All the Sad Young Men, F. Scott Fitzgerald's third collection of short stories, was published by Charles Scribner's Sons on 26 February 1926. Fitzgerald's previous book, The Great Gatsby, had appeared on 10 April 1925 and Sad should have followed more quickly, in accordance with Scribners' usual policy of issuing a short story collection hard on the heels of a novel by the same author. Fitzgerald's first two short story collections, Flappers and Philosophers (1920) and Tales of the Jazz Age (1922) had followed this pattern; but the publication of Sad was delayed until “The Rich Boy”, the opening story in the volume, had appeared in magazine form. Sad consisted of nine stories, all previously published in magazines and all except two of them earning Fitzgerald a four-figure fee. Three of the stories – “Winter Dreams”, “Absolution” and “‘The Sensible Thing'” – form the “Gatsby group” or, as the leading Fitzgerald scholar and biographer Matthew J. Bruccoli calls it, the “Gatsby cluster”. They were all produced around the time of Gatsby's genesis and can be seen to relate to his third novel in a range of ways. “The Rich Boy” itself, written in the year Gatsby was published, can be seen as a development of some aspects of its themes and techniques.
“The Rich Boy” first appeared in Redbook Magazine (January and February 1926) and earned Fitzgerald $3,150. [This and all subsequent fees given in this entry are from Fitzgerald's ledger as transcribed in Bruccoli (1991) and are, according to Bruccoli, after agent's commission (Bruccoli (1991), 655, 631, 624n); the one possible exception is the fee for “Absolution” – for a comment on this, and for the amounts of the other fees before commission, see Fitzgerald (2007), 503-4.] Like Gatsby, The Rich Boy employs a first person narrator who knows the central figure, sometimes acts as his companion and confidant, and tells his story; in contrast to Gatsby, however, the narrator of “The Rich Boy” is unnamed and is not directly involved in the main action. The third paragraph of the story starts with a statement that has become almost proverbial: “the very rich […] are different from you and me” (1; all page references in this entry for Sad are to the Scribners' 1926 edition). Ernest Hemingway (1898-1961) would mock this statement in his short story “The Snows of Kilimanjaro” (1936), suggesting that the difference was simply that the rich “have more money” (Hemingway (2004), 66). But the full passage suggests that Hemingway's response is reductive and demonstrates – as Gatsby had done – the poised, subtle narrative commentary which Fitzgerald could now achieve:
Let me tell you about the very rich. They are different from you and me. They possess and enjoy early, and it does something to them, makes them soft where we are hard, and cynical where we are trustful, in a way that, unless you were born rich, it is very difficult to understand. They think, deep in their hearts, that they are better than we are because we had to discover the compensations and refuges of life for ourselves. Even when they enter deep into our world or sink below us, they still think that they are better than we are. They are different. (1-2)
The protagonist of “The Rich Boy” is Anson Hunter, the eldest of six children of a New York family which has a fortune of fifteen million dollars. The family spends its summers in a large estate in northern Connecticut where “the half-grudging American deference” which the locals pay to Anson gives him, for the first time, a sense of his superiority. He accepts this as “the natural state of things” and “a sort of impatience with all groups of which he was not the centre – in money, in position, in authority – remains with him for the rest of his life (3). He goes to Yale University and it is when he leaves Yale that he and the narrator meet, in the late summer of 1917, and are “swept up into the systematized hysteria” of World War One. Anson joins the naval air arm as a pilot and falls in love with “a conservative and rather proper girl” Paula Legendre (5). They agree to marry, and Paula tells him the next day she is rich, with “a personal fortune of nearly a million dollars” (7). But they keep their engagement a secret and set no date for the wedding. In April 1918, when Anson gets leave, he is accompanied to New York by Paula, her mother and a naïve twenty-five year old female cousin – the three ladies stay at the Ritz. Paula increasingly feels that she wants to marry Anson immediately and, with only two days of his leave left, she decides she will force the issue that night, when they are planning to drive into the country for a dinner party. But Anson starts drinking with friends at the Yale Club. When he gets to the Ritz, he is received by Paula's cousin, because Paula is late in dressing. It takes the cousin a little time to realize that Anson's odd behavior is due to the fact that he is drunk. While Paula and Anson set off for the dinner party in a limousine with two of Anson's drunken companions from the Yale Club, Paula's cousin tells Paula's mother about Anson's behavior. Paula's mother telephones her daughter to say that she does not want her to come back with Anson. Soon afterwards, Anson disgraces himself at the party, talking noisily and offensively and sliding under the table. When he has slept it off, Paula and Anson travel back to the Ritz together, but although their relationship lingers on for a while, the moment at which it might have led to marriage has passed. The navy sends Anson abroad in July 1918 and before he goes Paula considers a last-minute marriage but decides against it because there are “always cocktails on [Anson's] breath” (13). Anson's plane crashes in the North Sea but he is rescued by a destroyer and sent to hospital with pneumonia; he recovers after the armistice and is sent home. Again Anson and Paula seem to be on the verge of marriage, but it becomes clear their relationship is almost over. Anson throws himself energetically into the lively world of post-World War One New York, where he works hard by day in a brokerage house and pursues pleasure by night. One February, he goes to Florida and meets Paula again, where she is with a rich and socially eminent Bostonian, Lowell Thayer. Anson and Paula get away from Thayer and embrace on a moonlit beach but although Paula is yearning for Anson to ask her to marry him, he does not do so. He returns to New York and, late in April, Paula sends him a telegram in which she announces that she is engaged to Lowell Thayer and they will be married at once in Boston. Anson's immediate response is to drink a lot of whisky and pursue his work and leisure activities unremittingly, but there is one thing he cannot help – “for three days, in any place, in any company, he would suddenly bend his head into his hands and cry like a child” (19).
