What are the themes in "Dalyrimple Goes Wrong?"

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belarafon eNotes educator| Certified Educator

"Dalyrimple Goes Wrong" is a short story by F. Scott Fitzgerald, about a young war veteran who turns to crime because he feels unappreciated by society. The main theme in the story is youthful dissatisfaction with societal roles: Bryan Dalyrimple is a war hero, or so he is told, and so he feels as if he is entitled to a certain amount of respect and material reward without having to strive for it. He is not wholly selfish in his motivations; he truly wants to work for his living and be paid fairly, but he is impatient and unwilling to put in the time and effort that most people trade for success. He is extremely frustrated that he is not promoted in one month, especially when he perceives that others are promoted due to nepotism:

So Tom Everett, Macy's weak-chinned nephew, had started at sixty -- and in three weeks he had been out of the packing-room and into the office.

So that was it! He was to sit and see man after man pushed over him: sons, cousins, sons of friends, irrespective of their capabilities, while HE was cast for a pawn, with "going on the road" dangled before his eyes -- put off with the stock remark: "I'll see; I'll look into it."
(Fitzgerald, "Dalyrimple Goes Wrong," online-literature.com)

This anger leads Bryan into crime, which he uses to support his small salary. Bryan feels that he is not getting "his due" from the world, and so he endeavors to take that due without the involvement of law or employment. However, his focus on crime ironically allows him to become a more conscientious worker; Bryan is told that his outward appearance of quiet satisfaction with his job makes him suitable for public office. In this way, Bryan has refused to conform to societal roles and is rewarded. Although Bryan is not specifically rewarded for his crimes, he is not held responsible for them, and so his personal belief -- that he does not need to strive to succeed -- is validated.

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Dalyrimple Goes Wrong

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