Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Contrast plays a major part in Fitzgerald’s technique as he presents both Charlie and Paris as they were before the crash of 1929 and as they are at the time of the story. The language of the stock market adds a note of irony as Charlie applies it to the rise and fall of his fortune—both his monetary fortune and his fate in general.

On his return, the reformed Charlie sees Paris through new eyes. With the majority of the wealthy Americans gone, Paris is indeed a changed city, but even what remains unchanged looks different to Charlie when seen with the clarity of sobriety rather than through a drunken haze. He sees his former outlandish behavior from a more serious point of view and shies away from contact with his friends, who seem never to have changed. He can even see his old self as he must have appeared to the Peters, who did not share in the wealth that seemed to come to him so easily. Helen’s death is presented from two different perspectives—Charlie’s and Marion’s. Her obvious jealousy and his remorse shift the balance in favor of support for Charlie and belief in his version of the story.

Charlie sees the error of his former ways and the ephemeral nature of his life prior to 1929. He recalls the snowstorm that almost caused Helen’s death and the fantasy world that surrounded the incident: “The snow of twenty-nine wasn’t real snow. If you didn’t want it to be snow, you just paid some money.” Money was not a problem during two dazzling, extravagant years in Paris: “He remembered thousand-franc notes given to an orchestra for playing a single number, hundred-franc notes tossed to a doorman for calling a cab.” Having too much money, ironically, was the source of Charlie’s greatest losses. As he sits in a bar realizing that he has once again lost Honoria, at least for a time, the bartender offers his regrets for a different loss: “I heard you lost a lot in the crash.” Charlie responds, “I did” and adds, “but I lost everything I wanted in the boom.”