Bernice Bobs Her Hair
by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Take a story's temperature by studying its tone. Is it hopeful? Cynical? Snarky? Playful?
Dryly Comic, Deadpan
One of Fitzgerald's greatest gifts is his ear for dialogue and comic timing – his stories are often hilarious without having to resort to literary slapstick. "Bernice Bobs Her Hair" is no exception to this rule; the story is related in a straightforward, deadpan fashion, and the biggest laughs come from Fitzgerald's dry tone. The most delightful element of this story is its dialogue, which manages to get a lot of the plot elements across without feeling heavy-handed. Fitzgerald's characters speak like real people do – but better. Their conversations are snappy and never dull, and through their individual voices, we learn a great deal about their characters. We learn what Marjorie teaches by directly "hearing" the change in Bernice; from the moment she announces at dinner that she intends to bob her hair, through the various verbal tics she picks up from her cousin (like the "Hello, Shell Shock!" line ), Fitzgerald demonstrates the change in her manner, without having to tell us about it too much.