Short story by F. Scott Fitzgerald
, first published in Flappers and Philosophers
, Scribners, 1922. It tells the story of Bernice, a young girl visiting her popular, slightly racy
cousin Marjorie and coming up against a wall of disinterest and unpopularity. Marjorie's efforts to help Bernice become more successful and witty
lead to jealousy between the girls which reults in a rather suprsing climax
This is one of Fitzgerald's most enduringly popular stories. It is particularly liked by young readers who easily empathise with the themes of peer pressure, the need for acceptance, the problems of self image versus public persona, self confidence and integrity that the story is very much concerened with. To a more mature reader, however, the story presents a startling depth of human understanding and precise characterisation, as well as wonderful dialogue and several extremely astute observations on subjects as disparate as teenage sexual flirtation and female grooming.
One of the author's more approachable pieces of prose, this bears only slight resemblance to the more ponderous style of The Great Gatsby or Tender is the Night. With a light hand, in surprisingly few brushstrokes, Fitzgerald conveys the full complexity of coming of age in the roaring twenties - presumably one of the periods in which the generation gap was at its widest - with its conflict between morality and fashionable levity, of which the bobbed hair is a symbol. In a sense Bernice and Marjorie are representatives of the old and the new, the traditional and the modern, respectively. It is interesting therefore to observe that the old fashioned Bernice gets the better of her cousin in the end.
What I personally find fascinating about this particular story is how well Fitzgerald seems to understand women. Some of the things he puts in Marjorie's mouth could have come out of mine at eighteen, and some others have affected me anough to highlight them in the noded text. Fancy taking fashion tips from a long dead man!