Study Guide

The Diamond as Big as the Ritz Setting

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Hades, Mississippi; St. Midas' school, outside Boston; the Washington estate in Montana

Most of "The Diamond as Big as the Ritz" takes place on the five-square-mile land of the Washington estate, somewhere in the middle of Montana. By all accounts, the Washington château appears to be a paradise. Fitzgerald's lavish descriptions characterize the excess and opulence of the flawless chateau and its surroundings. It's hard to read into the estate a reference to the Biblical Garden of Eden – especially in contrast with Hades, or Hell, from where John hails. We talk about this fully in our discussion of religious allegory in "Symbols, Imagery, Allegory," so be sure to check that out.

One of the interesting elements of the Montana setting is the specific imagery Fitzgerald uses to describe the land in which Washington has set his estate. Take a look at the following few pages and see if you can find the common theme we're talking about:

The Montana sunset lay between two mountains like a gigantic bruise from which dark arteries spread themselves over a poisoned sky. (2.1)

Out of the blue-black bruise in the distance crept a long line of moving lights upon the desolation of the land, and the twelve men of Fish gathered like ghosts at the shanty depot to watch the passing of the seven o'clock train, the Transcontinental Express from Chicago. Six times or so a year the Transcontinental Express […] stopped at the village of Fish, and when this occurred a figure or so would disembark […] and drive off toward the bruised sunset. (2.2)

After half an hour, when the twilight had coagulated into dark, the silent n**** […] hailed an opaque body somewhere ahead of them in the gloom. (2.4)

It was apparent that they had surmounted some immense knife-blade of stone. (2.17)

Terms like "gigantic bruise," "dark arteries," "poisoned sky," "blue-black bruise," "bruised sunset," and "coagulated" sure pack a imagistic punch. Fitzgerald uses the imagery of a physically injured body to describe the Montana landscape, suggesting that something – or perhaps someone – has hurt the land. You could interpret this any number of ways. Perhaps, by abandoning God and worshipping at the altar of wealth, the religion-less men of fish have bruised their land. Perhaps men like Washington have poisoned the country by exploiting its resources (like diamonds) for their own purposes. Perhaps you can come up with a third (or fourth) interpretation?

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