynow familiar faces of New York “literary friends” had something to do with Fitzgerald's decision to seek change—and perhaps refreshment for the imagination—on foreign shores. “We were going to the Old World,” the author wrote later, “to find a new rhythm for our lives, with a true conviction that we had left our old selves behind forever… .”
Whatever his motives for leaving the United States, it is certain that during his travels abroad Fitzgerald felt drawn to the company of numerous expatriate American and native British authors; he looked up Compton Mackenzie, who had strongly influenced This Side of Paradise, and T. S. Eliot— as on a trip a few years earlier he had looked up John Galsworthy and James Joyce. On this second sojourn, which was to last more than two years, Fitzgerald also attended a number of parties in Paris and on the Riviera where he met (or renewed his acquaintance with) Alexander Woollcott, Archibald MacLeish, John Dos Passos, and Donald Ogden Stewart. During this period he also spent an afternoon with Edith Wharton; and he met Ezra Pound and the group that circulated around Gertrude Stein. Fitzgerald entered into this round of social activity with enthusiasm; but he was most impressed by Ernest Hemingway, whose name begins to appear with increasing frequency in 1925 in Fitzgerald's letters to friends at home. To Mencken he wrote that he had met the circle of American writers in Paris, and they were mostly “junk-dealers.” The exception, Fitzgerald added, was a fellow named Hemingway, who was doing more thinking and working than the young writers back home. To Edmund Wilson, Fitzgerald announced that he had met Hemingway, who had promised to take him to see Gertrude Stein. A few months later Fitzgerald wrote to John Peale Bishop, listing rather proudly the distinguished company he had been keeping that summer at Antibes and closing with the information that “the Hemingways” were coming to dinner.
Fitzgerald's first encounter with Hemingway dates from the year preceding these references. He had seen some of Hemingway's work in 1924 and had written to Maxwell Perkins: “This is to tell you about a young writer named Ernest Hemingway, who lives in Paris … writes for the transatlantic review, and has a brilliant future. I'd look him up right away. He's the real thing.” Hemingway had already signed a contract with Boni and Liveright; but soon afterwards Liveright editors rejected Torrents of Spring (it parodied their most valuable author, Sherwood Anderson); and Hemingway was again at liberty to choose a publisher, several of whom were now soliciting his work. Hemingway's decision to sign with Maxwell Perkins at Scribner's was strongly influenced by Fitzgerald's repeated recommendations. Fitzgerald's part in this transaction reflects his interest in furthering Hemingway's career; it is one episode in the campaign Fitzgerald undertook to help his new friend gain recognition during the period 1924-1926. These years formed the early stages of what was to develop into a relationship that continued, amid emotional depths and unexpected turns, until Fitzgerald's death in 1940.
Perhaps the most revealing record of Fitzgerald's attitude toward Hemingway during this period is found in Glenway Wescott's memorial essay, “The Moral of Scott Fitzgerald,” written in 1941:
Hemingway had published some short stories in the dinky de luxe way in Paris; and I along with all the literary set had discovered him, which was fun; and when he returned to New York we preached the new style and peculiar feeling of his fiction as if it were evangel. Still, that was too slow a start of a great career to suit Fitzgerald. Obviously Ernest was the one true genius of our decade, he said; and yet he was neglected and misunderstood and, above all, insufficiently remunerated. He thought I would agree thatThe Apple of the Eye and The Great Gatsby were rather inflated market values just then. What could I do to help launch Hemingway? Why didn't I write a laudatory essay on him? With this questioning, Fitzgerald now and then impatiently grasped and shook my elbow.
There was something more than ordinary art-admiration about it, but on the other hand it was no mere matter of affection for Hemingway; it was so bold, unabashed, lacking in sense of humor. … I was touched and flattered by Fitzgerald's taking so much for granted. It simply had not occurred to him that unfriendliness or pettiness on my part might inhibit my enthusiasm about the art of a new colleague and rival.
In the spring of 1926 Fitzgerald, in accordance with his own advice to Wescott, wrote an article for The Bookman in which he conducted a rapid survey of World War I novels that had appeared since the beginning of the decade. E. E. Cummings' The Enormous-Room would survive, thought Fitzgerald, “because those few who cause books to live have not been able to endure the thought of its mortality.” Two other books—Through, the Wheat and Three Soldiers— though imperfect in various ways, had permanent value. And that was all. However, Fitzgerald wrote, “as an augury that someone has profited by this dismal record of high hope and stale failure comes the first work of Ernest Hemingway.” Fitzgerald followed this comment with a brief and highly favorable review of In Our Time. The review concludes: “It is sufficient that here is no raw food served up by the railroad restaurants of California and Wisconsin. In the best of these dishes there is not a bit to spare. And many of us who have grown weary of admonitions to 'watch this man or that' have felt a sort of renewal of excitement at these stories wherein Ernest Hemingway turns a corner into the street.”
Hemingway had indeed entered the street, and it was tolead him to destinations unsuspected even in Fitzgerald's imagination. His journey, like Fitzgerald's, had its beginning in the Middle Western United States. Born a few years apart near the close of the century, both authors had responded early to the impulse to leave the provincial world of their childhood.
Hemingway's college, as Carlos Baker has remarked, was the continent of Europe. His course of study included art and languages, people, politics, and war. Hemingway had been wounded in battle, had been decorated by the Italian Government, and had served an intensive apprenticeship as a foreign correspondent during the early years of the decade. In 1922, he had struck up a friendship with Gertrude Stein in Paris, where during the same period he also met James Joyce and Ezra Pound. Like Fitzgerald at Princeton, Hemingway was learning valuable lessons in the art of writing from his association with experienced practitioners of the craft. [For full biographical data see Charles A. Fenton, The Apprenticeship of Ernest Hemingway (New York, 1958) and Carlos Baker, Hemingway (Princeton, 1956)].
In the summer of 1923 Hemingway had collected some of his early work under the title Three Stories and Ten Poems, which was published by Robert McAlmon's Contact Publishing Company. The next year William Bird's Three Mountains Press brought out the young writer's in our time, which consisted of the vignettes or miniatures later incorporated into In Our Time. The critical reception of these two early works was meager; but Edmund Wilson published a favorable review in The Dial for October, 1924, which called attention to the influence of Gertrude Stein on the two volumes, but stressed as well the new writer's originality and importance. Wilson felt that in our time had more “artistic dignity” than anything written by an Americanabout the period of the war. Earlier that year Wilson had shown in our time to Fitzgerald, had confided to him his enthusiasm for the new writer, and had urged Fitzgerald, who was planning a trip to Europe, to look up Hemingway on his arrival in Paris.
Hemingway, meanwhile, had returned to the United States with his family in the autumn of 1923, intending to establish himself, at least temporarily, as a member of the reporting staff on the Toronto Star. At this time he was undecided whether he should commit himself to the uncertain financial propects of a writing career. A number of unpleasant experiences at the Star during this period helped him make up his mind. After four months he left Toronto to return to Paris.
Hemingway devoted the year 1924 to hard work at his writing and to informal services as manuscript scout and part-time editor of Ford Madox Ford's transatlantic review. Several of Hemingway's short stories appeared in this magazine during 1924-1925 (they were later included in the collection In Our Time). Other expatriate journals had begun to accept the author's short fiction, and his reputation had begun to make itself felt among writers and editors in America. Edward O'Brien had selected one of his stories for inclusion in the anthology The Best Short Stories of 2923. Early in 1925, Boni and Liveright, acting on recommendations by O'Brien and Sherwood Anderson, offered Hemingway a contract for In Our Time, which was published late in the same year.
Hemingway thus made his initial appearance before American readers five years after Fitzgerald had attained high success with the publication of This Side of Paradise. When the two authors met in the autumn of 1924, Fitzgerald was an established author; his short stories commanded large sums from the slick American magazines; he had published two successful novels and had recently completed The Great Gatsby, which was scheduled to appear in the spring of 1925. Fitzgerald was, in fact, at the height of his fame and creative vigor. Hemingway had by that time acquired a limited reputation as an extremely promising author, and he was about to make his first appearance before an American audience. Fitzgerald had just turned twenty-eight. Hemingway was twenty-five.
In Paris, then as now, the place to meet people, to talk business, politics, and art is the cafe. In the summer of 1925, Fitzgerald and Hemingway enjoyed a good many such cafe discussions, with talk of art predominating. Christian Gauss, who was present on some of these occasions, remembered a conversation about Robert Louis Stevenson's advice to the young writer to “play the sedulous ape” to an experienced author until, in due time, the novice has developed a style of his own. Fitzgerald admitted that Compton Mackenzie had strongly influenced This Side of Paradise, and Hemingway said that Winesburg, Ohio had been his first model. “But both agreed,” Gauss wrote later, “that you had to pay for whatever help this sort of imitation gave you in your apprenticeship. It was like consulting a psychiatrist. If you were to go on your own, you soon had to wean yourself of such outside direction.”
At other meetings that summer Fitzgerald and Hemingway talked shop, argued aesthetics (as they were to do years later), and offered each other advice on work in progress. Gauss recalled a lively dispute in which he and Fitzgerald accused Hemingway of having written a story in which nothing happened. Hemingway replied that they had read the piece carelessly and had made no attempt to understand his intention. The story was “Big Two Hearted River,” whichhad appeared a few months earlier in Ernest Walsh's This Quarter.
In “Ring,” Fitzgerald wrote how a few years earlier he and Lardner had “tucked a lot under their belts in many weathers… .” No doubt the same pastime extended into the relationship with Hemingway, judging from the latter's portrait of his new friend in The Torrents of Spring: “It was at this point in the story, reader, that Mr. F. Scott Fitzgerald came to our home one afternoon, and after remaining for quite a while suddenly sat down in the fireplace and would not (or was it could not, reader?) get up and let the fire burn something else to keep the room warm. Sportive as this might sound, it is important to note that both Fitzgerald and Hemingway looked upon their friendship as more than casual; it was compounded in these early years not only of respect and affection, but of professional trust and affinity. A comment made years later by Christian Gauss supports this impression: “Though Hemingway was unknown in wider literary circles, he was closer to Scott at that time than any of the other young American writers in Paris.”
During this summer of 1925, Fitzgerald was working on “The Rich Boy,” one of his most perfectly realized short stories on the subject of the wealthy class in America. Fitzgerald showed this story to Hemingway while it was still in manuscript, and Hemingway gave it high praise. But more significant than this personal exchange is the very strong possibility that “The Rich Boy” was written, in part, under the influence of Hemingway's prose style. Years later —in 1936—Fitzgerald claimed that he had not imitated Hemingway's “infectious style.” “My own style,” he said “such as it is, was formed before he published anything.” But in 1934, Fitzgerald admitted in a letter to Hemingway: “There are pieces and paragraphs of your work that I readover and over—in fact, I stopped myself doing it for a year and a half because I was afraid that your particular rhythms were going to creep in on mine by a process of infiltration.” Passages in “The Rich Boy” suggest that this process was already in operation in 1925. The influence of the famous Hemingway manner is all the more conspicuous, in fact, for its being so completely uncharacteristic of Fitzgerald's work up to that time.
Near the end of “The Rich Boy” Anson Hunter, Fitzgerald's hero, visits Paula Legendre, a former sweetheart whom he has not seen in seven years. Paula is now married, and Fitzgerald has Anson witness a playful scene between Paula and her husband which reveals the security and affection that fill her life. At the same time the scene strikes home to Anson Hunter the realization of what he has missed by his casual and egocentric attitude toward Paula several years earlier:
Hagerty [Paula's husband] came in a little before eleven; after a whiskey Paula stood up and announced that she was going to bed. She went over and stood by her husband.
“Where did you go, dearest?” she demanded.
“I had a drink with Ed Saunders.”
“I was worried. I thought maybe you'd run away.”
She rested her head against his coat.
“He's sweet, isn't he, Anson?” she demanded.