By 1922 it seems likely that Anson, now twenty-seven and putting on a little weight, will be taken into the brokerage firm for which he works. After his father dies, Anson becomes, in effect, the head of the family, although his Uncle Robert administers the estate. Uncle Robert and his wife Edna had been great friends of Anson in his youth but relations had cooled as Anson revealed that he did not share Robert's enthusiasm for horses, neglects the exclusive New York club to which Robert gets him elected, and refuses to enter Robert's own staid and overlooked brokerage house. Anson has several affairs with women, but it is his relationship with Dolly Karger which, according to the narrator, affects him most deeply. Dolly herself has had many affairs and she wants to marry Anson because she feels in his character “both the sybarite [a person self-indulgently fond of sensuous luxury (Concise Oxford Dictionary)] and the solid rock, and these two satisfied every need of her nature” (23). Anson pursues the relationship so far, but he is not in love with her and as he feels the pressure to marry her increasing he decides to end the relationship. But, as he is about to take the letter to her house, a letter arrives for him at the Yale Club from Dolly herself, telling him that she cannot go to the country with him for the weekend as they had planned but will spend it with an admirer from Chicago called Perry Hull. Angered by this apparent attempt to manipulate him, Anson insists on taking her to the country anyway. He takes her to a lodge on an estate in Port Washington and tells her, brutally, that he does not love her at all. “For a long time afterward Anson believed that a protective God sometimes interfered in human affairs. But Dolly Karger, lying awake and starting at the ceiling, never again believed in anything at all” (31).
Dolly marries someone else the following Autumn. Anson is duly made a partner in the brokerage firm for which he works and comes to acquire a seat on the Stock Exchange and an annual income of $25,000. When a life insurance company refuses to issue him a policy, he stops drinking for a year. Outside work, he gives advice and guidance to those who request it and specializes in solving problems for young married couples. He feels that he himself, at twenty-eight, is too old to marry – at least for love. But he does believe in marriage. When he hears that his Aunt Edna, now almost forty, is, unknown to her husband Robert, having an affair with a young, loose-living drinking man called Cary Sloane, he intervenes to end it, confronting Edna and Sloane and threatening to tell her husband and Sloane's father. The next morning, Sloane's body is found “on the lower shelf of a pillar of Queensboro Bridge” (40-1).
Afterwards, Anson is no longer welcome at Uncle Robert's house. Anson's mother dies, and her death ends “the quiet, expensive superiority of the Hunters” (41). The estate, diminished by inheritance taxes and divided among the six children, is no longer a fortune. Now twenty-nine, Anson feels increasingly lonely. The young married couples to whom he gave advice now have families and no longer need him. As he nears his thirtieth birthday, the last of his early close male friends gets married one Friday afternoon, with Anson performing his usual role of best man. Afterwards, he wanders to the Yale Club and to the Plaza Hotel, unsuccessfully seeking old friends in person and by phone. Then, in the Plaza, he meets Paula – now Mrs Peter Hagerty, in her second marriage, with three children from her first and another now on the way. The Hagertys invite Anson to come with them for the weekend to Rye, where they are staying for the summer. That evening, when Paula and Anson are alone together, he tells her that he never loved anyone but her; she makes it clear, however, that she loves Peter Hagerty and Anson feels excluded. Afterwards, he sinks into depression and the older members of his firm insist that he should go abroad for a rest. Three days before he sails Paula dies in childbirth. He and the narrator are sailing to Europe on the same boat, but Anson reveals nothing of what he feels about Paula's death. His main concern is that he has reached the age of thirty. During the voyage, he pursues a pretty girl in a red tam o'shanter and tells the narrator of his adventures with her. The story concludes with the narrator reflecting that he does not think that Anson was ever happy unless someone was in love with him, “promising him something”. The narrator does not know what this “something” was but speculates that perhaps “they promised that there would always be women in the world who would spend their brightest, freshest, rarest hours to nurse and protect that superiority he cherished in his heart” (56).
