This is me reading a F. Scott Fitzgerald story, hate it, hate it, hate it… love it, love it, this is one of the best things I’ve ever read.
One must realise rich people have problems too. For a person who loves Raymond Carver or Alice Munro, it would seem odd to read a story about people not having to scrape by a minimum wage paycheque. Most of the middle classes tend to look down at the drama of the working class, but F. Scott Fitzgerald always had his eyes pointed upwards.
Okay, George O’Kelly at the start of the short story “The Sensible Thing” may be only working as a low paid office clerk, but don’t you worry, he is an up and coming engineer and by the end of the story, “he had risen from poverty to a position of unlimited opportunity.” All in the space of 10 months mind. It is what he has lost though. That is, Jonquil Carey, a girl in Tennessee, who he loved to the point of distraction.
It is hard to not equate material goods with suffering. Without, one should be distraught, when material possessions are in abundance however, one would think a person would be ecstatic. Isn’t that what we all dream about, getting rich? But seldom are F. Scott Fitzgerald’s characters truly happy. There is a deep emotional pain, and a looking back into the past. In “The Sensible Thing” George’s success cannot allow him to return to the happiness he had with Jonquil. After returning from the jungles of Peru, on his way to command another great engineering project in New York, George stops by Jonquil’s place. But whatever may have been there once is gone.
Perhaps Jonquil was never the right woman for him, but in George’s mind she was. Despite his success, he can’t recapture the time when they had first met and had been happy.
It always takes me time to shrug off my prejudices towards the rich and successful. I don’t think this is unique to me. Who sits in their tiny apartment, worrying how they will pay their electricity bill and thinks about how the rich must be suffering on the other side of town in their mansions. But Fitzgerald presents human, emotional stories that just happen to be set among the rich. Once you’re used to the setting, his work is amazing. And Fitzgerald’s prose is some of the best I’ve ever read. He has an amazing turn of phrase. Every fifth paragraph it feels he gives over to art, and will throw in lines that are so crisp and fresh, it is a delight to read.
If you want to read it for yourself, you can find the story here