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