Enchanted Places: The Use of Setting in F. Scott Fitzgerald's Fiction

Enchanted Places: The Use of Setting in F. Scott Fitzgerald's Fiction

Enchanted Places: The Use of Setting in F. Scott Fitzgerald's Fiction

Enchanted Places: The Use of Setting in F. Scott Fitzgerald's Fiction

Synopsis

Most of Fitzgerald's novels and stories start as a romance of love or a fantasy of extravagant glamour, but as the settings and the interplay between characters and the places they live are carefully examined, an emblem-like quality is discovered in their deceptively simple configuration. The first full-length study of Fitzgerald's unparalleled representation of Jazz Age America, this book analyzes an essential, but relatively uncultivated part of the artistry in Fitzgerald's fiction: his use of domestic and urban settings. Fitzgerald's use of these settings as a rich source of imagery objectifies social trends and individual desires. Each setting is no longer just a locale, or a site for a story's action, but a sophisticated device, an integral part of the story designed to convey a unique vision of life in a profound way. Such parabolic quality, the author argues, gives Fitzgerald's fiction enormous possibilities of temporal span and multiple situations, as well as a microcosmic capacity for containing the complexities of reality.

Excerpt

As a traditional form in literature, the presentation of setting is as old as literature itself. The use of setting is not only a crucial contributing part of a story's success but also a primary indicator of its author's artistry. Back in 1973, Alexander Gelley claimed in his article Setting and a Sense of World in the Novel that setting is "a relatively neglected aspect of the aesthetics of the novel." Twenty-three years later, Gelley's remark may still be applicable. And it seems more so in the study of F. Scott Fitzgerald's fiction. The contention of this book, therefore, is to fill up such a void by presenting a close study of the use of domestic and urban settings in Fitzgerald's fiction.

The use of setting represents an extraordinary achievement in Fitzgerald's fiction-writing career. Through his powerful visions and descriptive skills, settings in his fiction are always featured as what I would call "enchanted places," charming but elusive, heavily weighted with symbolic connotations. They help him dramatize his perspectives of life. His novels and scores of his short stories may start as a romance of love or a fantasy of extravagant glamour set in various places, but as we read them through carefully, we soon discover a parabolic quality in them. Each scene seems like a parable, functioning as suggestively as a microcosm of the whole American society. I use the term "parable" in the sense that reading Fitzgerald's fiction is often like reading a parable, in which setting is no longer just a locale, or a site for a story's action, but a sophisticated device and an integral part of the story designed to convey a unique vision of life in a profound way. Such a parabolic quality gives Fitzgerald's fiction enormous possibilities of temporal span and multiple situations, as well as a microcosmic capacity for containing the complexities of reality, creating and reinforcing the strongest possible impression upon them and giving his fiction the power of a symbolic and penetrating display.

Very few writers showed as much explicit concern for the connection between the inner world of the characters and the domestic and social world in which the characters live as Fitzgerald did. Fitzgerald believed that setting could . . .

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