Perhaps this book is the
most anthologized short story by Fitzgerald and many consider it as his best.
The book was first published in 1931 and a revised version appeared in the Taps
at Reveille in 1935 collection. He wrote the book at the time of economic
and emotional crisis in the world. In line with most of his pieces, the story
is a reflection of his own experience and the relationship he had with Zelda,
his wife (Prochaska, 98). The tone of the narrative is retrospective and
thoughtful, though it’s sadder than the previously published works at The
Characters and the Plot
The book is set to
object the backdrop expatriate Europe in the 1930s and takes into account the
story of Charlie Wales. He was once a wealthy playboy in the 1920s and due to
his excessive drinking led to the demises of Helen, his wife, and he got
confined to a sanatorium for alcoholism. In the process of recovering, Honoria
his daughter is placed under the custody of Marion and Lincoln Peter, his
sister-in-law and the husband. After then he re-established himself in Prague
The story opens up
with him returning to Paris to reclaim her daughter, but he has to prove to
Marion that he is indeed reformed. She is resentful of Charlie’s extravagant
past because she has never been wealthy, and so is her husband coupled with the
remorse that he led to the death of her sister. Her suspicions are confirmed by
the reappearance of Lorraine and Duncan, two olds friends of Charlie who are
still hooked to alcoholism (Stinson-Nolan, 368). She becomes more persistent,
but the story ends when Charlie resolves that he will come later to regains his
daughter and finishes by saying that they can’t make him pay forever.
Principle Themes Analysis
The themes of the books
by many analysis are significantly durational dependent, but some never change.
For instance, Joan Turner sought to acclaim that the main theme is ‘the past
cannot be erased’. The same remarks are echoed by Carlos Baker who concludes
that no matter how sincere Charlie intentions may be, he is outweighed by a
past that can’t be shaken off. Ronald Gervais sees it as a lament about the
past and its pleasures, hence regretting the previous mistakes. But numerous
scholars base the story on guilty and are reluctant to see Charlie changing
from his old ways; an example is Seymour L. Gross and James L. Gross. Finally
are remarks from Rose Adrienne Gallo who consider retribution and guilty as the
central themes in the story, she further brings out the pernicious influence
that money has in both destroying lives as in the case of Charlie or creating
resentment and envy as seen in Marion Peters (Lu, 34).
The story has been
well-received from its dates of publication and is considered a masterpiece.
However countless critics have sighted out the inconsistency in the plot. For
instance, the route taken by Charlie from the Ritz bar to the Peter places,
this with references to current studies is inaccurate (Gay, 102). But even
though the inaccuracies occur many still concur that the book is an outline of
Fitzgerald writing at his best. It’s supported by his incorporation of imagery
and the sensitivity in the choice of words.