“Absolutely,” said Anson, laughing.
She raised her face to her husband.
“Well, I'm ready,” she said. She turned to Anson: “Do you want to see our family gymnastic stunt?”
“Yes,” he said in an interested voice.
“All right. Here we go!”
Hagerty picked her up easily in his arms.
“This is called the family acrobatic stunt,” said Paula. “He carries me up-stairs. Isn't it sweet of him?”
“Yes,” said Anson.
Hagerty bent his head slightly until his face touched Paula's.
“And I love him,” she said. “I've just been telling you, haven't I, Anson?”
“Yes,” he said.
“He's the dearest thing that ever lived in this world; aren't you, darling? … Well, good night. Here we go. Isn't he strong?”
“Yes,” Anson said.
“You'll find a pair of Pete's pajamas laid out for you. Sweet dreams—see you at breakfast.”
“Yes,” Anson said.
The formula should be familiar to readers of Ernest Hemingway. Anson Hunter's monosyllabic replies suggest by a virtually absolute simplicity the depth of his emotion. But if the passage does reflect Hemingway's influence, it is of minor significance; a later section of this chapter will consider more important aspects of the subject. I call attention here to the episode in “The Rich Boy” only to indicate the way in which Fitzgerald's friendship with Hemingway was already, in 1925, leaving its mark on his work.
While Fitzgerald was finishing “The Rich Boy,” Hemingway had begun work on The Sun Also Rises, which was to occupy him during the summer and autumn of 1925. According to Arthur Mizener, Hemingway showed Fitzgerald an early draft of this novel, and they “discussed it at great length.” Later, Hemingway reported further progress in a letter to Fitzgerald: “I cut The Sun to start with Cohn—cut all that first part, made a number of minor cuts and did quite a lot of re-writing and tightening up… in proof it read[s] like a good book… I hope to hell you'll like it and I think maybe you will.”
Just before The Sun Also Rises was published, Fitzgeraldsent Maxwell Perkins a careful estimate of Hemingway's novel and a plea for special consideration: “I liked it but with certain qualifications. The fiesta, the fishing trip, the minor characters were fine. The lady [Brett] I didn't like, perhaps because I don't like the original… Do ask him for the absolute minimum of necessary changes, Max—he's so discouraged about the previous reception of his work by publishers and magazine editors.”
Both Fitzgerald and Hemingway kept continually on the move during the years 1926-1930; rarely did either one settle in one place for more than a few months. Yet they continued to correspond, and they always managed to see each other when their paths crossed. In 1927, Hemingway showed Fitzgerald the manuscript of a story he was writing entitled “Fifty Grand”; Fitzgerald recommended cutting some early parts of the story, to which advice Hemingway, apparently, agreed. And late in 1928 or early in 1929, Hemingway sent Fitzgerald a draft of A Farewell to Arms, asking for an opinion on the ending, about which Hemingway was still in doubt. Fitzgerald claimed later that he “worked like hell on the idea” (that is, on a possible conclusion for A Farewell to Arms), but could not satisfy Hemingway's notion of “what an ending should be.” Some time later, in fact, Hemingway argued so persuasively his own ideas on the subject that Fitzgerald let himself be guided by his friend's judgment when he came to write the ending of Tender Is the Night. “You felt that the true line of a work of fiction,” Fitzgerald wrote Hemingway soon after he had finished the novel, “was to take a reader up to a high emotional pitch but then let him down or ease him off. ! You gave no aesthetic reason for this—nevertheless, you convinced me.” In such ways did these two authors effect minor but indelible impressions on each other's works.
The late nineteen-twenties and early thirties was a time,as we have seen in earlier chapters, when Fitzgerald's confidence was badly undermined by a number of personal crises and a seemingly unshakable artistic inertia. His relations with his friends suffered too, from attrition and a tendency on Fitzgerald's part to pick quarrels over imagined insults. In 1929, Fitzgerald wrote in his Notebooks that Hemingway had begun to be “cold” toward him. He also wrote a letter to Hemingway criticizing what he called the latter's “superior attitude.” And there was an episode involving a boxing match between Hemingway and Morley Callaghan, with Fitzgerald presiding as referee, which ended in misunderstanding and general unpleasantness. Throughout these uneasy misadventures Hemingway played the part of peacemaker yet Fitzgerald had been gradually developing the idea, which was to grow worse before it grew better, that he was a failure and that Ernest Hemingway was a success—that his own career was in decline while Hemingway's was in the ascendant. “I talk with the authority of failure—” Fitzgerald commented sometime during this period, “Ernest with the authority of success. We could never sit across the same table again.” This was no mere petulance on Fitzgerald's part: he had failed to produce a novel for a number of years, and he must have been aware of the critical and popular success of A Farewell to Arms. In addition, Hemingway had begun to be severely critical of Fitzgerald's drinking, Hemingway was also convinced, as H. L. Mencken had been some years earlier, that Fitzgerald's life with Zelda was destructive to his artistic development: “Of all people on earth,” he wrote Fitzgerald in 1934, “you need discipline in your work and instead you marry someone who is jealous of your work, wants to compete with you and ruins you. It's not as simple as that and I thought Zelda was crazy the first time I met her and you complicated it even more by being in love with her and, ofcourse you're a rummy.” Such were the complications that had entered into the relationship between the two writers. They help to explain Fitzgerald's uneasiness in Hemingway's company: “With Ernest I seem to have reached a state where when we drink together I half bait, half truckle to him,” Fitzgerald wrote to his friend Edmund Wilson.
During these years, too, Fitzgerald seems to have suffered some guilt over his failure to live up to what Hemingway called “artistic conscience.” Hemingway had expressed his views on this subject repeatedly: he felt that the writer of fiction must be dedicated to an ideal of excellence that can survive all temptations to compromise his artistic standards. Hemingway's thumbnail portrait of a hypothetical writer of great prose in Green Hills of Africa includes this kind of integrity as a requisite: “First, there must be talent. Talent such as Kipling had. Then there must be discipline. The discipline of Flaubert. Then there must be the conception of what it can be and an absolute conscience as unchanging as the standard meter in Paris, to prevent faking.” The forces that militate against the writer's artistic conscience, Hemingway believed, are the debilitating self-indulgences such as excessive drinking and the desire for comfort and luxury.
“You see we make our writers into something very strange” [says the narrator of Green Hills of Africa].
“We destroy them in many ways. First, economically. They make money. It is only by hazard that a writer makes money although good books always make money eventually. Then our writers when they have made some money increase their standard of living and they are caught. They have to write to keep up their establishments, their wives, and so on, and they write slop. It is slop not on purpose but because it is hurried. Because they write when there is nothing to say or no water in the well. Because they areambitious. Then, once they have betrayed themselves, they justify it and you get more slop.”
In the back of his mind, perhaps, Hemingway was directing these remarks obliquely at Fitzgerald. Later, in “The Snows of Kilimanjaro,” he was to expand the theme into a memorable work of fiction, at the same time that he made the reference to Fitzgerald more explicit. But there is no doubt that Hemingway's comments on the corrupting forces that ruin the artist impressed themselves on Fitzgerald's imagination. In his Notebooks, the latter wrote: “Nevertheless, value of Ernest's feeling about the pure heart when writing—in other words, the comparatively pure heart, the 'house in order.'” A few years later in his introduction for the Modern Library edition of The Great Gatsby Fitzgerald revealed that he had seriously considered the concept of “artistic conscience” as it applied to his own work. Never, Fitzgerald remarked, had he tried so hard I to preserve his artistic conscience as during the ten months when he was writing Gatsby. “If there is a clear conscience,” he said, “a book can survive… .” But even more to the point is Fitzgerald's comment in “The Crack-Up,” when he is making a list of the men who influenced him most strongly: “A third contemporary had been an artistic conscience to me,” Fitzgerald wrote; and there can be no doubt that he meant Ernest Hemingway, and that Hemingway had become to him in his moments of doubt and weakness a symbol of artistic integrity.
He had also become the ultimate judge and arbiter of Fitzgerald's ability. To Maxwell Perkins, Fitzgerald wrote in 1934 that Hemingway had pointed out some superfluous sections of Tender Is the Night and that as an artist Hemingway was as close to being a final reference as anyone Fitzgerald knew. Around the same time Fitzgeraldwrote to Hemingway: “I think it is obvious that my respect for your artistic Me is absolutely unqualified, that save for a few of the dead or dying old men you are the only man 1 writing fiction in America that I look up to very much.”
Still, it would be a mistake to overemphasize Fitzgerald's dependence on Hemingway's judgments, aesthetic or otherwise. An exchange of letters shortly after the release of Tender Is the Night demonstrates Fitzgerald's faith, for example, in his own ideas concerning the dynamics of character-making in fiction. Hemingway wrote a long, serious letter criticizing his friend's treatment of the major characters in the novel, claiming in particular that Fitzgerald had created inconsistent impressions by fusing several characters from real life. Fitzgerald replied by citing Shakespeare's habit of combining contemporary themes with information from Plutarch and Holinshed. Thus, to Fitzgerald, composite characterization was perfectly possible to execute successfully, though he did admit that perhaps he had not brought it off so well in Tender Is the Night. Fitzgerald's reply seems not to answer Hemingway's objections exactly; but the exchange at the very least shows that Fitzgerald stood by his own ideas and was not invariably swayed by Hemingway's opinions.
The mood of depression, however, deepened during the years following the publication of Tender Is the Night. ' Fitzgerald's financial problems, bis wife's hopeless mental collapse, and his dwindling popularity all contributed to the condition of spirit which he delineated with such merciless candor in “The Crack-Up,” a series of three articles written for Esquire in 1935. “The conjurer's hat was empty,” said Fitzgerald in one of these articles. “To draw things out of it had long been a sort of sleight of hand, and now, to change the metaphor, I was off the dispensing end of the relief roll forever.” The series concludes: “the sign CaveCanem is hung permanently just above my door. I will try to be a correct animal though, and if you throw me a bone with enough meat on it I may even lick your hand.”
The response of Fitzgerald's close friends to this public confession only added to his troubles. Edmund Wilson objected to Fitzgerald that he had revealed too much of himself in the series. John Dos Passos wrote a letter in which he tried to encourage Fitzgerald to apply himself to a long work of fiction; but he could not resist adding: “Christ, man, how do you find time in the middle of the general conflagration to worry about all that stuff? …. We're living in one of the damnedest tragic moments in history—if you want to go to pieces I think it's absolutely O. K. but I think you ought to write a first rate novel about it (and you probably will) instead of spilling it in little pieces for Arnold Gingrich… .”
But the greatest disparagement came from Ernest Hemingway, who in a letter to Maxwell Perkins expressed his disgust at Fitzgerald's self-revelation: it was really miserable, said Hemingway, for Fitzgerald to whine in public; Fitzgerald was in senility, had by-passed his manhood completely; a writer ought to quell his cowardice and write. But what hurt Fitzgerald most was the by now famous reference in “The Snows of Kilimanjaro,” which appeared in Esquire only a few months after “The Crack-Up”:
He remembered poor Scott Fitzgerald and his romantic awe of [the rich] and how he had started a story once that began “The very rich are different from you and me.” And how some one said to Scott, Yes, they have more money. But that was not humorous to Scott. He thought they were a special glamorous race and when he found out they weren't it wrecked him just as much as any other thing that wrecked him.
The reference is even more pointed in the context of thestory, which concerns a would-be writer who has destroyed his talent by surrendering to dissipation and the love of luxury. Later, when Hemingway heard about Fitzgerald's injured reaction, he changed the name from “poor Scott Fitzgerald” to “poor Julian,” and that is the way it now appears when the story is anthologized. But at the time, “The Snows of Kilimanjaro” must have seemed to Fitzgerald a completely gratuitous but unmistakable assault on his way of life. “Ernest claimed he was free to write that way about me because of what I'd written about myself,” Fitzgerald told Sheilah Graham a few years later. “I don't think I can ever forgive him. That was hitting me when I was down.” And in a mood of unhappy reminiscence he entered in his Notebooks: “Ernest—until we began trying to walk over each other with cleats.”
