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Thursday Quotables – Bernice Bobs Her Hair

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 #shortstory Share on X
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F. Scott Fitzgerald’s 1920 short story Bernice Bobs Her Hair is an early portrayal of flappers. The shocked reaction everyone has at Bernice actually bobbing her hair reveals that this story precedes a time where bob hair became commonplace. In later times, flappers became proud of their bobs.

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 in this particular story, 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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BERNICE BOBS HER HAIR (F. Scott Fitzgerald) Nobody imagines what little, plain, subdue Bernice is capable of to prove who she truly is

2 Comments

  • Lisa @ Bookshelf Fantasies
    Posted November 6, 2014 at 18:05

    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!

  • Post Author
    jazzfeathers
    Posted November 7, 2014 at 07:21

    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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