The second story in Sad, and the first “Gatsby group” tale in the volume, is “Winter Dreams”. It was originally published in Metropolitan magazine (December 1922) and Fitzgerald's fee was $810 (Bruccoli (1991), 654, 626). There is, however, a significant difference between the magazine and book version: the former included a description of the house of Judy Jones, the girl who is the idol of Dexter Green, the story's protagonist; Fitzgerald took this description out of the story and applied it to Daisy Fay's house in Gatsby. In “Winter Dreams”, Dexter Green is the son of the owner of the second-best grocery store in the town of Black Bear, Minnesota. When the story opens, he is not more than fourteen and earns thirty dollars a month in the summer vacation by working as a caddy at the local golf course. One day, he sees an eleven-year old girl, Judy Jones, come on the golf course with her nurse. Dexter is very taken with Judy's smile and struck by her imperious manner. The nurse tries to find a caddy for Judy and herself but Dexter says he is the only caddy around and has to stay where he is until the caddy-master arrives. But when the caddy-master does arrive and tells Dexter to caddy for Judy, Dexter quits his job. The first reason the narrative gives for his resignation is that it provides “a violent and immediate outlet” for the turmoil of his feelings after the “strong emotional shock” which Judy has given him. But this is immediately qualified by the statement that it is “not so simple as that, either. As so frequently would be the case in the future, Dexter was unconsciously dictated to by his winter dreams” (62). These dreams are “concerned at first with musings on the rich” but they are not merely snobbish: “[h]e wanted not association with glittering things and glittering people – he wanted the glittering things themselves” (63).
Directed by these dreams, Dexter passes up a business course at the State University and goes to a more ancient and celebrated university in the East. After college he goes to the chief city in Minnesota and soon proves himself a successful entrepreneur – borrowing $1,000 to buy a partnership in a laundry and expanding the business to cater for a more prosperous clientele. By the time he is twenty-three, he is starting to be spoken of as a young man to watch. One afternoon he is invited to play golf with three eminent local older men – Mr Hart (for whom he used to caddy), Mr Sandwood and Mr T. A. Hedrick. Near the fifteenth green, a hard-struck golf ball hits Mr Hedrick in the stomach and the player responsible turns out to be Judy Jones – now “arrestingly beautiful”, with a colourful, mobile mouth which gives “a continual impression of flux, of intense life, of passionate vitality – balanced only partially by the sad luxury of her eyes” (66). That evening, Dexter goes swimming in Black Bear Lake near the golf club and is stretched out on a bathing raft when Judy Jones appears behind the wheel of a motor-boat. Recognizing him as one of the men on the golf course that afternoon, she asks if he will drive the motorboat so she can ride on the surf-board behind. He does so, and she invites him to dinner the next night. When he turns up, her mother and father are not there (though at least one servant is in the house). After dinner Judy leads Dexter out on to the dark sun-porch; they kiss more than once and she tells Dexter she thinks she is in love with him. Dexter decides after a few hours that he has wanted Judy Jones “ever since he was a proud, desirous little boy” (73).
During that summer, Dexter gives a part of himself to Judy; he realizes that she is devoid of principle or prevarication, using her physical beauty to get what she wants, and he knows he is only one of a changeable group of a dozen men who are involved with her. Dexter starts to think about going East to New York and taking Judy with him. But by the next autumn he comes to believe that he cannot have Judy and the following January, at the age of twenty-five, he gets engaged to Irene Scheerer. The engagement is to be announced in June and the marriage will take place three months later. But one night in May he calls for Irene to take her to the University Club and finds her in bed with a bad headache. He goes to the University Club alone and Judy Jones comes over to him. The evening ends with Dexter going home with Judy – and, it is implied, making love to her. Judy's revived passion for Dexter lasts only a month but brings his engagement to Irene to an end. In February he goes East planning to sell his current business – he now owns the largest chain of laundries in his part of the country. But when American entry into World War One looms, he enlists and starts to train as an officer, welcoming, like many other young people, “the liberation from webs of tangled emotion” (86).
When the war ends, Dexter goes to New York and becomes a successful businessman there. In the last scene of the story, he is thirty-two and has not been back to the Middle West for seven years, apart from one visit immediately after the war. One day a man from Detroit called Devlin pays a business call on him in New York and, confirming that Dexter comes from the Middle West, tells him that the wife of Lud Simms, one of his best friends in Detroit, came from Dexter's home city. This turns out to be Judy Jones and it soon emerges that the marriage is unhappy – Lud Simms has gone to pieces, drinks and has affairs while Judy stays at home with her children. Devlin's perception of Judy differs from Dexter's – Dexter recalls her as “a great beauty” whereas Devlin remembers her merely as “a pretty girl” (88) whose looks have since faded. After Devlin leaves, Dexter knows that, though he had thought he had become now invulnerable to loss, he has now, as a result of Devlin's words, lost something else, “as surely as if he had married Judy Jones and seen her fade away before his eyes […] The dream was gone” (89).