The middle and late thirties—which for Fitzgerald were artistically unproductive years—he spent in Hollywood drawing large salaries but otherwise pursued by frustration and bad luck. The good work he did for the Hollywood studios was either revised' and cheapened by his producer, or permanently shelved. Aside from the brilliant writing of “The Crack-Up,” Fitzgerald published only a few short stories that possessed the old distinction (“Design in Plaster” and “The Lost Decade”) and one or two essays of more than passing interest (“Afternoon of an Author” and “Early Success”); in addition, the royalties from his books still in print had sunk to virtually nothing. These circumstances must have intensified his growing feeling that he was engaged in a kind of private competition with Ernest Hemingway, with the latter winning all the honors.
A number of incidents seemed to encourage this impression. T. S. Eliot, for example, had sent Scribner's a statement to be used on the dust jacket of Tender Is the Night: “I have been waiting impatiently for another book by Mr.Scott Fitzgerald,” Eliot wrote, “with more eagerness and curiosity than I should feel towards the work of any of his contemporaries except that of Mr. Ernest Hemingway.” Fitzgerald's story price, too, had sunk to two hundred and fifty dollars (Hemingway's sports sketches for the same magazine brought twice that amount). With some bitterness, Fitzgerald wrote Arnold Gingrich, asking him to publish his most recent story under a pseudonym: he was tired of being Scott Fitzgerald, the novelist said; there was no money in it these days. This from the writer whose stories in the good years had sold for four thousand dollars each.
During this period Fitzgerald was also trying to persuade Maxwell Perkins to reissue This Side of Paradise. Soon after Scribner's published Hemingway's The Fifth Column and the First Forty-Nine Stories, Fitzgerald wrote Perkins inquiring casually whether Hemingway's sales were good or bad and adding that he himself was beginning to feel badly neglected. He was afraid, he confided to Perkins, that his reputation was “slipping away.” Edmund Wilson, sensing Fitzgerald's hopelessness, sent repeated messages of encouragement assuring him that he could still catch up with Hemingway. Though Hemingway's stories were excellent, said Wilson, “now is your time to creep up on him.” But in a despairing mood in the late thirties Fitzgerald confessed to a friend “I don't write any more. Ernest has made all my writing unnecessary.”
But the old admiration for what Fitzgerald called Hemingway's “Byronic intensity” continued undiminished. Fitzgerald wrote in his Notebooks: “As to Ernest as a boy: reckless, adventurous, etc. Yet it is undeniable that the dark was peopled for him. His bravery and acquired characteristics.” And from 1934 until the end of his life Fitzgerald was engaged in writing installments of “The Countof Darkness,” a melodrama set in the middle ages, which he referred to in his Notebooks as “the story of Ernest.” Its hero, Phillipe, is based on Hemingway's character—or at least on Hemingway's nobility and heroism, as conceived by Fitzgerald. “The Count of Darkness” was never completed, which is probably just as well: it is poor stuff compared to the best of Fitzgerald's work. But its concentration on Phillipe—“a leader of men” who is “possessed by a psychology that delighted in toughness for its own sake” —shows us how much Hemingway must have filled Fitzgerald's thoughts during these years. “The Count of Darkness” also provides evidence that despite his strained relations with Hemingway, Fitzgerald never lost his fascination with his friend's dramatic personality.
Fitzgerald's admiration for Hemingway, in fact, prevailed over his injured pride, his sense of defeat and betrayal, and the damage his ego had suffered at Hemingway's hands. One of the last letters Fitzgerald wrote—just a little over a month before his death—was to Hemingway, thanking him for sending on an inscribed copy of For Whom the Bell Tolls. Fitzgerald said he read the novel with intense interest, participating in some of the writing problems and fully appreciating Hemingway's skill in solving them. “It's a fine novel,” Fitzgerald commented, “better than anybody else writing could do.” And: “Congratulations too on your new book's great success. I envy you like hell and there is no irony in this.” Fitzgerald closed the letter “With old affection… .”
Perhaps the best way to summarize this brief history of the Fitzgerald-Hemingway companionship is to return to Glenway Wescott's essay “The Moral of Scott Fitzgerald.” Wescott, it will be remembered, stressed Fitzgerald's excitement over the promising talent of the young Ernest Hemingway who was just then emerging from obscurity. But “The Moral of Scott Fitzgerald” contains another impression—perhaps a crucial one—of Fitzgerald's attitude:
He not only said, but, I believe, honestly felt that Hemingway was inimitably, essentially superior. From the moment Hemingway began to appear in print, perhaps it did not matter what he himself produced or failed to produce. He felt free to write just for profit, and to live for fun, if possible. Hemingway could be entrusted with the graver responsibilities and higher rewards such as glory, immortality. This extreme of admiration—this excuse for a morbid belittlement and abandonment of himself—was bad for Fitzgerald, I imagine. At all events he soon began to , waste his energy in various hack-writing.
Was Fitzgerald's attachment to Hemingway, then, an unfortunate factor in his personal and professional decline? Perhaps so, though it is unlikely that Hemingway was a willing agent in the gradual disaster. Hemingway's attitude throughout the relationship was no doubt too complicated to understand fully—at least on the basis of the evidence now available. He certainly felt the strong appeal of Fitzgerald's talent, sincerity, and personal attractiveness. Yet the spirit of disregard which prompted his public expression of scorn for his bedeviled colleague was strong, too-strong enough, perhaps, to have been dominant. Hemingway's last remarks on Fitzgerald, published twenty years after the latter's death, sound the old note of bullying contempt: “Fitzgerald was soft,” Hemingway told a feature writer for Holiday magazine in 1960. “He dissolved at the least touch of alcohol.” Hemingway added that he had no patience with writers who operated in “saucedom.”
This is an odd, though perhaps not altogether surprising, tribute to pay fifteen years of friendship. But whatever othermemories Hemingway could have evoked remained unspoken.
As with the personal relations between Fitzgerald and Hemingway, so with the relationship between the works they produced: they seem close and yet distant, at times full of affinities and correspondences, at other times dissimilar, virtually irreconcilable. For years critics and literary historians have linked the names of these two writers, frequently associating them as members of the same movement, as spokesmen for the values of a “lost generation,” and as practitioners of similar novelistic techniques, moods, and themes. Yet a statement made by Christian Gauss, quoted by Carlos Baker in his study of Hemingway, suggests a fundamental disparity that must be reckoned with: “Fitzgerald was, and remained, an earnest and competent student of the art of writing, and this was one of the bonds between Scott and Hemingway,” said Gauss, speaking of Fitzgerald and Hemingway in the mid-twenties. “In other respects,” he added, “they were worlds apart. Hemingway was not interested in the Ritz or playboys. His special interest lay in the more exacting forms of physical proficiency and courage.” Professor Baker, too, implies that these two authors differ essentially, at least in their treatments of one major theme. “It is almost as if, throughout the depression,” says Baker, “Hemingway had resolutely set himself to oppose F. Scott Fitzgerald's temperamental conviction that the rich are glamorous.” And Alfred Kazin, in a discussion of Hemingway, Dos Passos, and Fitzgerald, claims that “Fitzgerald, who never underwent the European apprenticeship the others did, always stood rather apart from them, though he was the historian of his generation and for a long time its most famous symbol.” These few comments hardly represent a unified body of critical opinion; yet they suggest the unlikely prospect of discovering any clear-cut parallels in the novels and stories of these two writers.
It is extremely difficult, for example, to make any conclusive comments on the matter of influences operating between Fitzgerald and Hemingway, though influences there surely are, as we shall see presently. For the moment, however, a comparison of certain passages from these two writers will bring to light the themes they had in common and the basic similarities and differences in their perspectives. The comparative readings that follow should also indicate that the remarks made by Gauss, Baker, and Kazin overemphasize the differences between Fitzgerald and Hemingway and need modification.
Fitzgerald and Hemingway have their closest points of affinity in three themes which figure prominently in their works during the nineteen-twenties and early thirties. These themes I shall designate the alien outsider, the modern woman, and the ruined writer. All three reflect actual events and attitudes in modern American experience; and all three were treated by other contemporary writers. The first of these motifs, the alien outsider, underlies Fitzgerald's treatment of Meyer Wolfsheim in The Great Gatsby and Hemingway's portrayal of Robert Cohn in The Sun Also Rises. Our understanding of these two fictional characters will be enriched by a brief consideration of the social fabric out of which they emerged.
The vein of anti-Semitism that runs through the literature of the nineteen-twenties is symptomatic of the national attitude, and symbolic in its function. It is perhaps related to the strong antipathy toward aliens that gathered force during the period and that found expression in such incidents as the Palmer raids, the rise of the Ku Klux Klan, and the execution of Sacco and Vanzetti. Liberals and intellectuals of the time agreed in their interpretation of these events, at least in certain important particulars. The general feeling against foreigners and minority groups was economic in origin, they claimed, and prejudice in America was based on a fear that the minority might injure the majority's material interests. So speak two of the essayists who appear in the omnibus Civilization in the United States.
But the anti-Semitism in the fiction and poetry of the period was based on a threat not to the pocketbook, but to the social structure. Here was another aspect of the breakdown in class distinctions, another indication of the rise of the nouveau riche; but in this case the enterprising social aspirer was disqualified not only by a deficiency in manners or background, but by virtue also of his alleged “racial” characteristics. T. S. Eliot's well-known poem “Bur-bank with a Baedeker: Bleistein with a Cigar” will serve as an illustration:
But this or such was Bleistein's way:
A saggy bending of the knees
And elbows, with the palms turned out,
Chicago Semite Viennese.
A lustreless protrusive eye
Stares from the protozoic slime
At a perspective of Canaletto.
The smoky candle end of time
Declines. On the Rialto once.
The rats are underneath the piles.
The jew is underneath the lot.
Money in furs. The boatman smiles...
What disturbs Eliot is not the fact that Bleistein is a Jew, but that now, in a world of social disorder and instability, Bleistein has pretensions to culture: the “Chicago Semite” has invaded the museums to gape at a perspective of Canaletto. An episode in Sinclair Lewis's Dodsworth brings into even sharper focus the social pattern Eliot deplores in “Burbank with a Baedeker.” During her travels in Europe, Fran Dodsworth engages in a flirtation with the penniless Count von Obersdorf, who tells her at one point of the peculiar situation of one of his friends, the Archduke Michael. The Archduke, it seems, has taken employment as a chauffeur to a Hungarian Jew. The Jew in the fiction of the twenties is not only, in Eliot's phrase, “underneath the lot.” He is also, what is more distressing, at the top of the ladder! The Jew in a prominent position was to the writers of the postwar decade a symbol of the world turned upside down.
These considerations help to elucidate Hemingway's treatment of Robert Cohn in The Sun Also Rises. Cohn's schooling and his relation with his classmates, for example, parallel the actual assault on hitherto “sacrosanct” institutions:
Robert Cohn was a member, through his father, of one of the richest Jewish families in New York, and through his mother of one of the oldest. At the military school where he prepped for Princeton, and played a very good end on the football team, no one had made him race-conscious. No one had ever made him feel he was a Jew, and hence any different from anybody else, until he went to Princeton.
