Bernice Bobs Her Hair
Analysis: Booker's Seven Basic Plots Analysis
Christopher Booker is a scholar who wrote that every story falls into one of seven basic plot structures: Overcoming the Monster, Rags to Riches, the Quest, Voyage and Return, Comedy, Tragedy, and Rebirth. Shmoop explores which of these structures fits this story like Cinderella’s slipper.
Plot Type : Voyage and Return
Parts 1-3 – Bernice, who's visiting for the summer, fails to impress her cousin Marjorie and her young, popular friends.
The first section of the story is devoted to telling us about just how dull and unsuccessful poor Bernice is, and show us rather mercilessly her spinelessness; compared to the vicious Marjorie, we don't think the poor girl stands a chance. However, we do see something new and intriguing emerge in Part 3, when Bernice offers herself up to her cousin's tutelage – clearly, Bernice is ready for a change.
Initial Fascination or Dream Stage
Part 4-beginning of Part 5 – Bernice becomes an overnight social sensation.
Things seem to be too good to be true; Bernice, following Marjorie's sage advice to a tee, is embraced by the popular crowd. She enchants all of the bachelors in town, from Otis (who even tells her jokingly about how he once thought about physically assaulting her to avoid dancing with her) to the suave G. Reece Stoddard. The crowning glory of her achievements is the attention of Warren McIntyre – previously a Marjorie devotee who's defected over to her cousin's side. Bernice has never been happier.
Middle of Part 5 – Marjorie confronts Bernice cruelly about her relationship with Warren.
This stage is so brief you could blink and miss it – but we hope you don't, since it's one of the most significant points in the story. The "frustration" here belongs both to Bernice and her cousin – Marjorie is driven to cruelty by her jealousness about Warren, and Bernice is frantically guilty for "stealing" him.
End of Part 5-Part 6 – Bernice is forced to publicly bob her hair.
Bernice's promise to bob her hair finally comes back here to bite her in the…er, derriere. Marjorie calls her cousin's bluff, telling all of their friends that Bernice never meant to do it in the first place. We get drawn into Bernice's nightmare here as she claims, with false confidence, that she intends to do it – and then is dragged down to the barbershop to stand up to her claim. Fitzgerald's description of Bernice's bobbing is rather horrific, and we feel her pain as her beautiful hair is butchered. The nightmare continues at home – her aunt and uncle are horrified, and Bernice feels awful.
Thrilling Escape and Return
End of Part 6 – Bernice's "thrilling escape" from the Harvey house.
This is where things go a little haywire; we know that there's a thrilling escape in the dead of night (because we see it), but we're not sure about the "return" part. One imagines that Bernice as we know her would return happily to the comforts of life back in Eau Claire, but her last act (cutting off Marjorie's hair) suggests that we might be wrong. This new, post-bob Bernice is different – she's kind of a wild card, and we're not sure exactly what she'll do. So, there's a high chance that she will return home…but we like to think that there's a little, teeny chance that perhaps she runs off and joins a chorus line or something. One can always dream.