“The Baby Party”, the third story in Sad, is more comic and less subtle than “The Rich Boy” and “Winter Dreams”, though not lacking in deeper resonances. It first featured in Hearst's International magazine (February 1925) and Fitzgerald was paid $1,350. John Andros is a thirty-eight year old married man, working in the city and living in the suburbs with his wife, Edith, and Ede, his two-and-a-half year old daughter. Ede's arrival “interrupted his rather intense love-affair with his wife” and has tied him to suburbia, but “the thought of life continuing through his child” gives him solace as he grows older (91). One icy December day, Edith telephones him at work to tell him that she is taking Ede to a baby party that afternoon held at their next-door neighbours, the Markeys, and she asks him to drop in after work so that he can see Ede in her new pink dress. At five o'clock, when Edith and Ede arrive at the party, they find four other infant girls and nine infant boys are present, including Mrs Markey's son Billy, who is several months younger than Ede. After dancing, other activities, and refreshments, the infants and their parents start to leave, but Edith lingers until almost six o'clock, waiting for her husband to arrive so that she can show Ede off to him. By now, Mrs Markey's husband Joe is present. Ede decides that she wants Billy's teddy-bear and when he refuses to give it to her, she pushes him to the floor. Edith rebukes her but represses an inclination to laugh. Billy tries to take the bear back from Ede but Ede will not return it and then, putting the bear down, she pushes Billy over again. This time his head hits the bare floor beyond the rug and a bruise starts to swell. Edith scolds Ede again but when Ede starts to laugh she sets her mother off too. Mrs Markey gets angry with her and when a further laugh from Ede makes Edith giggle uncontrollably, Mrs Markey asks her to leave. A row ensues and insults start to fly: Mrs Markey calls Ede a “brat” and Edith calls Billy “a f-fat little fool” and tells Mrs Markey her private opinion of her – that she is “c-common” (100). Then John Andros arrives, the quarrel spreads to engulf the four adults, and Ede starts to cry. As John, Edith and Ede start to leave, John calls Joe Markey a “bully”, making him almost fighting mad. Outside, John watches Edith until she reaches the path of their house then turns back to Markey. The two men fight for twenty minutes, with neither of them winning a clear victory; finally they agree to abandon the struggle and shake hands. After his daughter has been put to bed that evening, he stays in the bedroom alone, picks her up and holds her tightly. He knows at length “what he had fought for so savagely that evening. He had it now, he possessed it forever, and for some time he sat there rocking very slowly to and fro in the darkness” (108). He has achieved a kind of masculine self-definition and a sort of authority over his wife and daughter. “The Baby Party” succeeds in being both an amusing satire on contemporary child-rearing practices and a primal patriarchal fable, a fantasy compensation for male fears of being dominated by women.
The fourth story in Sad, “Absolution”, is the second of the “Gatsby group” tales. It was first published in the American Mercury and Fitzgerald's fee, according to Bruccoli, was $118 (Bruccoli (1991), 654, 631). In Fitzgerald (2007), however, West says that “Fitzgerald did not record a price paid to him for the story in his ledger” and that Fitzgerald sold the story directly to the magazine, not through an agent (503). “Absolution” is sometimes seen as a story salvaged from a discarded opening to Gatsby, a view which Fitzgerald himself encouraged on two occasions, but Bruccoli argues that “there is no clear evidence” that Rudolph Miller [in “Absolution”] and the young Jimmy Gatz, who becomes Jay Gatsby, are “the same characterization from the same novel” (Bruccoli (1991), 223). “Absolution” is divided into five sections: the first is told largely in the third person from the viewpoint of Father Adolphus Schwartz, a Catholic priest in Ludwig, a small town in Dakota, and the last starts from Schwartz's viewpoint before switching to that of eleven-year old Rudolph Miller. These opening and concluding sections frame the story of key incidents in the life of Rudolph Miller on the previous Saturday and Sunday. Rudolph starts to tell this story in the first person in the last paragraph of section one, but the second, third and fourth sections present Rudolph's story in the third person, with some point-of-view shifts from Rudolph to his father, Carl Miller.