In the figure of Robert Cohn, however, Hemingway has not attempted to create a stereotype of the totally unattractive intruder represented by Eliot's Bleistein. Cohn is, in Jake's words, “a nice boy, a friendly boy, and very shy… . I rather liked him… .” He is also quite individual—a human, rather than an abstract portrait—with his peculiarmixture of naivete and devotion to Jake and Brett, his ability to withstand insults and humiliation, his prize-fighter physical strength and his, at times, unmanly weakness of character. It is quite reasonable, in fact, to think of Cohn as a combination of extreme qualities—both unattractive and attractive—someone who is easy to hate and easy to be fond of, by turns likable and contemptible. The poker-dice image near the end of the novel seems to suggest this ambivalence in Jake's attitude toward Robert Cohn: “So we rolled poker dice out of a deep leather dice-cup… . On the final roll Mike had three kings, an ace, and a queen.” The queen here might represent Brett Ashley, the three kings Jake Barnes, Bill Gorton, and Mike Campbell (three of a kind—members of the exclusive cafe-table fellowship). And the ace, which may stand in poker as either the highest or the lowest quantity, is Robert Cohn.
But if Hemingway has made Cohn a convincingly human rather than a stereotyped character, he has also suggested in Cohn's behavior the pattern of the unwanted outsider trying to identify himself with a class to which he does not belong. Even in the early sections of the novel, when Jake's feelings toward Cohn are friendly and sympathetic, there are indications that Jake does not consider him, in Brett's significant phrase, “one of us.” Cohn is romantic rather than cynical; he accepts insults passively; and he has a “hard, Jewish, stubborn streak.”
But Jake Barnes and his circle of ultrasophisticated friends resent most of all Cohn's calfish devotion to the titled beauty Brett Ashley; and Brett's alcoholic fiance expresses this resentment in an ugly emotional scene just before the start of the Pamplona festival:
“What if Brett did sleep with you?” [Mike asks Robert Cohn.] “She's slept with lots of better people than you.”
“Shut up,” Cohn said. He stood up. “Shut up, Mike.”
“Oh, don't stand up and act as though you were going to hit me. That won't make any difference to me. Tell me, Robert. Why do you follow Brett around like a poor bloody* steer? Don't you know you're not wanted? I know when I'm not wanted. Why don't you know when you're not wanted? You came down to San Sebastian where you weren't wanted, and followed Brett around like a bloody steer. Do you think that's right?”
“Shut up. You're drunk.”
“Perhaps I am drunk. Why aren't you drunk? Why don't you ever get drunk, Robert? You know you didn't have a good time at San Sebastian because none of our friends would invite you on any of the parties. You can't blame them hardly. Can you? I asked them to. They wouldn't do it. You can't blame them, now. Can you? Now, answer me. Can you blame them?”
The impression we receive of Cohn at this point is complicated by the fact that it is Mike Campbell—presented throughout as a tactless man of weak character—who makes these abusive statements I have quoted. Yet in the passage immediately following, after Cohn has been led off by Bill Gorton, Hemingway implies that Mike speaks for the fellowship of “insiders” represented by Brett, Jake Barnes, and Mike Campbell:
“I say, Michael, you might not be such a bloody ass,” Brett interrupted. “I'm not saying he's not right, you know.” She turned to me.
The emotion left Mike's voice. We were all friends together.
“I'm not so damn drunk as I sounded,” he said.
“I know you're not,” Brett said.
“We're none of us sober,” I said.
“I didn't say anything I didn't mean.”
“But you put it so badly,” Brett laughed.
“He was an ass, though. He came down to San Sebastian where he damn well wasn't wanted. He hung around Brett and just looked at her. It made me damned well sick.”
“He did behave very badly,” Brett said.
“Mark you. Brett's had affairs with men before. She tells me everything. She gave me this chap Cohn's letters to read. I wouldn't read them.”
“Damned noble of you.”
“No, listen, Jake. Brett's gone off with men. But they weren't ever Jews, and they didn't come and hang about afterward.”
Milton Hindus, in an essay published in Commentary in 1947, has remarked that the anti-Semitism of such writers of the nineteen-twenties as Eliot, Hemingway, and Fitzgerald is “literary anti-Semitism”—it reflects a feeling of social distaste, rather than a personal hatred of the Jew. Hemingway's portrait of Robert Cohn conforms to this definition in a curious way. The resentment Hemingway's characters display toward Cohn may be taken symbolically, as the resentment of an established class against ark upstart alien; but their antipathy is also more concrete, the result of a clash of personalities and emotional conflicts that arise irrespective of Cohn's status as a Jew. Hemingway's purpose in making Cohn a Jew is to add a dimension of social comment to his novel; but that purpose, it would seem, is secondary to his interest in human character. Cohn is a three-dimensional figure, and a memorable one, a skillfully delineated dramatis persona. This is perhaps a significant clue to the difference between Robert Cohn and Wolfsheim in Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby.
It would be difficult, for example, to imagine anyone paying Hemingway a compliment such as Fitzgerald received from Edith Wharton. “It's enough to make this reader happy,” wrote Mrs. Wharton soon after she had read The Great Gatsby, “to have met your perfect Jew, &the limp Wilson, & assisted at that seedy orgy in the Buchanan flat, with the dazed puppy looking on. Every bit of that is masterly—but the lunch with Hildeshiem [Wolfsheim] and his every appearance afterward, make me augur still greater things!”
Mrs. Wharton's comment is best understood as a reflection of that attitude, shared by other writers of the period, which conceived of the Jew as a symbol of social disruption. Wolfsheim is a “perfect” Jew in the sense that he fulfills the symbolic and stereotyped image of the upstart alien without the complication of redeeming or human qualities, such as we have seen in Hemingway's portrait of Robert Cohn. A brief look at Wolfsheim will clearly illustrate this difference.
Nick Carraway's initial impression of Meyer Wolfsheim suggests Fitzgerald's intention to caricature rather than to characterize: “A small, flat-nosed Jew raised his large head and regarded me with two fine growths of hair which luxuriated in either nostril. After a moment I discovered his tiny eyes in the half-darkness.” At this first meeting, Wolfsheim indulges in a reminiscence concerning a friend whose evening meal was abruptly terminated:
“The old Metropole,” brooded Mr. Wolfsheim gloomily. “Filled with faces dead and gone. Filled with friends gone now forever. I can't forget so long as I live the night they shot Rosy Rosenthal there. It was six of us at the table, and Rosy had eat and drunk a lot all evening. When it was almost morning the waiter came up to him with a funny look and says somebody wants to speak to him outside. 'All right,' says Rosy, and begins to get up, and I pulled him down in his chair.
“'Let the bastards come in here if they want you, Rosy, but don't you, so help me, move outside this room.'
“… He turned around in the door and says: 'Don't let that waiter take away my coffee!' Then he went out on the sidewalk, and they shot him three times in his full belly and drove away.”
These ruminations have a curious relationship to Jay Gatsby. Wolfsheim's vulgar sentiment is a grotesque parallel to the hero's romantic nostalgia. Gatsby's mind, too, is filled “with faces dead and gone. Filled with friends gone now forever.”
A little later in Fitzgerald's novel we learn that Wolfsheim is a gambler (his character, in fact, was based on the famous gambler of the twenties, Arnold Rothstein); he was responsible for “fixing” the World Series of 1919; and he is involved in a number of mysterious, but probably equally illegal, enterprises. “Why isn't he in jail?” asks Nick Carraway. “They can't get him, old sport,” answers Jay Gatsby, crystallizing one of the basic attitudes of the prosperity decade. “He's a smart man.”
Having invested Wolfsheim with the morals of a crook and the character and appearance of the typical alien outsider of the period, Fitzgerald adds to the over-all impression of distaste by having Wolfsheim speak in the idiom of the social climber: he is always telling Nick Carraway that Gatsby is a man of “fine breeding”—a “perfect gentleman”—“a college man.” Fitzgerald also plays upon Wolfsheim's physiognomy by repeated reference to his “tragic nose,” his “expressive nose”—“his nose flashed at me indignantly” and “his nostrils turned to me in an interested way.” To round out the portrait there is Wolfsheim's accent: “I understand you're looking for a business gonneg-tion”—“He went to Oggsford College in England. You know Oggsford College?” As the center of corruption in Fitzgerald's novel, as a vulgarly sentimental, prominent-nosed, ironical respecter of “breeding” and gentlemanliness, as an English-garbling immigrant Jew, Wolfsheim is indeed a “perfect” specimen. He is one with Eliot's Bleistein and the appalling flood of “fantastic neanderthals” Fitzgerald writes about in his essay “Echoes of the Jazz Age,” in which he describes the American tourists in Europe who were “spewed up by the boom”:
… Toward the end there was something sinister about the boatloads. They were no longer the simple ma and pa and son and daughter, infinitely superior in their qualities of kindness and curiosity to the corresponding class in Europe, but fantastic neanderthals who believed something, something vague, that you remembered from a very cheap novel. I remember an Italian on a steamer who promenaded the deck in an American Reserve Officer's uniform picking quarrels in broken English with Americans who criticised their own institutions in the bar. I remember a fat Jewess, inlaid with diamonds, who sat behind us at the Russian ballet and said as the curtain rose, “Thad's luffly, dey ought to baint a bicture of it.” This was low comedy, but it was evident that money and power were falling into the hands of people in comparison with whom the leader of a village Soviet would be a gold-mine of judgment and culture. There were citizens travelling in luxury in 1928 and 1929 who, in the distortion of their new condition, had the human value of Pekinese, bivalves, cretins, goats.
This is dehumanization with a vengeance!
But Fitzgerald's portrayal of Wolfsheim in The Great Gatsby and his remarks in “Echoes of the Jazz Age” constitute only one phase of the novelist's developing attitude toward the alien. In an earlier chapter I have called attention to Joseph Bloeckman of The Beautiful and Damned, who is represented as a type of the socially ambitious Jewish “outsider.” Fitzgerald records Bloeckman's gradual ascent, it will be remembered, in a detached spirit of social observation. Bloeckman, like Wolfsheim in The Great Gatsby, serves a symbolic function; but unlike Wolfsheimhe is in no sense a gross and unattractive caricature. It should be added, however, that Anthony Patch's attitude toward Bloeckman is full of resentment and distaste. Toward the end of the novel Anthony, who by this time has lost his income, his youth, and his conviction of superiority, pays Bloeckman a visit with the intention of borrowing money. On this occasion Bloeckman presents an emphatic contrast to the hero; he is prosperous and confident, calm and assured in his manner. In the scene that follows this confrontation of the dynamic nouveau riche and the disgruntled bankrupt, Anthony loses sight of his original purpose in seeking out Bloeckman, and accuses him (altogether unjustly) of an interest in Gloria, Anthony's wife:
“Look here, Mr. Patch,” said Bloeckman, evenly and without changing his expression, “you're drunk. You're disgustingly and insultingly drunk.”
“Not too drunk talk to you,” insisted Anthony with a leer. “Firs' place, my wife wants nothin' whatever do with you. Never did. Un'erstand me?”
“Be quiet!” said the older man angrily. “I should think you'd respect your wife enough not to bring her into the conversation under these circumstances.”
“Never you min' how I expect my wife. One thing—you leave her alone. You go to hell!”
“See here—I think you're a little crazy!” exclaimed Bloeckman. He took two paces forward as though to pass by, but Anthony stepped in his way.
“Not so fas', you Goddam Jew.”
Just where Fitzgerald's sympathies lie in this encounter is difficult to say. He, acknowledged to a friend that he was painting a self-portrait in the character of Anthony Patch; yet it is unlikely that he had any admiration for the Anthony Patch of the foregoing scene. It is more probable that Fitzgerald meant to portray Patch's anti-Semitism as a symptomof his deterioration. Years later, in Tender Is the Night, Fitzgerald has Dick Diver express similar racial or nationalistic intolerance to the same effect: Diver's use of the word “spic” and his open expressions of antipathy toward the English are calculated to suggest the disintegration of his character. Fitzgerald recognized in himself similar tendencies toward prejudice and identified them in 1936 as “inhuman and undernourished … the true sign of cracking up.” In his worst hours, Fitzgerald wrote in “The Crack-Up,” he couldn't stand the sight of Celts, English, Politicians, Strangers, Virginians, and Negroes (light or dark). It is probable, then, and worth emphasizing, that the antialien sentiment in The Beautiful and Damned and Tender Is the Night reflects the emotional condition of Fitzgerald's fictional heroes in their decline. In these two novels, at least, if not in The Great Gatsby, Fitzgerald is implying that such prejudice is contemptible and unhealthy.
