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,
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.
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)