Study Guide

Bernice Bobs Her Hair Youth

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The main function of the balcony was critical. It occasionally showed grudging admiration, but never approval, for it is well known among ladies over thirty-five that when the younger set dance in the summer-time it is with the very worst intentions in the world, and if they are not bombarded with stony eyes stray couples will dance weird barbaric interludes in the corners, and the more popular, more dangerous, girls will sometimes be kissed in the parked limousines of unsuspecting dowagers. (2)

The default of attitude of age towards youth is apparently, as Fitzgerald exhibits here, distrust. This passage demonstrates the rather ridiculous assumption of the older generation that young people are up to no good – even if said older people were very recently young people.

From sixteen-year-old Otis Ormonde, who has two more years at Hill School, to G. Reece Stoddard, over whose bureau at home hangs a Harvard law diploma; from little Madeleine Hogue, whose hair still feels strange and uncomfortable on top of her head, to Bessie MacRae, who has been the life of the party a little too long - more than ten years - the medley is not only the centre of the stage but contains the only people capable of getting an un-obstructed view of it. (4)

Youth, this quote implies, is at the center of the vast stage that is life itself. This description, which follows Fitzgerald's waltz through the outer circles of older observers, implies that the rest of life is all about looking back at youth.

No matter how beautiful or brilliant a girl may be, the reputation of not being frequently cut in on makes her position at a dance unfortunate. Perhaps boys prefer her company to that of the butterflies with whom they dance a dozen times an evening, but youth in this jazz-nourished generation is temperamentally restless, and the idea of fox-trotting more than one full fox trot with the same girl is distasteful, not to say odious. When it comes to several dances and the intermissions between she can be quite sure that a young man, once relieved, will never tread on her wayward toes again. (17)

As the products of the video game, MTV generation, we all know what it's like to have short attention spans – but apparently, even before these technological developments, youth was characterized by attention deficit.

"There's no courtesy these days."

Mrs. Harvey's voice implied that modern situations were too much for her. When she was a girl all young ladies who belonged to nice families had glorious times. (30-31)

What poor Mrs. Harvey doesn't get is that the times, they are a-changin'. The social standards of her own youth are totally inapplicable in these modern days, in which good breeding is secondary to a good line.

There was another silence, while Marjorie considered whether or not convincing her mother was worth the trouble. People over forty can seldom be permanently convinced of anything. At eighteen our convictions are hills from which we look; at forty-five they are caves in which we hide. (35)

Fitzgerald tosses this little gem of wisdom into an otherwise rather flippant scene, taking this chance to take something of a potshot at the older generation. While he's certainly observed the folly of youth, he doesn't excuse their elders for their inflexibility, either.

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