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January 24, 2007

The "Slight Thud" of the Swell

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

Misty waves were passing before Bernice's eyes...

When it comes to F. Scott Fitzgerald the talk is always about how rhythmically the story flows, especially since he wrote during and about the Jazz Age. Yet, something I noticed when I was reading "Bernice" again was that Fitzgerald begins the story describing "the waves" of the caddies’ heads moving about the country club at night. Then, again, when describing the scene between Marjorie and Bernice at breakfast he describes the scene as, "Misty waves were passing before Bernice's eyes..."
I started thinking of the story as an ocean and how at the beginning "the waves" of the caddies' heads would be seen as calm even from afar and even if the caddies were moving quickly, just as the waves at night on the ocean. Then during the first conflict between Marjorie and Bernice, Fitzgerald describes "Misty waves" which I imagine to be a little higher. The waves now are growing.
Finally, at the end of the story, there is no mention of waves in the text but by now I can picture them. After Bernice returns home from bobbing her hair and is alone in her room with Marjorie, I think of this as the calm before the storm, the only pharse Bernice keeps repeating is, "Sall right," then finally the wave peaks (I picture this wave to be a Big Wave, like a 100 ft wave) when Bernice clenches her fists. Then the wave falls quickly, within 45 minutes she is packed and cutting off Marjorie's pigtail. Finally, the wave slams down hard when she throws the hair onto Warren's porch and with a slight thud, Bernice has made the loudest statement of all.

Posted by SeanRunt at January 24, 2007 11:19 PM

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That's interesting Sean. I noticed his references to waves too, but I really didn't consider the story, as a whole, like the ocean. I think you're right though, that was definately a 100 ft. wave when Bernice finally gets so angry that she puts her plan into motion ;)

Posted by: Chera Pupi at January 24, 2007 11:44 PM

Interesting... Bernice's hair begins under tight control, pinned up according to the styles of the day... she liberates Marjorie's hair in the same way, but there is no energy in the hair itself.

Posted by: Dennis G. Jerz at January 25, 2007 10:17 AM

That's definately a different way of looking at the whole story. I like it. I would have never thought to connect the ocean at the beginning to the rest of the story.

Posted by: MacKenzie Harbison at January 25, 2007 4:27 PM

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