But the final stage in the development of Fitzgerald's attitude toward this subject is seen in his presentation of Monroe Stahr, the man of dynamic personality and intellect who is the hero of The Last Tycoon. The fact that Stahr is a Jew, with the qualities of imagination and emotion Fitzgerald always admired, is an obvious instance of the author's having revised his stereotyped and unsympathetic conception of the Jew as expressed in the figure of Wolfsheim, and of his having achieved a more positive, less neutral attitude than that implied in the presentation of Bloeckman.
A number of factors might be mentioned to explain Fitzgerald's decision to make the hero of his last novel a Jew. For one thing, the novelist was deeply impressed by the highly respected young motion-picture producer Irving Thalberg, whom he met in Hollywood and upon whom he drew for his characterization of Monroe Stahr. Then, too, the atmosphere of anti-Semitism that permeated the nineteen-twenties, when the Jew was frequently considered something of a ridiculous comic vaudeville figure, had yielded to the more liberal sentiments of the thirties. Hitler's rise to power and his treatment of the Jews no doubt influenced many writers and thinkers to adopt a more sympathetic attitude toward this group that was suffering such oppression abroad: in 1938, Fitzgerald wrote to his daughter that the Nazis were “obnoxious vermin” and that to share any of their prejudices was a sign of snobbishness and immaturity.
It is impossible to arrive at a perfect understanding of the thoughts and feelings Fitzgerald and Hemingway harbored toward Jews individually or as members of a religious or “racial” group. But this much is clear: in the works of both authors there is a complexity in their treatment of this figure that discourages the application of the term anti-Semite, if by that label we mean an attitude of untempered hostility. In Hemingway's presentation of Robert Cohn there is, to be sure, some condescension; but there is also something like sympathy and understanding. The same ambivalence is paralleled by the characterization of Jews in Fitzgerald's several novels. Perhaps one of the obstructions to a clear understanding here is the term anti-Semitism itself, the definition of which no dictionary can ever adequately supply. But it seems reasonable to say that if Fitzgerald and Hemingway yielded to the popular prejudices of the period, Hemingway did so with only a part of his mind and Fitzgerald did so only momentarily. Robert Cohn is redeemed by his human or sympathetic qualities; Wolfsheim is offset by Bloeckman in The Beautiful and Damned and Stahr in The Last Tycoon.
A more significant theme that attracted the attention of Fitzgerald and Hemingway, one that occupies considerablymore space in their fiction than the alien outsider, is the modem woman. In such works as The Sun Also Rises, To Have and Have Not, The Fifth Column, and “The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber,” Hemingway treats this theme; Fitzgerald gives it prominent attention in The Great Gatsby, his short story “The Adjuster,” and Tender Is the Night. Both writers seem essentially in accord in their attitudes toward the particular species of contemporary female they depict in these works; both emphasize her physical attractiveness, her basic egotism, and her destructive influence upon the men with whom she is associated. But before we examine Fitzgerald and Hemingway's treatment of the modern woman, we might find it profitable to consider her appearance in the works of other writers of the period.
Many writers of the nineteen-twenties and early thirties drew portraits of American females who are generally unsympathetic. The women who appear in the stories of Ring Lardner, for example, are almost invariably self-seeking and predatory; occasionally they are stupid and vicious. William Faulkner, too, seems to have contributed to the antifeminism of the time with his depictions of unattractive, calculating, sex-driven daughters of the Southern United States. Sinclair Lewis offered the most extended portrait of the type of American woman who emerged into prominence in the postwar decade. Fran Dodsworth, the wife of Lewis's businessman hero in Dodsworth, is a familiar figure to students of the era: selfish, spoiled, adulterous, extravagant, and socially ambitious, she very nearly succeeds in destroying the spirit of her good-humored, trusting mate.
Curiously enough, the most acrid and rancorous treatment of the American female during the nineteen-twenties was done by a European observer. D. H. Lawrence's Studies in Classic American Literature, published in 1922, contains a section of commentary on the character of Pearl, the illegitimate daughter of Hester Prynne in Hawthorne's Scarlet Letter:
Pearl no longer believes in the Divine Father. She says so. She has no Divine Father. Disowns Papa both big and little.
So she can't sin against him.
What will she do then, if she's got no god to sin against? Why, of course, she'll not be able to sin at all. She'll go her own way gaily, and do as she likes, and she'll say, afterwards, when she's made a mess: “Yes, I did it. But I acted for the best, and therefore I am blameless. It's the other person's fault. Or else it's Its fault.”
The reader will no doubt feel that he has met Pearl before, or at the very least that she is a strangely prophetic figure. “They were careless people,” says Fitzgerald of Daisy and Tom Buchanan in The Great Gatsby. “They smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness, or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess… .”
But to return to Lawrence and to Pearl:
She will be blameless, will Pearl, come what may.
And America is a whole rope of these absolutely immaculate Pearls, who can't sin, let them do what they may. Because they've got no god to sin against. Mere men, one after another. Men with no ghost to their name… .
By Hawthorne's day it was already Pearl. Before swine, of course. There never yet was a Pearl that wasn't cast before swine.
It's part of her game, part of her pearldom.
Because when Circe lies with a man, he's a swine after it, if he wasn't one before. Not she. Circe is the great white impeccable Pearl.
Another interruption is in order, and another significant parallel, this time from Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises* “Look, Brett,” says Mike Campbell in Hemingway's novel. “Tell Jake what Robert calls you. That is perfect, you know… . He calls her Circe… . He claims that she turns men into swine.”
And back to Lawrence:
These dear Pearls, they do anything they like, and remain pure. Oh, purity!
But they can't stop themselves from going rotten inside. Rotten Pearls, fair outside. Their souls smell, because their souls are putrifying inside them.
And gradually, from within outwards, they rot. Some form of dementia. A thing disintegrating. A decomposing psyche. Dementia.
Had Scott Fitzgerald foreseen the tragic destiny of Daisy Buchanan? Years later, when he came to write Tender Is the Night, his heroine, Nicole Warren, is diagnosed according to Lawrence's dark prediction: “Diagnostic: Schizophrenie,” say the doctors at the psychiatric clinic to which Nicole has been committed: “Phase aigue en decroissance.”
If Lawrence's description corresponds imperfectly to the character of Hawthorne's Pearl, it serves admirably as a point of reference, a dramatic statement which represents the views of many authors who left us a vivid image of the American woman under the new “freedom.” Earlier, I have attempted a composite portrait of Fitzgerald's young debutante heroine—the beautiful, irresponsible, and narcissistic belle of the intercollegiate dance. In Lardner, in Sinclair Lewis, in the novels and stories of Ernest Hemingway, and in the later works of Fitzgerald himself, there is an agreement of opinion on her older sister—the destructive, egocentric, and domineering woman of the modern epoch. She wasno doubt part of the pattern of social and economic upheaval that forms the backdrop for so many themes and figures who play a part in the literature of the period. She was the product, too, of the revolution in morals and manners that followed in the wake of peace. She was Fitzgerald's flapper grown up.
Hemingway's first treatment of this character is perhaps his most famous. Brett Ashley, the Anglo-Saxon counterpart of the modern American female, is presented for the most part sympathetically, but is still a member of the class Lawrence decries. In the scene in which Brett is introduced, Jake Barnes is drinking at the bar in a Paris dance hall; he notices that Brett is accompanied by a small crowd of homosexuals: “With them was Brett. She looked very lovely and she was very much with them.” This is a significant association; there are similar scenes in Dos Passos' The Big Money, in Lewis's Dodsworth, and in Fitzgerald's Tender Is the Night. The homosexual episodes in each of these novels suggest the atmosphere of sexual license, excess, or aberration that characterizes the conduct of the New Woman. In Hemingway's novel, Brett's mannish clothes and bobbed hair provide an additional clue to her unnatural sexuality and her loss of true femininity.[See Theodore Bardacke, “Hemingway's Women,” reprinted in Ernest Hemingway: The Man and His Work (New York, 1956), pp. 340-351, for an analysis of Hemingway's attitude toward the postwar woman].
Brett's promiscuity accords with other writers' portrayals of modern women; it is perhaps the most frequently emphasized aspect of character that they share in common, the refrain to which they dance through the fiction of the decade. Brett, it is true, takes moral stock of her own behavior at the end of The Sun Also Rises; she decides to give up her love affair with the bullfighter Pedro Romero. But earlier Brett's justification of her sexual desire forRomero evokes the familiar strain of self-indulgence typical of Lawrence's Pearl:
“I'm a goner [says Brett to Jake Barnes]. I'm mad about the Romero boy. I'm in love with him, I think.”
“I wouldn't be if I were you.”
“I can't help it. I'm a goner. It's tearing me all up inside.”
“Don't do it.”
“I can't help it. I've never been able to help anything. …”
“Ask him to come over and have a drink.”
“Not yet. He'll come over.”
“I can't look at him.”
“He's nice to look at,” I said.
“I've always done just what I wanted.”
“I do feel such a bitch.”
“Well,” I said.
“My God!” said Brett, “the things a woman goes through.”
“Oh, I do feel such a bitch.”
During the late twenties and early thirties Hemingway wrote a number of stories that reveal his attitudes toward the modern woman and the relations between the sexes. Without going into these stories in detail, we might note that Hemingway frequently depicted alienation, perversion, and frustration in his shorter fiction during this period. Fitzgerald seems to have had less interest in the theme of love gone rotten; and his portrayals of modern women, even when unfavorable, are tinged with an archaic gallantry that contrasts sharply with Hemingway's studies of the same subject. Nonetheless, at times, especially in Tender Is the Night, Fitzgerald's fictional women bear a remarkable resemblance to the destructive females who appear in Hemingway's novels and stories. These differences and similarities will emerge in some clarity if we juxtapose a fewexamples from both authors, starting with three of Hemingway's works, written in the middle thirties, that represent a development upon the portrait of the modern woman begun in The Sun Also Rises.
In one of these, To Have and Have Not, Hemingway gives us a brief description of Dorothy Hollis, the “extraordinarily pretty” wife of a Hollywood motion-picture director. Dorothy is on a pleasure cruise with her lover, a man named Eddie whom Hemingway characterizes as “a professional son-in-law of the very rich.” Eddie, it seems, has drunk himself into alcoholic slumber; and Dorothy, who is troubled with insomnia, lies awake in her cabin reflecting on the unpleasant realities of the moment:
I suppose I'll end up a bitch [she thinks]. Maybe I'm one now. I suppose you never know when you get to be one. Only her best friends would tell her. You don't read it in Mr. Winchell. That would be a good new thing for him to announce. Bitch-hood. Mrs. John Hollis canined into town from the coast. … I suppose we all end up as bitches but whose fault is it? The bitches have the most fun but you have to be awfully stupid to be a good one… . Stupid and well-intentioned and really selfish to be a good one. Probably I'm one already. They say you can't tell and that you always think you're not. There must be men who don't get tired of you or of it. There must be. But who has them? … I wish that luminol would work.
But the luminol fails to work; and Dorothy, fearful of the horrors of a sleepless night, resorts to the grosser sedative of masturbation.
In another work written a few years later, The Fifth Column, Hemingway has the hero summarize the general characteristics of his mistress:
She has the same background all American girls have that come to Europe with a certain amount of money. They'reall the same. Camps, college, money in family, more or less than it was, usually less now, men, affairs, abortions, ambitions, and finally marry and settle down or don't marry and settle down. They open shops, or work in shops, some write, others play instruments, some go on the stage, some into films. They have something called the Junior League I believe that the virgins work at. All for the public good.