Section one of “Absolution” portrays a priest who cannot “attain a complete mystical union with God” and is distracted by the sensuous world around him (109). One afternoon Rudolph Miller, a “beautiful, intense little boy” comes to see him and tells him he has “committed a terrible sin”. It happened three days before, on Saturday, when his father told him to go to confession because he had not been for a month. Carl Miller is the local freight-agent, of German and Irish stock; he is a failure whose compensations are his Catholic faith and “his mystical worship” of the railroad builder, James J. Hill (1838) – a significant link with Gatsby, where Gatsby's father says that if his son had lived he would have been “a great man […] like James J. Hill” who would have “helped build up the country” (160). In “Absolution”, Rudolph obeys his father's orders and goes to confession. Among the minor offences to which Rudolph confesses, there is one which startles the priest – “not believing I was the son of my parents” (114) – another link with Gatsby, whose “parents were shiftless and unsuccessful people” whom “his imagination had never really accepted […] as his parents” (95). After confessing to “dirty words and immodest thoughts and desires” (115), Rudolph goes on to respond to the priest's question about whether he has told any lies by saying he never tells lies – and almost immediately realizes that he has committed the terrible sin of telling a lie in confession. After leaving the confessional, he resorts initially to indulging his fantasy identity of Blatchford Sarnemington, who lives “in great sweeping triumphs”, but then returns to the problem created by his lie in confession. He decides that it might anger God too much if he took communion the next day and he determines to drink water “by accident” in the morning since this will, in accordance with a church law, make him unfit to receive communion that day (117). But when he sneaks down to the kitchen to drink water the next morning, his father catches him as he is about to do so. An argument develops which ends with Rudolph dashing his glass into the sink and his father punching him several times. Father and son then set off for communion, but at the church door his father insists that Rudolph go to confession again and ask God's pardon for the way he has just behaved. Rudolph enters the confessional but merely accuses himself of missing his morning prayers – and nothing more. It is a key moment of self-definition:
A maudlin exultation filled him. Not easily ever again would he be able to put an abstraction between the necessities of his ease and pride. An invisible line had been crossed, and he had become aware of his isolation – aware that it applied not only to those moments when he was Blatchford Sarnemington but that it applied to all his inner life. Hitherto such phenomena as “crazy” ambitions and petty shames and fears had been but private reservations, unacknowledged before the throne of his official soul. Now he realized unconsciously that his private reservations were himself – and all the rest a garnished front and a conventional flag. The pressure of his environment had driven him into the lonely secret road of adolescence. (124)
But this sense of his own autonomy weakens when he goes into the church and after he takes communion he feels “alone with himself, drenched in perspiration and deep in mortal sin”, hearing his feet sounding like “cloven hoofs […] loud along the floor” and knowing that he carries “a dark poison […] in his heart” (127). It is this sense of sin which has driven him to Father Schwartz.
In the last section of “Absolution”, it is clear that Rudolph's story, and the physical presence of this “beautiful little boy with eyes like blue stones, and lashes that sprayed open from them like flower-petals” (127) has brought Schwartz's own repressed sensuousness to the surface. He impatiently dismisses Rudolph's spiritual anguish by an abstract formulation which the boy finds incomprehensible – “Apostasy implies an absolute damnation only on the supposition of a previous perfect faith” (129) – but gets through to him on another level with his recommendation that Rudolph should go to see an amusement park with its glittering attractions but should not “get up close […] because if you do you'll only feel the heat and the sweat and the life” (130). The priest's strange words half terrify Rudolph but also confirm “his own inner convictions. There was something ineffably gorgeous somewhere that had nothing to do with God” (131). The adjective “gorgeous” provides a further link with Jay Gatsby, who has “something gorgeous about him, some heightened sensitivity to the promises of life” (8). Finally the priest collapses to the floor and Rudolph runs panic-stricken from his house into the “hot fertile life” (132) of the late afternoon.
“Rags Martin-Jones and the Pr-nce of W-les”, the fifth story in Sad, is, as its title suggests, rather lighter than “Absolution”. It first appeared in McCall's magazine (July 1924) and earned Fitzgerald $1,575. The story opens with Rags Martin-Jones, an immensely wealthy young lady, returning in April to New York on the Majestic after five years in Europe. At the age of ten, in 1913, she had inherited a fortune of $75,000,000 from her parents after they had drowned on the Titanic. She has no other family and she is met at the dock by a posse of photographers and by her ardent admirer, John M. Chestnut. Rags takes up residence at the Ritz, where John visits her and persuades her to go out with him that evening by saying that she will be able to see the Prince of Wales, who is visiting the city incognito to watch a prize-fight and whom Rags has always missed meeting before (at this time, the Prince of Wales was Edward Windsor (1894-1972), who would briefly become King Edward VIII of England (January-December 1936) before abdicating the throne to marry American divorcée Wallis Simpson (1895/6-1986) and becoming the Duke of Windsor). Chestnut takes Rags to a roof-garden club called the “Hole in the Sky”. After a while, the Prince of Wales appears. One of his aides, Lord Charles Este, asks that Rags joins them during the next number which the orchestra (situated on an adjacent roof) will play. Rags duly does so and when she returns to Chestnut's table, tells him that the Prince of Wales looks like his picture but was very bored and tired and only made a few conventional remarks. A very pale young man then comes into the roof garden and tells John that “They've picked up the trail!” (150). John goes with him to an unoccupied table where they talk, then John returns to tell Rags that he is about to be arrested for murder. Rags arranges for John to escape with her in the Prince of Wales's car which will take them over the US border into Canada, telling the Prince that she and John are embarking on a runaway marriage. Then two policemen and a plain-clothes man enter. They tell people to put their hands up and Este refuses, declaring that he and his companions are British subjects. As the two policemen, now with their automatic pistols drawn, advance towards the British party, Este and his fellow aides draw revolvers. After shots start to fly, John surrenders to the plain-clothes man. Then, in a twist similar to that which occurs in “The Offshore Pirate” in Fitzgerald's first volume of short stories, Flappers and Philosophers, John reveals that it has all been a stunt which he has staged for Rags's benefit; Rags faints from over-excitement. The next day she comes to see John in his office and he indicates that they will get married at City Hall before lunchtime. As they descend from his office in the lift, he reveals that the “Prince of Wales” was the lift boy, whose striking resemblance to Edward Windsor is confirmed when he turns round to smile at them. The story is a comic romp, full of surprises towards the end – though it is worth noting that it is also, like “The Baby Party”, a tale which compensates for patriarchal anxieties by showing an initially disadvantaged male establishing his authority over a woman.
