What kind of reaction has there been to F. Scott Fitzgerald's short story "The Last of the Belles"?

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vangoghfan | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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Since the basic plot of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s short story “The Last of the Belles” is easily available (see eNotes link below), it seems useful to provide some sense of the critical reactions the story has evoked. Such reactions include the following:

  • Heidi Kunz Bullock, in an extended essay on the story (“The Southern and the Satirical in ‘The Last of the Belles’”), offers particularly useful accounts of previous criticism. Bullock sees the narrator’s perceptions of the south and of southern women as somewhat simplistic. According to Bullock, Fitzgerald satirizes Andy’s limited understanding of Ailie.
  • Mary Jo Tate, in her Critical Companion to F. Scott Fitzgerald, sees the work as reflecting Fitzgerald’s own nostalgia for the south and also as reflecting characteristics of the kind of fiction Fitzgerald was writing at the end of the 1920s.
  • Robert L. Gale, in his F. Scott Fitzgerald Encyclopedia, mentions that the story reflects Fitzgerald’s own experiences in Montgomery, Alabama.
  • Kirk Curnutt, in his Historical Guide to F. Scott Fitzgerald, calls the story's tone “somber.”
  • Linda Claycomb Pelzer, in her Student Companion to F. Scott Fitzgerald, asserts that in this work Fitzgerald

examines one of his most pervasive themes — the losses that result from the inevitabilities of time.

  • Ronald Berman, in his book Translating Modernism: Fitzgerald and Hemingway, contends that the story

begins with the impossible assumption that there has been no change in social life.

  • Patrick Gerster and Nicholas Cords, in their book Myth and Southern History: The New South, argue that

Fitzgerald's romantic attachment to the legendary South was of course stimulated by his personal relationship with Zelda Sayre of Montgomery. She was, in his fanciful imagination at least, "the last of the belles.”

Many recent critics, then, have emphasized autobiographical themes in the story as well as the themes of mutability and of southern culture.  For more information about the sources just cited, see the "Google" link below.




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