F. Scott Fitzgerald Essay, Research Paper
Jeremy A. Griffin
Fitzgerald Literary Analogy
Winter Dreams hits closer to home. In fact, it is one of the few Fitzgerald stories obviously set in and around White Bear Lake, the summer playground of Saint Paul’s elite. Dexter Green first encounters Judy Jones when he is caddying at her club. He quits on the spot because he realizes that she sees him as a servant, and he quite consciously begins to make something of himself in order to earn her approval. The little girl who had done this was eleven, Fitzgerald reveals, beautifully ugly now butdestined after a few years to be inexpressively lovely and bring no end of misery to a great number of men. In time Dexter does attract her attention, but she treats him cavalierly as only one in a parade of beaux. Eventually Dexter makes a success in business and then on Wall Street, where he hears that Judy has married a man from Detroit who rather mistreats her and that her beauty has faded. Most of the women like her, he is told. Dexter can hardly believe his ears, and the news devastates him, destroying his dream of Judy: Something had been taken from him and the grief he could have borne was left behind in the country of illusion, of youth, of the richness of life, where his winter dreams had flourished.
Like Dexter, most of Fitzgerald ’s male characters celebrate the ideal at the expense of the real. Only the world of illusion can sustain their emotional intensity; only in dreams can they shut out the sometimes terrifying everyday world. So the twelve-year-old Rudolph Miller in Absolution (1924), which is the discarded beginnning for The Great Gatsby, retreats into his imaginary self, Blatchford Sarnemington, when threatened by divine punishment. Like James Gatz, Rudolph feels himself superior to his parents, and especially to his religiously stern but financially unsuccessful father.
Regarded as background for the character of Gatsby, Absolution is most interesting in its strongly religious orientation. Having lied, rather innocently, at confession, Rudolph is convinced that he will be struck dead when he takes communion. When he survives that trauma, however, and discovers that his priest has gone quite mad, Rudolph/Blatchford is tempted to reject conventional Catholicism and seek a more secular image to adore. In an uncannily prophetic speech, the priest warns against the costs of such materialistic worship. Go and see an amusement park at night, he advises the startled boy. You’ll see a big wheel made of lights turning in the air, and a long slide shooting boats down into the water. A band playing somewhere, and a smell of peanutsand everything will twinkle. … It will all hang out there in the night like a colored balloonlike a big yellow lantern on a pole. Then the priest pauses, frowns, and adds: But don’t get up too close, for if you do you’ll only feel the heat and the sweat and the life. The Great Gatsby tells the story of a man who got too close.