The sixth story in Sad, “The Adjuster”, is a moralistic, didactic and partly symbolic tale with some echoes of “The Lees of Happiness” in Tales of the Jazz Age. It first appeared in Redbook magazine (September 1925) and Fitzgerald was paid $1,800. The story starts in 1920 – though told, as the narrator announces, from “the vantage-point of 1925” (162) – and the setting is the Ritz Hotel, where, at five o'clock one April afternoon, twenty-three-year old Luella Temple is taking tea with a friend of the same age, Ede Carr. Luella has been married for three years to Charles Hemple, who is in his mid-thirties, and they have a two-year-old son, Chuck. Charles is wealthy and Luella has no material worries but she is bored with her life and feels that, though she loves her husband, they are drifting towards a divorce. When Luella gets home that evening, she finds that Charles has invited a guest for dinner whom she has not met before – a Dr Moon. Charles tells Luella that he has invited Dr Moon because he wanted him to have a talk with her. Luella is indignant but Charles contrives to leave her alone with Dr Moon after dinner. Though angry at this, Luella finds herself confessing her boredom with her life to the doctor. Then the nurse comes in to tell her that her husband has been throwing all the food out of the ice-box and is now crying and singing. He has had a nervous breakdown and Luella finds herself having to nurse him. Her troubles increase when Chuck falls ill, a servant sent by an agency refuses to undertake the extra duties she requests and walks out, and the hired nurse faints. Then she enters a new dimension of disaster when Chuck dies.
Luella at first refuses to accept her son's death but Dr Moon tells her that she has to do so and that she must now tell her husband the sad news and look after him. Dr Moon continues to advise her and she finds herself taking on duties and responsibilities in regard to running a home and looking after her husband that she had previously evaded. Charles recovers from his long breakdown after two years and they have two more children. Five years pass and then, one afternoon, Dr Moon, who seems to have been a frequent visitor, tells Luella he is going away for good because she no longer needs him, since she has now adjusted to the demands of her new life. Luella asks Dr Moon to tell her who he is before he goes and he replies “I am five years” (192). Dr Moon, his name suggesting the changes of the lunar cycle, is a symbol of time, loss and regrowth, the “adjuster” of the story's title.
Like “The Adjuster”, “Hot and Cold Blood”, the seventh story in Sad, is a portrait of a marriage, but one which focuses on the husband more than the wife, as in “The Baby Party”. “Hot and Cold Blood” first featured in Hearst's International magazine (August 1923) and Fitzgerald's fee was $1,350. Jim and Jaqueline Mather have been married for about a year when Jaqueline walks into the office of the hardware brokerage business her husband successfully runs to see Ed Bronson, whom she knows slightly, shaking his hand. When she questions her husband about Bronson's visit, it turns out that Bronson has touched Jim for a $300 loan. Jaqueline rebukes Jim for this and they have a relatively mild dispute which might have been forgotten but for an incident when they travel home to lunch together on the street-car (they have sold their own automobile and not yet bought a new one). Jim gives up his seat to a huge fifty-year old woman who expresses no gratitude, takes up more and more of Jaqueline's space and eventually coughs all over her. When they get off the street-car, Jaqueline denounces Jim as “a professional nice fellow” (199). But the unpleasantness is forgotten before long, and Jaqueline becomes pregnant. In April, however, she is out walking when she sees Ed Bronson beside a brand-new sports roadster which must have cost about $2500. She goes to her husband's office and asks him if Bronson ever repaid him the $300 loan – and Jim says he did not. Jaqueline denounces him once more for being too kind to everyone and lacking consideration for her, especially in her present condition. He apologises and promises to be more careful in future. The contrast between his own generosity and the attitude of others is underscored immediately after this when a delivery boy arrives with boxes which require a cash-on-delivery payment of $50. Jim does not have the cash on him and asks Fred Drake, from the office across the corridor, to lend it him. Drake refuses, telling him that he has made a rule never to make a personal loan to anyone under any circumstances. Jim is momentarily shocked but then does all he can to ensure that Drake does not feel bad about the refusal. When he returns to Jaqueline, however, he acknowledges that, in the matter of his generosity, she is right and he is wrong.
Jim tries to implement his policy of “No-More-Mr-Nice-Guy” and a test comes in mid-August when Edward Lacy, an elderly man and friend of his late father, visits him in his office. Lacy tells him that almost forty years ago, he lent Jim's father a thousand dollars, which he paid back with six per cent interest before the end of the year. He now asks that Jim lend him $450 so that he can retain a $10000 insurance policy on which he has borrowed up to the limit. Jim refuses, explaining that he and his wife will soon be having a baby and that he has been saving for that. When he rides home in the trolley that evening, he persists in the policy he has recently adopted of not giving up his seat, even though there are women standing. As the car gets more crowded and hot, the woman standing next to him keeps swaying against him, but he refuses to look at her and still keeps his seat. The woman eventually faints and the car makes an emergency stop. Jim realizes that the unconscious woman is none other than Jaqueline, his wife. He carries her off the tram and gets her home. Immediately after Jaqueline has gone to bed, Jim phones Edward Lacy and indicates that he will lend him the $450.
