Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

To develop the psychological realism of “The Freshest Boy,” Fitzgerald employs a third-person omniscient point of view to delve into the minds of his characters, particularly focusing on the turmoil of the adolescent boy as he struggles to establish his identity in a hostile environment.

The use of fantasy elements does not remove this story from the realm of psychological realism, for Basil’s fantasies are ones common to adolescence. Basil alternately sees himself as hero and victim, but the fantasies do allow him to escape, and they thereby emphasize for the reader the real trauma of Basil’s life at school, where he feels that he has no control over his life.

Fitzgerald further emphasizes his theme of the difficulties of growing up by his use of Lewis as a foil to Basil. Basil’s innocent idealization of life at a rich boys’ school is contrasted to Lewis’s more experienced and realistic view of the regimentation that actually exists.

Another contrast between the real and the idealized is developed when Basil visits New York City. The happy ending of the play represents Basil’s naïve belief in easy solutions, while the real-life scene between the actress and her lover illustrates to Basil that in reality life consists of difficult and sometimes painful situations that are not easily resolved.

Fitzgerald effectively uses letters to illustrate Basil’s dilemma and to forward the plot. Basil’s letter to his mother provides a concise summation of his psychological state, while his mother’s letter in return prompts his evaluation of his circumstances and, by offering him an alternative, makes his decision to stay at St. Regis a matter of mature choice rather than mere necessity.