Bernice Bobs Her Hair

by F. Scott Fitzgerald
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Do you think that Marjorie had it coming to her in "Bernice Bobs Her Hair"? Why or why not? Is she a redeemable character?

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In F. Scott Fitzgerald's story "Bernice Bobs Her Hair," Marjorie Harvey is a selfish, manipulative, and even cruel young lady, and most readers would probably agree that she gets exactly what she has coming to her.

Marjorie's cousin, Bernice, is currently visiting her. Bernice is quite insecure and hardly a social butterfly, and Marjorie soon gets tired of trying to help her cousin get dates. She actually confronts her cousin about her social difficulties, and poor Bernice says she will go along with Marjorie's advice. Marjorie wants to make Bernice into her own image rather than accepting her cousin for who she is and encouraging her to look and feel good.

Instead, Marjorie "fixes" Bernice's clothing and teaches her to use “lines,” suggestive conversation starters. Much to Marjorie's surprise, it works! Bernice becomes popular, and even Marjorie's favorite young man starts paying attention to Bernice rather than Marjorie.

This, of course, makes Marjorie jealous and angry, and she decides she will "get back" at Bernice, forgetting that she is the one who wanted Bernice to change in the first place. Marjorie is quite short sighted. She is never happy unless she is getting her way, and when she isn't, she schemes to turn things in her own favor.

What Marjorie does to Bernice is very cruel. She taunts Bernice about really bobbing her hair, something that was considered scandalous in the 1920s. Bernice has been using the idea as a line, but now Marjorie challenges her to really do it. Bernice is still so insecure and so intent upon fitting in with her cousin's crowd that she actually does it. She bobs her hair.

Bernice looks horrible, and she is devastated. What's more, Bernice will now be considered a fast girl with poor morals. Marjorie knows this when she taunts her cousin. She knows that Bernice wants to fit in so much that she will go along with any suggestion. Yet she pushes Bernice anyway. This is inexcusable.

At the end of the story, Bernice finally shows some boldness. She cuts off Marjorie's braids as her cousin sleeps. If Marjorie has humiliated and ruined Bernice, Bernice figures that her cousin might as well know exactly what it feels like. Marjorie certainly has it coming, for she is deliberately cruel, and we are left to wonder if Marjorie learns her lesson. Considering her shallowness, we might doubt it.

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