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Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald
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James E. Miller Jr.:

        The critic James E. Miller Jr., diagrams the sequence of events in The Great Gatsby like this: "Allowing X to stand for the straight chronological account of the summer of 1922, and A, B, C, D, and F to represent the significant events of Gatsby's past, the nine chapters of The Great Gatsby may be charted: X, X, X, XCX, X, XBXCX, X, XCXDXD, XEXAX."

        Miller's diagram shows clearly how Fitzgerald designed the novel. He gives us the information as Nick gets it, just as we might find out information about a friend or acquaintance in real life, in bits and pieces over a period of time. Since we don't want or can 't absorb much information about a character until we truly become interested in him, Fitzgerald waits to take us into the past until close to the middle of the novel. As the story moves toward its climax, we find out more and more about the central figure from Nick until we, too, are in a privileged position and can understand why Gatsby behaves as he does.

        Thus the key to the structure of the novel is the combination of the first person narrative and the gradual revelation of the past as the narrator finds out more and more. The two devices work extremely effectively together, but neither would work very well alone.

Michelle Byrd:

        Another critic of F. Scott Fitzgerald is Michelle Byrd. In at least two of F. Scott Fitzgerald's short stories, the main character's life reflects the effect of alcoholism. In "Babylon Revisited" and "Family in the Wind" Charlie and Dr. Janney are struggling with lives severely impacted by alcohol, but Fitzgerald's portrayal is sympathetic, an empathy that probably reflects his own battle with alcohol.

        The characters in both stories, "Babylon Revisted and "Family in the Wind," have lives that have been torn apart by alcohol abuse. In "Babylon Revisited" Charlie is a member of the "lost generation." He embodies the words of Gertrude Stein, whose description of the "lost generation" in Ernest Hemingway's book about 1920's Paris, A Movable Feast, was succinct. "That's what you all are . . .a lost generation . . . you drink yourselves to death." In the past Charlie has "lived it up" in Paris, but in the story he has worked to regain control of his life, hoping to retake custody of his young daughter. Dr. Janney, in "Family in the Wind," is an alcohol-weakened surgeon. He, like Charlie, suffers from conflict over what alcoholism has done to his life. His ability to diagnose the cause of death for a townswoman is questioned on grounds of his alcoholism. Dr. Janney, very aware of his shortcomings, is, like Charlie, trying to restabilize his life.

        The suffering, which both characters must endure, presents itself as an early theme, expressed both cognitively and symbolically. In "Family in the Wind," the reader becomes aware of the suffering/conflict that Dr. Janney is experiencing from the setting. The sun is described as being "blood red" and the tornadoes, central to the story, signify the turbulent feelings of people toward Dr. Janney. The reader realizes that Dr. Janney is cognitive of his situation when he says, " there is no peace left for me." (Reader, p.356)

        Charlie in "Babylon Revisited" suffers problems similar to Dr. Janney's as Charlie tries to reconcile his alcohol-damaged life. When he returns to Paris to reclaim his daughter he knows that he will "have to take a beating." (Reader, p.312) Charlie's return to Paris brings turmoil to the Parisian home of his sister-in-law that is similar to the tempestuous relationship between Dr. Janney and the rest of his family. It is a parallel turbulence to that of Dr. Janney which, in "Family in the Wind," is symbolized by the tornado. When Marion states, in "Babylon Revisited," that it is as though both nature and society, " face all (their) her fear toward (them) him," she might have been speaking in either story. (Reader, p.313)

        Fitzgerald presents both Charlie and Dr. Janney as humanitarians through positive evolutionary character development. For example, Charlie treats women of questionable character with respect and kindness. When he tours Paris alone and stops in a brasserie, he buys a woman breakfast, then, as Fitzgerald describes: " eludes her encouraging stare, (gives) her a twenty franc note and (takes) a taxi to his hotel". (Reader, p.307) Similarly, when Lorraine, an old female friend from his drinking days offers a rekindling of their relationship, Charlie responds kindly, but without accepting her offer.

        Dr. Janney's humanitarian characteristics are even more prominently expressed than Charlie's. Consider Fitzgerald's soliloquy written for Dr. Janney:

        I chuckle or I weep alcoholically and, as I continue to slow up, life accommodatingly goes faster, so that the less there is of myself inside, the more diverting becomes the moving picture without. I have cut myself off from the respect of my fellow man, but I am aware of a compensatory cirrhosis of the emotions. And because my sensitivity, my pity, no longer has direction, but fixes itself on whatever is at hand, I have become an exceptionally good fellow--much more so than when I was a good doctor. (Reader, p.350)


Period 6 English World Literature Author