Style and Technique (Masterplots II: Short Story Series, Revised Edition)
The point of view of “Crazy Sunday” is that of a limited omniscient, or selected omniscient, narrator. Everything is seen as Joel sees it or could see it; thus, dramatic irony is provided by the contrast between Joel’s perception of events and the deeper understanding afforded to the reader. When Joel makes a fool of himself at the Calman’s party, he is conscious of his error, but when, at the end of the story, he makes a much more serious mistake, abandoning Stella, only the reader grasps the significance of Joel’s action. Joel himself has lost the ability to distinguish between reality and fantasy, and thus he fails to see the reality of Stella’s suffering.
This is a dramatic story with cinematic effects. There is a five-part structure, with three strong Sunday scenes separated by interims at the studio. The interims set up the logical business of the Sunday scenes. Each Sunday shows the humiliation of a different main character, first of Joel at the Calman’s party, then of Miles being attacked for his adultery, and finally of Stella’s collapse with grief at the news of Miles’s death. In each scene, Joel’s love for Stella progresses a step further, a commitment from which he later retreats.
The fully dramatized Sunday scenes (which include the Saturday of the Perrys’ party, extending to the tragic early hours of Sunday) are visually oriented. Readers are constantly being directed to appearances, shapes, colors,...
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Hollywood in the 1930s
Early in the 1930s, color and sound came to Hollywood movies. This heightened public interest in American movies, which in turn catapulted the celebrity status of actors, actresses, and musicians. Not surprisingly, many studios capitalized on the new capabilities of film by producing musicals. This tendency toward light fare was ideal for moviegoers whose Depression-era lives contained enough tragedy and anxiety. Excitement and adventure was also evident in the popularity of gangster movies and westerns. But the Great Depression dragged on through the years, and while Americans sought the two-hour escapes offered by movies, their ability to afford them dwindled. By 1934, one-third of the nation’s movie theaters had closed their doors. To stay afloat, Hollywood studios were forced to utilize less expensive means of production in order to pay the high salaries that popular celebrities earned. Without major names on the marquis, movies were rarely very successful. Among the big names that drew crowds were Katherine Hepburn, Spencer Tracy, Jean Harlow, Gary Cooper, Cary Grant, Mae West, W. C. Fields, Marlene Dietrich, and James Cagney. First introduced in 1934, Shirley Temple movies provided a loveable figure of innocence and hope for struggling moviegoers.
Movies in the 1930s represented everything that real life seemed to lack—romance, adventure, glamour, fantasy, and happy endings. Some historians have noted that in...
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Fitzgerald uses foreshadowing to hint at Joel’s misfortune at Miles’s party and later with Stella. In Part I, Joel is full of the anticipation of the party and promises himself he will not have anything to drink. The first indication that alcohol is a stumbling block for Joel is when the narrator comments, ‘‘Ordinarily he did not go out on Sundays but stayed sober and took work home with him.’’ The first words spoken by Joel in the story are to himself, when he declares, ‘‘I won’t take anything to drink.’’ Joel’s fears about lowering his inhibitions at such an important party foreshadow his humiliation when he breaks his promises to himself and has several cocktails. By the time the narrator reveals ‘‘He took another cocktail—not because he needed confidence but because she [Stella] had given him so much of it,’’ the reader knows that his confidence is false.
The closer Joel gets to Stella, and the more attracted he is to her, the more he begins to realize that she lacks the self-assuredness to make her own decisions. This character weakness foreshadows the demise of their relationship when she tells Joel that she is attracted to him but loves Miles. By this time, Joel has learned that Stella is overly influenced by Miles and probably only liked Joel because Miles liked him first. He remembers a conversation in which Miles said, ‘‘I’ve influenced Stella in everything. Especially I’ve...
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Compare and Contrast
• 1930s: Despite the Great Depression, this decade is a memorable one for the American film industry. Shirley Temple movies, epics like Gone with the Wind, and feel-good films like Mr. Smith Goes to Washington make this an important decade in American film and culture.
Today: In 2003, American moviegoers spent almost $9.5 billion on tickets. In decidedly more stable and prosperous years than the Depression era, Americans have more to spend on movies but do not rely as heavily on them for emotional relief and escape.
• 1930s: In 1933, the Twenty-First Amendment is ratified, overturning the Eighteenth Amendment’s prohibition on alcohol. This is the first time a constitutional amendment is repealed.
Today: Laws regarding the sale of alcohol primarily dictate the legal age at which a person can purchase alcohol. There are still counties that are ‘‘dry,’’ meaning that the sale of alcohol is illegal in that area.
• 1930s: Fitzgerald’s status as a popular author wanes, as most readers and critics have lost interest in his work. Because he is so strongly associated with the Jazz Age (1920s), he finds it difficult to sell his fiction in the 1930s.
Today: Fitzgerald is considered one of the great American authors, and his works are taught in schools and universities around the world. According to Scribner, readers buy half a million copies a...
