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January 24, 2007

Fitzgerald=Popularity Pro!

Fitzgerald, ''Bernice Bobs Her Hair'' (online) -- Jerz: EL150 (Intro to Literary Study)

Marjorie never giggled, was never frightened, seldom embarrassed, and in fact had very few of the qualities which Bernice considered appropriately and blessedly feminine...Like most girls, she [Bernice] had been brought up on novels in which the female was beloved because of certain mysterious womanly qualities...

I felt bad for Bernice through the whole story. It's sad that she has these ideas of how"feminine" girls should act. What's even more sad is that she considers giggling, fear, and embarrassment "feminine qualities." I do understand that this story was first published in the 20's and hopefully modern ideas of feminism are a little less offensive. After doing a little more research, I found that Fitzgerald examined the competition for social success quite often. Supposedly, this story is based on a memo Fitzgerald wrote to his younger sister advising her how to acheive popularity with boys. I just found it interesting that it is quite possible Fitzgerald actually suggested some of the things Marjorie intstructed Bernice to do to his own sister. I wonder if she found the suggestions as useful as Bernice did!

Posted by CheraPupi at January 24, 2007 11:39 PM


I also felt bad for Bernice. Not becasue she was made to change, but because she changed into the wrong thing. Being embarassed and giggling are not exactly the most feminine qualities, and surely arn't the way to become popular with boys. If you ask me, Marjorie led Bernice completely astray. Where were the tips on making pies, cleaning, rubbing backs, and laying beautiful hardwood floors? Perhaps instead of instructing Bernice on how to become a flirt that guys don't want, she should have given her helpful tips on how to perfect a savory potroast, or constuct a shed.

Posted by: Mike Poiarkoff at January 26, 2007 10:13 AM

Oh, I understand that it doesn't really matter if Fitzgerald's sister benefitted from his advice. I just thought it was interesting that's all.

Posted by: Chera Pupi [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 25, 2007 11:17 AM

Fitzgerald was writing a world that differed from ours. One reason I assign this story is that often students want to write about how this story would have been different if it were written today.

But the story we have is the story that Fitzgerald wrote at a certain time in history, and that we distract ourselves from the story we are supposed to study if we focus too much on how we would have felt or what we would have done if we were characters in the story, or how the story could be changed to avoid the things that make us uncomfortable.

Think about it... Marjorie is the one who insists that she's rebelling against the values of her parents' generation, but it's Bernice who makes a huge jump and leaves Marjorie behind, in order to make her own way in a world that was just opening up to women.

Would the story have been as effective if Marjorie, the character who acts like a rebel, was the one who cut her hair and ran away? Fitzgerald carefully paints Bernice as an old-fashioned girl, in order to create the very emotional response that you experienced. Whether Fitzgerald's sister ended up more like Marjorie or more like Bernice wouldn't really help us understand this particular fictional story any better.

At least some of Fitzgerald's readers would have found the ending shocking, rather than liberating -- but if the story ended with Bernice going back to Eau claire and being a good girl again, I doubt we would be studying it now.

Posted by: Dennis G. Jerz at January 25, 2007 10:31 AM

I too felt bad for Bernice throughout the whole story as well. And I agree with you when you said it was sad she thought that giggling and embarrassment were feminine qualities. I also found it interesting that Fitzgerald supposedly wrote this maybe as a way to give his own sister advice on how to become popular among boys even though, I would definitely have to disagree with the ideas Fitzgerald thought of to become popular with the boys.

Posted by: Margaret Jones at January 25, 2007 10:25 AM

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