Later in the play the hero explains to his girl why he intends to leave her: “You're useless, really. You're uneducated, you're useless, you're a fool and you're lazy.” These passages, it is true, represent an extreme and unfortunate manifestation of the Hemingway manner. The easy generalizations, glib rather than authoritative, and the self-conscious virility of the hero's cynicism tend to create the impression of unconscious self-parody. Yet Hemingway's portrait of the “bored Vassar bitch” (as she is called early in the play) is significant as a prominent expression of distaste for the American woman, product of the new dispensation.
But the most important and effective instance of Hemingway's views on this subject is found in his story “The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber.” Written in 1936, “Macomber” contains one of the most memorable—and one of the most merciless—treatments of the American woman in our literature. The story opens as Margot Macomber, wife of the wealthy American-on-safari in Africa, taunts her husband in the presence of Robert Wilson for his cowardice (Francis Macomber has run in terror from a charging lion). “They are the hardest in the world,” thinks Wilson, the white hunter and safari guide; “the hardest, the cruelest, the most predatory and the most attractive and their men have softened or gone to pieces nervously as they have hardened. Or is it that they pick men they can handle?” Later Wilson reflects that Margot is “enamelled in that American female cruelty. They are the damnedest women. Really thedamnedest.” Still later, when Margot is once again calling attention to Macomber's cowardice, Wilson thinks: “She's damn cruel but they're all cruel. They govern, of course, and to govern one has to be cruel sometimes. Still, I've seen enough of their damn terrorism.” Hemingway's cynical interpretation of the Macombers' marriage is also relevant as an indication of his attitude toward the American woman: “They had a sound basis of union. Margot was too beautiful for Macomber to divorce her and Macomber had too much money for Margot ever to leave him.”
In a central episode in the story Hemingway has Margot Macomber demonstrate her contempt for her husband when she visits the tent of Wilson during the night. When she returns, Macomber, who has been sleepless for several hours, subjects her to a cross-examination in which he pathetically attempts to assert his manhood:
“Where have you been?” Macomber asked in the darkness.
“Hello,” she said. “Are you awake?”
“Where have you been?”
“I just went out to get a breath of air.”
“You did, like hell.”
“What do you want me to say, darling?”
“Where have you been?”
“Out to get a breath of air.”
“That's a new name for it. You are a bitch.”
“Well, you're a coward.”
“All right,” he said. “What of it?”
“Nothing as far as I'm concerned. But please let's not talk, darling, because I'm very sleepy.”
“You think I'll take anything.”
“I know you will, sweet.”
But when Macomber's fear leaves him, as he and the white hunter are stalking buffalo, when he “comes of age”, as Wilson calls it, Margot's certainty that her husband will tolerate anything falters. “You know I don't think I'd ever be afraid of anything again,” Macomber tells Wilson. “You've gotten awfully brave, awfully suddenly,” says Mar-got; but, Hemingway adds, “her contempt was not secure.” She is afraid, presumably, that her husband will leave her. Desperate at the thought of losing her mastery over the man, she shoots him as he and Wilson attempt to stop the advance of a wounded buffalo. Wilson has the final word: “That was a pretty thing to do,” he tells her. “He would have left you too.”
Margot Macomber is in no sense typical of Hemingway's fictional women. Obviously she is an extreme representative of the class of female characters I am describing here. Yet she possesses those qualities of character (in exaggerated form perhaps) which Hemingway and other writers of the period consistently emphasized in their depictions of the modern woman. She is aggressive, domineering, sexually indulgent (either promiscuous, adulterous, or in some way aberrant), idle, and egocentric.
Fitzgerald's later heroines, at least in a few outstanding instances, are remarkably similar in conduct and character. I have already commented in some detail upon Fitzgerald's portrayal of Daisy Buchanan and Jordan Baker of The Great Gatsby, both of whom share many traits in common with Hemingway's unsavory females. Jordan's masculine aggressiveness, her dishonesty, her selfishness and narcissism tend to support this contention. Daisy, too, qualifies for admission to the sisterhood: she is basically insincere; she indulges in an adulterous liaison with Jay Gatsby, she is devoted to the pursuit of hedonistic and expensive pleasures; and most important, she ignores her share of responsibility in the death of Myrtle Wilson, by which action she contributes to the murder of her lover. In Daisy Buchanan and JordanBaker, Fitzgerald seems to be implying that the modern American woman is not only deficient in character (to use an unfashionable epithet) and incapable of love, but also that she might be dangerous to encounter on any but the most casual basis.
Another of Fitzgerald's spoiled heroines is Luella Hemple of “The Adjuster,” published the same year as The Great Gatsby. Early in this story Fitzgerald emphasizes the position of Luella and her husband as members of a generation cut adrift from the values of the immediate past:
They were of that enormous American class who wander over Europe every summer, sneering rather pathetically and wistfully at the customs and traditions and pastimes of other countries, because they have no customs or tradition or pastimes of their own. It is a class sprung yesterday from fathers and mothers who might just as well have lived two hundred years ago.
This modern rootlessness has unfortunate consequences in the case of Luella and Charles Hemple. Luella's freedom from the household duties that were a necessary condition of the wives of an earlier era leaves her “wanting something to do.” “Even my baby bores me,” Luella confides to a friend. “He doesn't begin to fill my life.” And later Luella protests to Doctor Moon, a stranger whom Charles Hemple has brought home to dinner:
“Don't you see I've had enough of home?” Her breasts seemed to struggle for air under her dress. “Don't you see how bored I am with keeping house, with the baby—everything seems as if it's going on forever and ever? I want excitement; and I don't care what form it takes or what I pay for it, so long as it makes my heart beat.” . . .
“I've tried to be good, and I'm not going to try any more. If I'm one of those women who wreck their lives for nothing, then I'll do it now. You can call me selfish, or silly, and bequite right; but in five minutes I'm going out of this house and begin to be alive.”
For Charles Hemple, the strain of supporting all the responsibilities of the household proves too great. He suffers a nervous breakdown on the very night Luella has decided to leave him in pursuit of “excitement.”
Charles Hemple had had a nervous collapse… . His attitude toward his wife was the weak point in what had otherwise been a strong-minded and well-organized career—he was aware of her intense selfishness, but it is one of the many flaws in the scheme of human relationships that selfishness in women has an irresistible appeal to many men. Luella's selfishness existed side by side with a childish beauty, and in consequence, Charles Hemple had begun to take the blame upon himself for situations which she had obviously brought about. It was an unhealthy attitude, and his mind had sickened… .
Charles Hemple's illness affects Luella in two ways: it makes her reconsider her decision to leave him and it adds another task to the domestic obligations she already loathes: “The question of her liberties had to be postponed until he was on his feet. Just when she had determined to be a wife no longer, Luella was compelled to be a nurse as well.” But faced with these new difficulties, Luella begins to adopt a different attitude: “I do what I have to do—” she tells Doctor Moon, who has become a regular visitor at the Hemple residence and whom Luella has come to regard as a confidant. Later, when Luella's child dies, she accepts the loss; and at Doctor Moon's insistence, she devotes herself more and more unselfishly to helping her husband recover.
Near the end of the story Fitzgerald reveals that Doctor Moon is a personification of the passage of time. “We makean agreement with children that they can sit in the audience without helping to make the play,” he tells Luella, “but if they still sit in the audience after they're grown, somebody's got to work double time for them, so that they can enjoy the light and glitter of the world.”
“It's your turn to be the centre, to give others what was given to you for so long. You've got to give security to young people and peace to your husband, and a sort of charity to the old. You've got to let the people who work for you depend on you. You've got to cover up a few more troubles than you show, and be a little more patient than the average person, and do a little more instead of a little less than your share. The light and glitter of the world is in your hands.”
The conclusion of “The Adjuster” reveals Luella Hemple with a “mature kindness about her face at twenty-eight [apparently, for Fitzgerald, the threshold of middle-age!], as if suffering had touched her only reluctantly and then hurried away.” Charles Hemple has completely recovered; Luella has matured through suffering; and she has become a devoted mother to two children Fitzgerald introduces, as a crowning implausibility, in the last sentence.[Cf. Fitzgerald's story “The Lees of Happiness,” which also emphasizes the theme of maturity through suffering.]
“The Adjuster” is typical of Fitzgerald's popular-magazine fiction in its tone of mild reproach for Luella's attitudes, its avoidance of the theme of sexual license (though Luella's craving for “excitement” suggests the possibility), and in its optimistic and unconvincing conclusion. Hemingway's portrayals of the destructive modern woman are, of course, more cynical and more realistic than this. Yet there is a parallel between the two authors' treatments of this subject worth noticing. Hemingway's Brett Ashley and Fitzgerald'sLuella Hemple both represent partially sympathetic depictions of the postwar woman.
In later works both writers grow increasingly disillusioned with the possibility of her attaining wisdom, maturity, or the capacity to love. Margot Macomber is the logical successor to Brett Ashley; and Nicole and Baby Warren, of Tender Is the Night, are the successors to Luella Hemple. Pedro Romero, the bullfighter whom Brett renounces in The Sun Also Rises, must be counted a fortunate survivor in the modern battle of the sexes. Likewise Charles Hemple of “The Adjuster.” Both have escaped the fate of their later counterparts, Francis Macomber and Dick Diver.
The actual passage of years apparently subverted Fitzgerald's faith in Doctor Moon.
In Tender Is the Night the defeat of the sentimental American male is no longer potential but real. The fascination Fitzgerald's heroes have with physical beauty captivates Dick Diver (as it captivates Francis Macomber): “Her face, ivory gold against the blurred sunset that strove through the rain, had a promise Dick had never seen before: the high cheek-bones, the faintly wan quality, cool rather than feverish, was reminiscent of the frame of a promising colt—a creature whose life did not promise to be only a projection of youth upon a grayer screen, but instead, a true growing; the face would be handsome in middle life; it would be handsome in old age: the essential structure and economy were there.”
The potency of Nicole Warren's appeal is given emphasis by Diver's decision to marry her; for he knows that marriage to Nicole is inadvisable. She is mentally unstable, a schizophrenic recently discharged from a clinic in Zurich; and Baby Warren, Nicole's sister, looks upon Diver as a useful psychiatric caretaker, rather than a husband to Nicole.
Diver's resentment of Baby's attitude yields, however, to Nicole's fatal attractiveness:
“Big chance—oh, yes [Diver reflects]. My God!—they decided to buy a doctor? Well, they better stick to whoever they've got in Chicago.” Revolted by his harshness he made amends to Nicole, remembering that nothing had ever felt so young as her lips, remembering rain like tears shed for him that lay upon her softly shining porcelain cheeks … the silence of the storm ceasing woke him about three o'clock and he went to the window. Her beauty climbed the rolling slope, it came into the room, rustling ghost-like through the curtains… .
The process by which Diver gradually loses his own emotional sturdiness, his capacity to love, and his ambition constitutes the heart of Fitzgerald's novel. As Nicole slowly recovers her sanity, attended through crisis after crisis by Diver's affectionate care, her character reasserts itself: “Moment by moment all that Dick had taught her fell away and she was nearer to what she had been at the beginning,” says Fitzgerald of his heroine near the end of the novel. “Being well perhaps I've gone back to my true self,” admits Nicole a few pages earlier. And: “other women have lovers,” she muses; “why not me?”
Not long after Nicole commences her love affair with the handsome adventurer Tommy Barban, Diver leaves for America; by this time he has become something of an alcoholic and a social nuisance: he has served his purpose. “Dick was a good husband to me for six years,” Nicole tells Baby Warren. “All that time I never suffered a minute's pain because of him, and he always did his best never to let anything hurt me.” To which Baby replies: “That's what he was educated for.” The final impression Fitzgerald gives us of his hero is that he is practicing medicine “in one townor another” of the Finger Lakes section—“a pleasant place” in New York state. The pattern Fitzgerald traces in Tender Is the Night parallels the statement made by Wilson, the white hunter of Hemingway's “The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber”: “They are the hardest in the world; the hardest, the cruelest, the most predatory and the most attractive and their men have softened or gone to pieces nervously as they have hardened.”
