The Great Gatsby is undoubtedly one of the greatest novels ever written. F. Scott Fitzgerald hit the nail on the head when he wrote it in 1925. Nobody captured the "Jazz Age" on paper the way Fitzgerald did. His keen eye on the 1920's social norms and trends transcends the romanticism of the time and offers readers in the 21st century a crystal clear view of the "upper crust" of society during the decade before the Wall Street crash in 1929 and the subsequent Great Depression.
A full five years before Gatsby was published, Fitzgerald wrote a number of short stories, some that were first published in The Saturday Evening Post and later collected in 1920 as Flappers and Philosophers.
Featuring eight short stories, Flappers and Philosophers expands on ideas developed in his first novel This Side of Paradise which was published earlier in 1920. Fitzgerald was obviously interested in social hierarchy and how to become popular, especially in high society. For instance, in my favorite story from this collection, "Bernice Bobs Her Hair," the main character, Bernice, follows the mean-spirited advice of her cousin Marjorie and bobs her hair to achieve acceptance among people outside of her normal social set, not knowing that Marjorie is already jealous of her popularity and wants to sabotage Bernice in the eyes of the boys she most wants to impress. Early in the 1920's it was considered rather risqué for women to wear bobbed hair. At the climax, in a kind of O. Henry-ish twist, Bernice repays her cousin's cruelty with a little retribution of her own. Biting social commentary lies just beneath the surface of Fitzgerald's trademark lyrical, flowery writing and snaps like the jaws of a diamondback on the back of a fleeing mouse. This is short story writing at its best.
Other memorable stories in this collection include "The Offshore Pirate" that features a carefree flapper being kidnapped by a boat thief who may or may not be what he seems. In "The Ice Palace" a girl from Georgia heads "North" to "go places and see people." What she finds is that maybe the slow life at home isn't so bad.
These stories, whether read individually or as a collection, highlight the immense talent of Fitzgerald as not only a writer of exceptional talent, but as a sensitive observer of class structure and society in the 1920's.
To see a previous review of other works by F. Scott Fitzgerald please click here.
Submitted by Dan@Central