Wednesday, August 10, 2016

299-300: The Diamond As Big as the Ritz (by F. Scott Fitzgerald) & Daisy Miller by Henry James

300. Daisy Miller by Henry James: My first impression after reading this novel was one of disappointment.  It seemed too simple. I waited for something to happen but it never did until the main character died. However, like Fitzgerald, the story shows the progress society has made. The story is about social restrictions placed on young ladies. In the novel, it was frowned upon for a young unmarried woman to be seen in the company of a young man she is not engaged with for such a length of time without the presence of an elder woman. The problem was that some of these restrictions differ and when Daisy arrived in Europe where such restrictions were tough, she was confused and ignorant of what she was to do. Thus, reading the novel one is likely to think that Daisy is a tough woman brazenly defying society, yet it turned out that she was totally ignorant of the laws and that she was only flouting them in innocence. Though not a good representation of Henry James, it still provides a telescope into the cultural and social restrictions of the time.


299. The Diamond as Big as the Ritz and Other Stories by F. Scott Fitzgerald: Fitzgerald books are social historical markers. They describe vividly - albeit with much theatrical exaggeration - America's consumerism and the culture of possession that engulfed America in the early twentieth century. They are social markers against which progress could be measured. Two specific stories that represent this are The Diamond as Big as the Ritz and Bernice Bobs her Hair. In the latter, a man appropriates a resource all for himself and in the bid to protect this wealth built an army to fight off all intruders. The story has a religious twist to it as the heir to the wealth sought the face of book even when he did not believe in God to protect him. He even sought to bribe God to protect him from the explorers. Thus, in a way the story shows wealth became deified.

Bernice Bobs her Hair is more of a social marker and the restrictions society put in place to protect its values and norms, especially as they relate to the female species. Sometimes it is difficult to comprehend how these norms came to be and what they are supposed to protect. It is also easy to take current freedoms for granted without a baseline for comparison. So strong and strict and weird were society's restrictions that bobbing of the hair was considered inappropriate for a woman of society and she who did so was looked down upon.

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