Fitzgerald's treatment of the Dick Diver-Nicole Warren relationship, however, is characteristically more romantic than anything comparable in the works of Ernest Hemingway. Indeed, the history of Dick Diver is reminiscent of one of the central and typical myths of nineteenth-century Romanticism—a theme which finds its most celebrated expression in Keats's “La Belle Dame Sans Merci.” Like the abandoned hero of Keats's poem, Diver is incapable of heeding the whispered warning: “La Belle Dame sans Merci/Hath thee in thrall.” The penalty is spiritual desolation:
O what can ail thee, knight-at-arms,
Alone and palely loitering?
The sedge has withered from the lake
And no birds sing.
In Tender Is the Night Fitzgerald has transmuted into modern terms the Romantic image of the bewitched innocent, victimized by the fairy temptress.
Yet there are pages in Fitzgerald's novel that approach the more realistic manner of Hemingway's “Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber,” as when Baby Warren is urging a reluctant American consul to rush to the assistance of Dick Diver:
“You put on your hat and come with me right away” [insists Baby].
The mention of his hat alarmed the Consul who began to clean his spectacles hurriedly and to ruffle his papers. This proved to no avail: the American Woman, aroused, stood over him; the clean-sweeping irrational temper that had broken the moral back of a race and made a nursery out of a continent, was too much for him. He rang for the vice-consul—Baby had won.
And if Nicole does not literally blow off the back of her mate's head, she does assist in the gradual destruction of his will. At one point, indeed, Fitzgerald suggests that she figuratively devours him:
“Kiss me, on the lips, Tommy” [Nicole says].
“That's so American,” he said, kissing her nevertheless. “When I was in America last there were girls who would tear you apart with their lips, tear themselves too, until their faces were scarlet with the blood around the lips all brought out in a patch… .”
At the same time, Nicole is more complicated in her motives and attitudes than Margot Macomber, perhaps more recognizable as an American type than Hemingway's extreme of spite, malice, and selfishness. Notwithstanding these differences in tone and emphasis, the modern women portrayed by Hemingway and Fitzgerald share in common a number of characteristics; and they seem to exercise a similar influence upon their unfortunate mates. Dispensers of woe, the females in the American fiction of the nineteen-twenties leave behind them men embittered, shattered, or dead.
Closely related to the depiction of the modern woman in Hemingway and Fitzgerald is the interest both writers displayed in the theme of the ruined writer. Fitzgerald's Tender Is the Night and Hemingway's “The Snows of Kilimanjaro,” which were published within a two-year period, are two of the most effective treatments of this theme in American literature. Furthermore, these two works not only stress the same theme, but develop as well similar plots and characters.
The destroyed writer is an American phenomenon and something of an American preoccupation. The fate of such literary artists as Edgar Allan Poe and Hart Crane seems more typical, to many observers at least, than the opposite image of established solidity typified by William Dean Howells. Van Wyck Brooks, for example, has commented at some length upon what he calls “the abortive career” of the American literary artist. The same theme has attracted the attention of some of our leading fictionists: Henry James remarked that the American writer seemed destined to follow a pattern of “broken careers, orphaned children, early disasters, violent deaths.” James's comment is but one of many that stress the native tendency toward unfulfilled talent, alcoholism, and suicide—comments that seem to culminate in Fitzgerald's “Crack-Up” essays. “No one of us escapes it,” said Sherwood Anderson, speaking of the “tragedy” of the creative man in America. “How can he?”
If Anderson's remark is exaggerated, it is nevertheless true that many American writers, among them Ring Lardner and Scott Fitzgerald, reveal a tendency toward tragic misfortune in their personal and professional histories. It is also true that the theme of the ruined writer has received considerable attention from many of our critics and fictionists. Hemingway appears to have been much interested in this theme in the mid nineteen-thirties, but his fullest and most important treatment of it occurs in “The Snows of Kilimanjaro” (written in 1936). The hero of the story, a man named Harry, has for a number of years entertained a profound desire to write about his experiences, vividly remembered from his wanderings in Europe and America.But he has never realized this ambition; instead, he has gradually yielded to his preference for the pleasures of love-making, the company of rich women, and the life of ease that has softened his determination to exercise his literary talent. It is Harry's failure, treated in a tone of overwhelming regret, that Hemingway dramatizes in “The Snows of Kilimanjaro.”
The story is set in Africa, where Harry and his wealthy American wife have set out upon a hunting expedition; Harry has the idea that the rigors of the trip will help toughen him up and restore his creative powers, or at least restore his ability to apply himself to his work. But the safari breaks down when one of the native guides burns out a bearing in the truck and Harry discovers that a cut on his leg has become infected and gangrenous. Now, as he lies dying of his wound—a symbol of the decay of his talent—Harry relives in his mind those experiences he has wanted to record on paper. He also tries to define the reasons for his failure to do so.
Now he would never write the things that he had saved to write until he knew enough to write them well. Well, he would not have to fail at trying to write them either. Maybe you could never write them, and that was why you put them off and delayed the starting. Well he would never know, now.
What was his talent anyway? It was a talent all right but instead of using it, he had traded on it. It was never what he had done, but always what he could do. And he had chosen to make his living with something else instead of a pen or a pencil.
We must all be cut out for what we do, he thought. However you make your living is where your talent lies. He had sold vitality, in one form or another, all his life and when your affections are not too involved you give much better value for the money. He had found that outbut he would never write that, now, either. No, he would not write that, although it was well worth writing.
She shot very well this good, this rich bitch, this kindly caretaker and destroyer of his talent. Nonsense. He had destroyed his talent himself. Why should he blame this woman because she kept him well? He had destroyed his talent by not using it, by betrayals of himself and what he believed in, by drinking so much that he blunted the edge of his perceptions, by laziness, by sloth, and by snobbery, by pride and by prejudice, by hook and by crook.
If Harry's tragedy sounds somehow familiar to readers of the fiction of the period, it is because Scott Fitzgerald had rehearsed the same story a few years earlier in Tender Is the Night. Dick Diver, too, has “sold vitality, in one form or another”—to the group of expatriates who are drawn to his control and charm, and to his wife Nicole, whom he has been “hired” to love and protect. Like Harry, Diver has undergone emotional and professional deterioration because his wife's wealth has made effort unnecessary; like Hemingway's hero, Dick Diver has become accustomed to the comfort that corrupts the Will and destroys ambition. Like Harry, too, Diver is ambivalent about the reasons for his deterioration: he vacillates between placing the blame upon his own weakness and the seductive leisure purchased by the Warren fortune: “I can't do anything for you any more,” says Diver to Nicole near the end of the novel. “I'm trying to save myself.”
“From my contamination?” [asks Nicole.]
“Profession throws me in contact with questionable company sometimes.”
She wept with anger at the abuse.
“You're a coward! You've made a failure of your life, and you want to blame it on me.”
Diver and Harry also share similar attitudes, in theirdecline, toward the wealthy class of American idlers with whom they have been associated. “The rich were dull and they drank too much,” Harry reflects near the end of Hemingway's story. “They were dull and they were repetitious.” In one of the concluding chapters of Fitzgerald's novel, Mary Minghetti tells Dick Diver: “Nobody cares whether you drink or not. Even when Abe drank hardest, he never offended people like you do.” Diver replies: “You're all so dull.”
Finally, for all the surface description of Diver's professional involvements with psychiatry, the hero of Tender Is the Night may be accurately considered a ruined artist of the sort Hemingway writes about in “The Snows of Kilimanjaro.” By making his hero a doctor rather than a writer Fitzgerald no doubt hoped to gain distance and detachment. But his efforts were not completely successful. Biographical data support the notion, already mentioned by several students of Fitzgerald's fiction, that in Tender Is the Night the novelist was projecting his anxiety about his own career and emotional instability. [See, for example, Arthur Mizener, The Far Side of Paradise (Cambridge, Mass., 1951), pp. 245-251]. There is, furthermore, strong internal evidence that Fitzgerald conceived of Dick Diver's career as parallel, in many respects, to his own. All through Tender Is the Night there are references to Diver's literary activity. An early episode mentions his publication of an extremely popular medical treatise (“The little book is selling everywhere,” says Nicole. “They want it published in six languages.”)—an obvious counterpart to Fitzgerald's best-selling novels. And during the central sections of Tender Is the Night Diver struggles, at times aimlessly, to complete another medical text. Finally, in the last chapter Fitzgerald returns to the unfinished manuscript to give particular emphasis to Diver's loss of ambition, thedecline of his professional dedication: “he always had a big stack of papers on his desk that were known to be an important treatise on some medical subject, almost in process of completion.” [For the idea that Diver might be considered a professional writer, rather than a doctor, I am indebted to the unpublished dissertation (University of Pennsylvania, 1950) by Henry Dan Piper, “Scott Fitzgerald and the Origins of the Jazz Age,” pp. 132-134].
Thus Fitzgerald's Tender Is the Night traces the same pattern as “The Snows of Kilimanjaro” and reveals, indirectly at least, the same interest in the blighted artistic career and the decay of a writer's talent. An important aspect of Diver's tragedy, like Harry's, is that “he would never write the things he had saved to write until he knew enough to write them well.” It might also be worth repeating, in conclusion, that Harry and Dick Diver have been victimized by the same forces. Temperamental weakness, to be sure, plays a part in the misfortunes of both heroes. But Hemingway and Fitzgerald have stressed as well the ruinous influence of a luxurious life provided by wealthy American women.
We might conclude, on the basis of the foregoing comparative readings, that the conception of Fitzgerald as an author who glamorized the rich is true only in a limited i sense; and that Fitzgerald and Hemingway, for all their obvious differences, were basically in agreement upon many features of contemporary experience. There is of course a great deal of evidence which demonstrates the attraction Fitzgerald felt, and Hemingway did not feel, for wealth and the way of life it could purchase. The opening of Tender Is the Night, the company of idle expatriates held together by the charm of Dick and Nicole Diver, the glittering appeal of the debutante Daisy Fay in The Great Gatsby, andthe parties given at Gatsby's mansion—these episodes in the life of the American rich Fitzgerald invests with a kind of glamor and excitement. But Fitzgerald can not be said to have glamorized Tom Buchanan; nor did the author of Gatsby leave any doubt, at the conclusion of the novel, about the insincerity and corruption of Daisy. It is also very difficult to mistake Fitzgerald's view of the wealthy class personified by the Warren family in Tender Is the Night. Baby Warren in particular is as unappealing a character as any of the rich American women who appear in the works of Hemingway and Sinclair Lewis during the same period. Nicole Warren, it is true, is initially portrayed as attractive and sympathetic; but this impression fades as she recovers from her mental illness. Fitzgerald suggests that Dick Diver, the sentimental knight-at-arms in a strange land, finds Nicole fascinating for her youth and beauty and for her helpless dependency; but, as we have seen, these are not the qualities of the real Nicole Warren. Diver has merely loved her for a time when she was not herself.
On the other hand, much of the texture of Fitzgerald's novels and stories—the descriptions of dinners and motor trips and parties and conversations—evokes an image of leisure-class charm and alluring opulence. In Hemingway such an emphasis is almost completely absent. Had Fitzgerald written “The Snows of Kilimanjaro” (a speculation not without relevance here), the content of Harry's dying thoughts would have consisted of the social activities in which he and Helen had participated, rather than the episodes of sexual pleasure and violent action that Harry remembers. A great deal of Fitzgerald's interest was in the Ritz and in playboys, as Christian Gauss observed; and if the novelist's characteristic fable was a modern interpretation of “La Belle Dame Sans Merci,” it is undeniable that the song of the demon temptress was a lyrical celebration of money.
Yet the affinities in the works of Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway are as important as the differences. Their treatments of the themes of the alien outsider, the modern woman, and the ruined writer reflect similar attitudes; and with particular reference to the last of these, Hemingway and Fitzgerald seem to be in complete accord on the disaster latent in one aspect of the American Dream.
