Thursday Quotables – Bernice Bobs Her Hair

BERNICE BOBS HER HAIR (F. Scott Fitzgerald) Bernice seems the most common of girls... but there's a determination in her no one suspects

Bernice bobs her hair (F. Scott Fitzgerald)Twenty minutes later the barber swung her around to face the mirror, and she flinched at the full extent of the damage that had been wrought- Her hair was not curly, and now it lay in lank lifeless blocks  on both sides of her suddenly pale face. It was ugly as sin – she had known it would be ugly as sin. Her face’s chief charm had been a Madonna-like simplicity. Now that was gone and she was – well, frightfully mediocre – not stagy; only ridiculous, like a Greenwich Villager who had left her spectacles at home.

As she climbed down from the chair she tried to smile – failed miserably. She saw two of the girls exchange glances; noticed Marjorie’s mouth curved in attenuated mockery – and that Warren’s eyes were suddenly very cold.

‘You see’ – her words fell into an awkward pause – ‘I’ve done it.’

‘Yes, you’ve – done it,’ admitted Warren.

‘Do you like it?’

BERNICE BOBS HER HAIR by F. Scott Fitzgerald - Nobody imagines what Bernice is capable of… Click To Tweet

quotation-marks4This is from F. Scott Fitzgerald’s 1920 short story Bernice Bobs Her Hair and you can see it’s an early portrayal of flappers from the shocked reaction everyone has at Bernice actually bobbing her hair, where bob hair will become commonplace and in fact a flapper’s proud later in the decade.

This is one of the stories by Fitzgerald I like the most. His interest in what’s genuine and what’s just pretended is constant in his work, but here it becomes very apparent, and still very subtle. The contrast between Marjorie (the popular girl) and her plain cousin Bernice, the way Marjorie teaches Bernice to cheat in order to be popular and the final act of genuine self-affirmation from Bernice is really compelling for me. Here we have two very different characters and we’re asked to decide which one is really the strong one.

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About the Author

jazzfeathers
I was born, raised and I still live near Verona (Italy), though I worked for a time in Dublin. I started writing fantasy stories as a kid. Today I’m a bookseller who reads fantasy, history, mythology, anthropology and lots of speculative fiction. Somehow, all of this has found its way into my own dieselpunk stories.

2 Comments on "Thursday Quotables – Bernice Bobs Her Hair"

  1. I’ve always loved this story! You’ve really picked a wonderful moment. Reading this makes me want to go back and read the story all over again. It’s been so many years — it’s time!

    PS – love the new banner on your blog!

  2. jazzfeathers | 7th November 2014 at 7:21 am |

    Yeah, I’ve read a few stories by Fitzgerald, but this is my favourit. The dynamics between characters are so strong.

    Hey thanks, I like the pic for my banner a lot myself. When I saw it, I just had to have it 🙂

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