Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

The thematic uncertainty of “The Diamond as Big as the Ritz” is reflected in the story’s style as well. Having identified no urgent, shaping idea for what is presumptively an allegory, Fitzgerald allows himself to be seduced into conceits that develop no coherent metaphoric pattern. For example: John rides the last miles of his journey to the Washingtons’ celestial estate in a huge automobile made of precious metals; the train has taken him only as far as the village of Fish, populated by twelve “sombre and inexplicable souls who sucked a lean milk from the almost literally bare rock on which a mysterious populatory force had begotten them.” “Fish” points to “ichthus,” the emblem of Jesus the Savior, the village’s dozen inhabitants patently represent the apostles. The meaning seems clear: The magnitude of the Washingtons’ opulence sets them beyond the pale of Christian teaching. However, why invent an extravagant metaphor to introduce an idea that will quickly become self-evident on John’s arrival at the chateau? Why, having gone to such lengths, subsequently neglect to elaborate the implications of an existence without moral stricture or to link that philosophical issue to any of the several other themes, including the one grandly paraded in the ending? In this instance, as in others, Fitzgerald apparently became infatuated with his own cleverness: Once he had created the image of the twelve men of Fish nursing at the ungenerous breast of...

(The entire section is 589 words.)