“The Sensible Thing” is the eighth story in Sad, and the third and final “Gatsby group” tale in the volume. It was first published in Liberty magazine (5 July 1924) and earned Fitzgerald $1,575. Its protagonist is George O'Kelly, who has been working for six months in New York as an insurance clerk at $40 a week. Less than two years previously he had graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and taken a post with a firm of construction engineers in southern Tennessee. He strongly feels the romance of engineering and loves “[s]teel inexhaustible, to be made lovely and austere in his imaginative fire … ” (218). But he had then fallen for Jonquil Cary and had gone off to New York to try to make enough money on which to marry her; she is waiting for him in her home town in Tennessee. The story opens in March in New York when George has just received a letter from Jonquil which makes him fear that she will end their relationship. He wants to go and see her immediately and asks his boss, Mr Chambers, for four days vacation; his boss points out that he had a vacation two weeks ago and tells him that he can go but should not come back. This gives George a great feeling of freedom and he thanks Mr Chambers for firing him, much to the latter's surprise.
When George arrives by train in Jonquil's home town, he finds her waiting for him but is disturbed to find she is accompanied by two boys. When George and Jonquil get back to her parents' house and her parents ask, over dinner, about his job, he lies, telling them that he has gained promotion and a raise in salary. After dinner, alone with Jonquil, he asks when she will marry him and she replies by asking if he is ready to marry her. Every word draws them further apart and Jonquil starts to cry. The next day “the breaking-point” comes. Jonquil tells George she loves him whole-heartedly and would have married him two months ago if he had been ready for her, but she cannot now “because it doesn't seem to be the sensible thing” (226). George and Jonquil go to the railway station, but any chance of a romantic if tearful farewell is scotched when they meet two of George's old acquaintances – though Jonquil, perhaps fearing an emotional scene, seems to welcome their presence. Deeply distressed, George boards the train that evening for New York.
The following year, one damp September afternoon, a deeply tanned young man arrives in the Tennessee city where Jonquil still lives. He turns out to be George O'Kelly, who has found success as an engineer in Cuzco, Peru (hence the tan) and is now, as a result of that success, about to take up a good position in New York. He is no longer poor but a prosperous young man with prospects. He goes to see Jonquil again at her parents' house but after dinner, in “the room which had seen the beginning of their love affair and the end”, it becomes clear that there is no chance of reviving their relationship and that she will not marry him: looking back on “the agony and grief” he had felt on the sofa of that room, he knows “that boy of fifteen months before had had something, a trust, a warmth, that was gone forever. The sensible thing – they had done the sensible thing. He had traded his first youth for strength and carved success out of despair. But with his youth, life had carried away the freshness of his love” (235). When he kisses her before he departs, he knows that “though he search through eternity he could not recapture those lost April hours. He might press her close now till the muscles knotted on his arms – she was something desirable and rare that he had fought for and made his own – but never again an intangible whisper in the dusk, or on the breeze of night …. ” (237-8).
The ninth and final story in Sad, “Gretchen's Forty Winks”, ends the volume lightly. It is another portrait of a marriage, like “The Baby Party”, “The Adjuster” and “Hot and Cold Blood” and it also resembles “The Baby Party” in showing a husband establishing authority over his wife. It originally appeared in the Saturday Evening Post (15 Mar 1924) and Fitzgerald was paid $1,080. Roger and Gretchen Halsey have been married for three years and have a baby; they live in the suburbs and Roger commutes to work. Six months previously, he left the New York Lithographic Company, where he was earning an assured $600 a month, and started his own advertising business, which is currently bringing in an uncertain $500 monthly. The story starts when he arrives home one winter evening to tell Gretchen that he has the chance of getting some of the biggest advertising accounts in the USA and that, for the next six weeks, he is going to bring work home every night. Gretchen warns him that if he overworks he will “end up with a nervous breakdown” (242) – a warning twice echoed by others later in the story (254, 262). But Roger tells her not to worry about him. She then informs him that George Tompkins has invited them to his house for dinner that night and she has accepted on behalf of both of them. Tompkins, who had once had the room next to Roger when they lived in the same boarding house, is a successful interior decorator. He comes to pick them up, as they have no automobile themselves. When they get to his house, Tompkins starts to boast about his own balanced lifestyle in which work is varied with a range of leisure activities – playing squash, golf or bridge, and reading poetry. But Roger persists in his plan to bring work home every night. Feeling neglected, Gretchen goes horseback riding with Tompkins on two Sundays, spends the afternoon skiing with him on the country-club hill, visits the theatre with him, and puts Tompkins's signed picture on the wall of the bedroom she shares with Roger. At home, the household bills mount up.