Fitzgerald's influence on Hemingway is difficult to define and must be based on the always inconclusive evidence of parallels. A number of critics have already called attention to several of these parallels. Oscar Cargill thought the story “Out of Season” reflected the manner of Scott Fitzgerald, as did the opening pages of The Sun Also Rises. More recently Philip Young has remarked that several Hemingway stories which portray disillusioned or corrupted love affairs were derived from Fitzgerald's treatments of the same theme or mood.
Critics have overlooked the strong resemblance between Tender Is the Night and Hemingway's African stories. Both “The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber” and “The Snows of Kilimanjaro,” it seems to me, were drawn from Fitzgerald's novel, which Hemingway read two years before he wrote these stories. The situation and development of the characters in “Macomber” seem particularly reminiscent of Dick Diver and Nicole and Baby Warren. Hemingway has made an important modification: in Tender Is the Night the hero's strength declines as his wife's increases; in “Macomber” the hero acquires strength as his wife declines into relative weakness. Hemingway has reversed Fitzgerald's pattern of the transfer of power; but the basic pattern is still clearly discernible. “Kilimanjaro,” on the other hand, adheres closely to Fitzgerald's conception of the disintegration of character in Tender Is the Night. The causes of the hero's misfortunes, furthermore, show a close correspondence in Hemingway's story and Fitzgerald's novel. Perhaps Hemingway's adoption of these ideas was unconscious; but it is certain that Fitzgerald's novel left a strong impression on his friend's imagination. A year after Tender Is the Night was published Hemingway wrote Maxwell Perkins: “A strange thing is that in retrospect his Tender Is the Night gets better and better.”
Hemingway's influence on Fitzgerald is most clearly apparent in the style of Tender Is the Night. It is true that Fitzgerald's mature style was shaped in part by his experience over the years: he had traveled widely during the period 1925-1934; he had had close associations with a number of writers; his personal difficulties might well have tempered the extravagance of his imagination; and the nation had undergone a sobering psychological adjustment to the hardships of the new decade. These circumstances may have diminished Fitzgerald's intense and colorful poetic invention and may have inclined him toward more realistic reflection, with a heightened emphasis on verisimilitude. Whatever the reasons, by the early thirties the tone of poetic fantasy in The Great Gatsby had evolved into the more concrete solidity of Tender Is the Night.
The distinguishing quality of the later novel is founded in part on its language. Tender Is the Night still retains the clarity of diction, the measured cadence, and the evocative imagery that have impressed readers of Gatsby:
They reached the hotel and Rosemary walked a little behind him, to admire him, to adore him. His step was alert as if he had just come from some great doings andwas hurrying on toward others. Organizer of private gaiety, curator of a richly incrusted happiness. His hat was a perfect hat and he carried a heavy stick and yellow gloves…
They walked upstairs—five flights. At the first landing they stopped and kissed; she was careful on the next landing, on the third more careful still. On the next—there were two more—she stopped half way and kissed him fleetingly good-by. At his urgency she walked down with him to the one below for a minute—and then up and up. Finally it was good-by with their hands stretching to touch along the diagonal of the banister and then the fingers slipping apart.
But in Fitzgerald's mature style there is nothing so airy and fanciful as the following passage from The Great Gatsby:
One autumn night, five years before, they had been walking down the street when the leaves were falling, and they came to a place where there were no trees and the sidewalk was white with moonlight. They stopped here and turned toward each other. Now it was a cool night with that mysterious excitement in it which comes at the two changes of the year. The quiet lights in the houses were humming out into the darkness and there was a stir and bustle among the stars. Out of the corner of his eye Gatsby saw that the blocks of the sidewalks really formed a ladder and mounted to a secret place above the trees-he could climb to it, if he climbed alone, and once there he could suck on the pap of life, gulp down the incomparable milk of wonder.
We know that Fitzgerald read A Farewell to Arms while he was writing Tender Is the Night, and that in the late twenties he also gave some of Hemingway's short stories careful perusal. Hemingway's imagery, spare and conservative but invested with a unique and powerful poetic effect, established a claim on Fitzgerald's susceptible imagination, so much so that he felt it advisable to stop readingHemingway during this period, lest the latter's “rhythms” begin to creep into his own sentences. In addition, Hemingway may have stated, in conversation with Fitzgerald, his feelings about inflated prose—which he expressed at some length in Death in the Afternoon, written in 1930 and 1931. There are many writers, remarked Hemingway, who inject a fake mystical quality into their prose in order to disguise their inability to state clearly. Other writers afflicted with the same necessity praise such work in self-defense. But overwritten journalism elevated by a false epic tone is not literature, etc. Hemingway's implication here is that clear and realistic writing is one of the ultimate values for the prose artist. And though there is nothing of the fake epic quality about The Great Gatsby, there is an elevated and heightened poetic tone. Fitzgerald might well have taken to heart Hemingway's comments on the ability to state clearly, thereby effecting the modification of his style which is evident in Tender Is the Night.
In addition to the quality of language and imagery, Tender Is the Night emphasizes more than any of Fitzgerald's earlier works what Hemingway called “the way it was”—a concept, as Carlos Baker has pointed out, that was one of the basic tenets of Hemingway's aesthetic. Professor Baker believes that this artistic principle is the foundation of Hemingway's consistent evocation of a sense of place, a sense of fact, and a sense of scene [Hemingway, pp. 48-54]. Fitzgerald's first novel, This Side of Paradise, certainly emphasizes all of these; yet This Side of Paradise is rather special in that it attempts to dramatize place, fact, and scene more than it does action, character, or idea: “the way it was” constitutes its core and primary significance. The Great Gatsby, too, dramatically evokes a sense of place by its skillful representation of the feeling of New York City; but here, as elsewhere in the novel, Fitzgerald's mode of expression is poetic and fanciful:
Over the great bridge, with the sunlight through the girders making a constant flicker upon the moving cars, with the city rising up across the river in white heaps and sugar lumps all built with a wish out of non-olfactory money. The city seen from the Queensboro Bridge is always the city seen for the first time, in its wild promise of all the mystery and beauty in the world.
Fitzgerald's mode in Tender Is the Night is more deliberately realistic and discursive. The sense of place is pervasive and vivid: the opening section, in which Fitzgerald establishes Gausse's Hotel beach as the setting for the drama between Rosemary Hoyt and the Divers, might be mentioned as one memorable instance. Others could easily be added—such as the visit to the battlefield in Chapter XIII of Book One; or the description of Zurich and Dohmler's clinic in Chapter II, Book Two; or the party on board T. F. Golding's yacht in Chapter V, Book Three. The sense of fact, too, is stronger in Tender Is the Night than elsewhere in Fitzgerald's fiction; the novelist appears to have taken more than usual care with specific dates and locations, and Dick Diver's involvement with psychiatry compelled the use of data to an extent that was not required in Fitzgerald's earlier novels.
But an even more prominent aspect of Tender Is the Night is its sense of scene, its consistent excellence in conjuring up in the reader's mind a dramatic situation that takes place in a particularly appropriate setting. One of the most perfectly realized of these scenes occurs early in Book Two, when Dick Diver and Nicole Warren meet in a hidden spot on the grounds of the clinic and listen to Nicole's phonograph as it plays the popular American songs of the day:
They were in America now, even Franz with his conception of Dick as an irresistible Lothario would never have guessed that they had gone so far away. They were sorry, dear; they went down to meet each other in a taxi, honey; they had preferences in smiles and had met in Hindustan; and shortly afterward they must have quarreled, for nobody knew and nobody seemed to care—yet finally one of them had gone and left the other crying, only to feel blue, to feel sad.
The thin tunes, holding lost times and future hopes in liaison, twisted upon the Valais night. In the lulls of the phonograph a cricket held the scene together with a single note. By and by Nicole stopped playing the machine and sang to him.
Fitzgerald provides an abundance of episodes such as this one, in which character, setting, and action become fused in a single vivid pictorial image. Another instance may be found near the end of the novel when Nicole and Dick Diver sit with Tommy Barban at a cafe table and decide the fate of their marriage. Or shortly thereafter, when Fitzgerald constructs the astonishing tableau of Dick's farewell gesture:
As he stood up, he swayed a little; he did not feel well any more—his blood raced slow. He raised his hand and with a papal cross he blessed the beach from the high terrace. Faces turned upward from several umbrellas.
Thus with many other scenes and episodes in the novel, all rendered with a richness of verisimilitude not found in Fitzgerald's earlier work.
In its technique, then—in its concrete rather than fanciful language, and in its realistic evocation of place, fact, and scene—Fitzgerald's Tender Is the Night approaches the spirit and manner of the art of Ernest Hemingway. This is not to say that the novel reads like anything written byHemingway; but it does reflect a modification in Fitzgerald's perspective on the craft of fiction. The evidence I have set forth here, both biographical and textual, strongly suggests that that modification was a result of Fitzgerald's admiration for his friend and colleague.
With the recent death of Ernest Hemingway and the promised release, some time in the future, of his volume of reminiscences about the nineteen-twenties, more light on his relationship with Scott Fitzgerald will no doubt be forthcoming. In the meantime the general pattern and important particulars are clear: Fitzgerald and Hemingway were close companions, strong personalities who for a time affected the course of each other's lives; they turned their thoughts and their talents on occasion toward the same themes and subjects and left us enduring interpretations of the same features of national experience; and each author exerted a significant influence on the other's fiction.
It is enough—and not enough. Notebooks, correspondence, literary parallels and allusions—these touch only the surface of the deeper story; let the reader himself supply the content between the lines, beneath and behind the lines. The most diligent of historians can never re-create the lavish expenditure of intellect and emotion—true component of all our friendships.
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Baker, Carlos. “Hemingway,” Saturday Review, XLIV:30 (July 29, 1961), 11-12.
Brooks, Van Wyck. The Writer in America. New York: E. P. Dutton & Co., 1953.
Burlingame, Roger. Of Making Many Books. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1946.
Cargill, Oscar. Intellectual America: Ideas on the March. New York: The Macmillan Co., 1941.
Eliot, T. S. The Complete Poems and Plays. New York: Harcourt, Brace & Co., 1952.
Fenton, Charles A. The Apprenticeship of Ernest Hemingway. New York: The Viking Press, Inc., 1958.
Fiedler, Leslie A. Love and Death in the American Novel. New York: Criterion Books, 1960.
Graham, Sheilah and Gerold Frank. Beloved Infidel: The Education of a Woman. New York: Henry Holt and Co., Inc., 1958.
Ernest Hemingway: The Man and His Work. Edited by John K. M. McCaffery. New York: The World Publishing Co., 1956.
Hindus, Milton. “F. Scott Fitzgerald and Literary Anti-Semitism,” Commentary, III (June, 1947), 508-516.
Josephson, Matthew. Portrait of the Artist as American. New York: Harcourt, Brace & Co., 1930.
Kuehl, John Richard. “Scott Fitzgerald: Romantic and Realist.” Unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, Columbia University, 1958.
Kuehl, John Richard. “Scott Fitzgerald's Reading,” Princeton University Library Chronicle, XXII: 2 (Winter, 1961), 58-89.
Lawrence, D. H. Studies in Classic American Literature. New York: Doubleday and Co., Inc., 1951 (originally published in the United States in 1923).
Nathan, George Jean. “The Golden Boy of the Twenties,” Esquire, L:4 (October, 1958), 148-149.
Piper, Henry Dan. “Scott Fitzgerald and the Origins of the Jazz Age.” Unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, University of Pennsylvania, 1950.
Rideout, Walter B. The Radical Novel in the United States: 1900-1954. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1956.
Tynan, Kenneth. “A Visit to Havana,” Holiday, 27:2 (February, 1960), 50-58.
Young, Philip. Ernest Hemingway. New York: Rinehart & Company, Inc., 1952.