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Topics for Further Study
• Besides Fitzgerald, William Faulkner also worked in Hollywood in the 1930s. Research Faulkner’s experience in Hollywood and draw comparisons and contrasts with Fitzgerald’s Hollywood years. Prepare a ‘‘movie pitch’’ about these two literary figures in Hollywood. For fun, consider casting your movie with contemporary actors and actresses.
• In what ways did the Great Depression affect the Hollywood film industry? What kinds of films were produced during this time, and who were the prominent actors and actresses? What insights does your research give you into American culture and the American psyche?
• What do you think happens with Joel and Stella after the events of the story? Write another section for the story, trying to mimic Fitzgerald’s narrative voice, letting the reader know what the nature of their relationship was, what direction Joel’s career took, and any other additions you would like to make to the story.
• Imagine you are a psychologist in Hollywood at the time and one of the main characters (Joel, Stella, or Miles) is your patient. Prepare notes from your first few sessions, along with your assessment of your patient’s psychological health, problems you observe, and solutions or exercises you would like to suggest. Feel free to include predictions.
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What Do I Read Next?
• Considered by most critics to be the definitive biography of Fitzgerald, Some Sort of Epic Grandeur: The Life of F. Scott Fitzgerald (1981), by Matthew Bruccoli, provides a unique depth of understanding of the author and his work.
• Fitzgerald’s last and unfinished novel, The Last Tycoon (1941), was inspired by his experiences and acquaintances in Hollywood. Set in the 1930s film industry, it explores themes of true love, power, and greed.
• Aaron Latham’s Crazy Sundays: F. Scott Fitzgerald in Hollywood (1975) provides a context for Fitzgerald’s fiction and screenwriting produced during his years in Hollywood. Latham recreates Fitzgerald’s day-to-day life in Hollywood, drawing from original interviews, anecdotes, and existing research.
• The Great Depression: America, 1929–1941 (1985), by Robert S. McElvaine, provides a comprehensive look at America’s Depression years. McElvaine covers economics, politics, entertainment, family, culture, and more.
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Bibliography and Further Reading
Arendt, Hannah, The Human Condition, University of Chicago Press, 1998, pp. 50, 51, 58, 71.
Best, Gary Dean, The Nickel and Dime Decade: American Popular Culture during the 1930s, Praeger Publishers, 1993, pp. 73–83.
Diorio, Carl, ‘‘Valenti Valedictory View an Eye-Opener,’’ in Variety, March 29, 2004 .
Eble, Kenneth, ‘‘F. Scott Fitzgerald: Chapter 7: Stories and Articles, 1926–34,’’ in Twayne’s United States Authors Series Online, G. K. Hall, 1999; originally published as ‘‘Chapter 7: Stories and Articles, 1926–34,’’ in F. Scott Fitzgerald, rev. ed., Twayne’s United States Authors Series, No. 36, Twayne, 1977.
‘‘F. Scott Fitzgerald,’’ in Contemporary Authors Online, Thomson Gale, 2004.
Fitzgerald, F. Scott, ‘‘Crazy Sunday,’’ in The Stories of F. Scott Fitzgerald, Collier Books, 1986, pp. 404, 410, 412, 415.
Grebstein, Sheldon, ‘‘The Sane Method of ‘Crazy Sunday,’’’ in The Short Stories of F. Scott Fitzgerald: New Approaches in Criticism, edited by Jackson R. Bryer, University of Wisconsin Press, 1982, p. 283.
‘‘Irving G. Thalberg,’’ in International Dictionary of Films and Filmmakers, Vol. 4, Writers and Production Artists, St. James Press, 2000.
Kazin, Alfred, F. Scott Fitzgerald: The Man and His Work,...
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Bibliography (Masterplots II: Short Story Series, Revised Edition)
Berman, Ronald. Fitzgerald, Hemingway, and the Twenties. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 2001.
Berman, Ronald. “The Great Gatsby” and Fitzgerald’s World of Ideas. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 1997.
Bloom, Harold, ed. Jay Gatsby. Philadelphia: Chelsea House, 2004.
Bruccoli, Matthew J., ed. New Essays on “The Great Gatsby.” Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1985.
Bruccoli, Matthew J., ed. Some Sort of Epic Grandeur. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1981.
Curnutt, Kirk, ed. A Historical Guide to F. Scott Fitzgerald. New York: Oxford University Press, 2004.
Eble, Kenneth. F. Scott Fitzgerald. Rev. ed. Boston: Twayne, 1977.
Gale, Robert L. An F. Scott Fitzgerald Encyclopedia. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1998.
Gross, Dalton, and MaryJean Gross. Understanding “The Great Gatsby”: A Student Casebook to Issues, Sources, and Historical Documents. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1998.
Kuehl, John. F. Scott Fitzgerald: A Study of the Short Fiction. Boston: Twayne, 1991.
Lee, A. Robert, ed. Scott Fitzgerald: The Promises of Life....
(The entire section is 236 words.)