In January, the Thursday approaches when H. G. Garrod, head of the large shoe firm whose advertising account is one of those Roger is hoping to win, is due in New York. On the evening of the previous day, Roger arrives home and insists on continuing to work, even though Gretchen has invited George Tompkins over. Roger leaves Gretchen and Tompkins alone downstairs together, and goes to work in the bedroom. When he eventually comes down at ten o'clock, George starts to warn Roger about overworking again and a row breaks out between them which almost leads to a fight. When Tompkins has gone, Gretchen insists to Roger that she will go riding with Tompkins tomorrow as planned, and goes up to bed. Roger works far into the night and, early the next morning, he goes to the local drug-store and gets a sleeping draught which he slips into the coffee he brings up to Gretchen to drink in bed. Once she is fast asleep, he puts all her shoes into a suitcase and cuts the telephone wire. He takes the suitcase full of shoes to his office, where at the end of the afternoon they are impounded by his landlord, Mr Golden, as security against the outstanding rent Roger owes. At 9.30 the next morning, Mr Garrod rings up to say he likes the material Roger has sent him; Roger has secured an advertising account which will bring in $40,000 a year. Three hours later, Roger comes into his wife's bedroom to tell her the good news. Gretchen thinks it is Thursday and is bewildered when she finds that it is Friday and she can find none of her shoes. She asks Roger to help her and he calls the doctor. The doctor tells her she simply needs to rest – and, when she mentions that she had an engagement to go riding with George Tompkins on Thursday, he says that Tompkins will not be going riding with anyone for a long time. Tompkins has had a nervous breakdown because of the strain involved in trying to keep his life balanced. When Roger asks anxiously about his own health, Doctor Gregory replies that he has never seen him looking better in his life.
All the Sad Young Men sold quite well, going through three printings totalling 16,170 copies in its first year of publication and netting Fitzgerald $3,894 in royalties (Bruccoli (1991), 272). The review response was fairly positive. Twenty-three out of the thirty-one US reviews reprinted in Jackson R. Bryer's F. Scott Fitzgerald: The Critical Reception (1978) praised the collection to a greater or lesser extent. In the Chicago Daily News, for example, Harry Hansen called it “a joy to read” and George Currie of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle found it “a noble volume” (Bryer (1978), 255, 257). Two significant negative reviews, however, came from Fitzgerald's fellow literary practitioners, the poet and editor William Rose Benét (1886-1950) and the poet, short-story writer and novelist Conrad Aiken (1889-1973), both of whom were inclined to see popular magazine fiction as the enemy of serious literature. In the Saturday Review of Literature, Benét damned Sad with faint and patronizing praise, citing it as evidence of Fitzgerald's “almost uncanny facility for magazine writing”, while in the New Criterion, Aiken saw Fitzgerald as still “all too manipulable” by his magazine audience and his success (Bryer (1978), 268, 275-6). Seventeen of the reviews referred to The Great Gatsby, with nine of them judging that Sad was as good as Gatsby or continuing in the same vein, four finding it less good, and four thinking it better. Of the stories in the volume, Scribners themselves had promoted “Absolution” as “one of the best stories of recent times” and five reviewers especially praised it. E. C. Beckwith in the Literary Review of the New York Evening Post called it “as fine an achievement in the field of the brief tale as any by a living American”. Seven other reviewers, however, had reservations: for instance, Benét judged it “almost” – but not quite – “first-rate”, Aiken found it “forced” and lacking in detachment, John McClure in the New Orleans Times-Picayune called it “far from satisfactory” and The Outlook saw it as “‘arty' and confused” (Bryer (1978), 260, 268, 269, 274). But despite the reservations of some reviewers about the whole collection and about individual stories, the preponderant sense which emerges from the reviews is that Sad, especially when considered with Gatsby, shows Fitzgerald developing, advancing and maturing as a writer. As Henry F. Pringle put it in the New York World, “Mr. Fitzgerald has graduated from the jazz age” (253). If Fitzgerald had followed up Gatsby and Sad with another novel and short story collection in the later 1920s, it might have consolidated his serious reputation: but it would be eight years before his next novel, Tender is the Night (1934) came out, and nine years before his next volume of short stories, Taps at Reveille (1935), appeared, and by then he was almost a forgotten man.
Bruccoli, Matthew J., Some Sort of Epic Grandeur: The Life
of F. Scott Fitzgerald, with a genealogical afterword by
Scottie Fitzgerald Smith (London: Cardinal, 1991).
Bryer, Jackson R. (ed.), F. Scott Fitzgerald: The Critical Reception, The American Critical Tradition series, no. 5 (New York: Burt Franklin, 1978).
Fitzgerald, F. Scott, All the Sad Young Men (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1926).- - - All the Sad Young Men [with eleven additional stories], The Cambridge Edition of the Works of F. Scott Fitzgerald (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007), James L. W. West III (ed.).
- - - The Great Gatsby (London: Penguin, 2000).
Hemingway, Ernest, The First Forty-Nine Stories (London: Arrow, 2004).