By Harold Bloom (Editor)
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Additional resources for F. Scott Fitzgerald (Bloom's Modern Critical Views), Updated Edition
The glamour and enchantment of the party, so brilliantly evoked by Fitzgerald, has here dissolved; the intoxication of night and music, champagne and youth, has vanished and the scene is closed by a dismal return to the world of sober reality, or more precisely, to the disenchanted world of the hangover. The party is over; it is time to go home. Here is the passage: I looked around. Most of the remaining women were now having ﬁghts with men said to be their husbands. (1) Even Jordan’s party, the quartet from East Egg, were rent asunder by dissension.
Those of us who have been youthful too long—which, I suppose, is the real point of his criticism—now certainly realize our middle age; no more time to make ready or dawdle, nor energy to waste. That is one universal effect of war on the imagination: time, as a moral factor, instantly changes expression and changes pace. Everyman suddenly has a vision of sudden death. What is the difference, from the universal angle? Everyone has to die once; no one has to die twice. But now that mortality has become the world’s worst worry once more, there is less sophistication of it.
And these values The Great Gatsby possesses to a rare degree. But the same device imposes on the novelist the necessity of tracing through in the observer or narrator himself some sort of growth in general moral perception, which will constitute in effect his story. Here, for example, insofar as the book is Gatsby’s story it is a story of failure—the prolongation of the adolescent incapacity to distinguish between dream and reality, between the terms demanded of life and the terms offered. But insofar as it is the narrator’s story it is a successful transcendence of a particularly bitter and harrowing set of experiences, localized in the sinister, distorted, El Greco-like, Long Island atmosphere of the later twenties, into a world of restored sanity and calm, symbolized by the bracing winter nights of the Middle Western prairies.