Monday, July 11, 2016

The Rich May Indeed Be Different from You and Me, But Not as Different as the Characters

Among the many ironies attaching themselves to the career of one of your more favored authors, F. Scott Fitzgerald, a most significant irony of all came from his inability to see the construction of the filmed story, even though many of his short stories and novels resonate with inner dramatic presence that make them so visual.

Fitzgerald understood story in all its forms, another significant strand of irony residing in one of his later publications, The Pat Hobby Stories, sometimes subtitled Fitzgerald in Hollywood, featuring the dried-up and cynical screenwriter, Pat Hobby.

Of all Fitzgerald's many short stories, including those dashed off to pay for his and Zelda's fabled lifestyle, your absolute favorite is "Bernice Bobs Her Hair," but a close second is "Babylon Revisited," followed at a close place with 'The Birthday Party," the former dealing with a painful look at his former self as someone with an alcohol problem, the latter showing his poignant awareness of the need a child has to trust her parents.

On the more academic or literary theory level, "The Rich Boy" opens more of an immediate door to technique, by all means in its opening paragraphs, where, as he was later to do with Gatsby, he needed a sympathetic narrator, thus:

"Begin with an individual, and before you know it you find that you have created a type; begin with a type, and you find that you have created–nothing. That is because we are all queer fish, queerer behind our faces and voices than we want any one to know or than we know ourselves. 

"When I hear a man proclaiming himself an “average, honest, open fellow,” I feel pretty sure that he has some definite and perhaps terrible abnormality which he has agreed to conceal–and his protestation of being average and honest and open is his way of reminding himself of his misprision.

"There are no types, no plurals. There is a rich boy, and this is his and not his brothers’ story. All my life I have lived among his brothers but this one has been my friend. Besides, if I wrote about his brothers I should have to begin by attacking all the lies that the poor have told about the rich and the rich have told about themselves–such a wild structure they have erected that when we pick up a book about the rich, some instinct prepares us for unreality. Even the intelligent and impassioned reporters of life have made the country of the rich as unreal as fairy-land.

Let me tell you about the very rich. They are different from you and me."

In both cases, Fitzgerald's narrator is used by the narrator in ways he cannot see. The narrator by all means captures your attention and interest with his observation about the way the individual becomes. after some coping with the dramatic gymnastics through which the writer has sent him or her, larger than the life for which he or she has been created. 

The character thus has nothing left but to become a type whom we readers then see entering new situations not so much as an individual anymore but as the time the character has become.

You rather like Gatsby more than Hunter, the eponymous rich boy, but recognize each has set forth to act upon his goals and in a true sense actualize and justify himself.  But in your mind, now that you are the reader, you understand how each has become in essence an anti hero. 

You follow this person, which is to say you continue to read Gatsby and "The Rich Boy" knowing how each will experience a spectacular failure, and how your interest has shifted from following the goals and life visions of these anti-heroes, to how much awareness the narrator can achieve from
observing them.

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