Style and Technique

Sharp contrasts stress social cleavage in an apparent paradise. Most noticeably, Fitzgerald’s spatial rhetoric customarily pushes the lower orders down and out, while the privileged sort roam practically anywhere in any shape. Also underscoring separations are the language levels among the speeches. Drab talk is abbreviated utterance typified by repetition of monosyllables, contractions, and careless stops and endings: A street-orator presses his mob-audience to consider, “What have you got outa the war? . . . Look arounja, look arounja! Are you rich?”; Rose says loosely of Himmel, “He’s sittin’ lookin’”; Key thickly proclaims, “We gotta get another li’l bottle. . . . ”; the police captain belongs to this order, too, as he shows by pleading, “Here now! This is no way! One of your own sojers got shoved out the back window an’ killed hisself!”

These habits join in a brotherhood of sloppy speech some of the elements of revolution, ironically set against themselves. Even Himmel, lowered by alcohol, can sound drab: “A fight?—tha’s stuff . . . Fight ’em all.” Upstairs in Delmonico’s, however, Himmel sets himself above the drab by a mocking interrogation: “May I ask why you gentlemen prefer to lounge away your leisure hours in a room which is chiefly furnished, as far as I can see, with scrubbing brushes,” going on from that to a parody of how “the human race has progressed.” In contrast to this rhetoric, Henry...

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