Tuesday, 1 December 2015

2. A New Leaf by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Plot, character and setting

A New Leaf follows Julia Ross - a woman who falls in love. She is charmed by the good looks Dick Ragland - notorious for over drinking in Paris and they have a short lived romance. As Dick  struggles with alcoholism - Julia begins to give up on him. When she finds out he’s had an affair, she breaks up with him. Phil informs Julia that after she broke up with him, Dick is lost at sea, upholding his promise to her and not drinking. This is a blatant lie, Dick continues to go to bars and live a life of michief. Phil and Julia marry. 
A New Leaf was published in the Saturday Evening Post on the 4th of July 1931. The story is set in Paris in the 30s. 

Literary Analysis 

Fitzgerald explore character more than he does plot, in A New Leaf. Each character undergoes personal development in some form throughout the text. This contributes to the contour of the narrative in the growth of tension. 
For instance, Julia Ross is painted as superficial and beautiful, she is also discreet and naive- playing well into gender stereotypes. Her meekness comes through in the first few paragraphs of the text, as she sits in the cafe reacting to Dick’s handsome nature, 'She sat there, a well-behaved woman of twenty-one, and discreetly trembled.’ The term ‘well-behaved,’ is diminutive in that it’s usually used to describe children, making her seem young and naive. Julia’s development and journey as a character lies in her conviction that she can ‘fix’ Dick and his alcoholism, and the end of the text she refers to him with the alliterated metaphor, ‘He broke rather then bent,’  likening him to something solid - like an object to describe his mental state, something that can be fixed  

He also explores the theme of idealism - Julia optimistically believes she can fix Dick, and through the failure of this and Dick’s ultimate death, Fitzgerald is critiquing this idealism. Phil, the voice of reason, says to Julia, 'Julia, don't marry Dick. This isn't jealousy--I know when I am licked--but it seems awful for a lovely girl like you to take a blind dive into a lake full of rocks. What makes you think that people change their courses? Sometimes they dry up or even flow into a parallel channel, but I've never known anybody to change.’ The extended metaphor of the ‘lake,’ likens Dick to something still and unmoving, contrary to Julia’s perception of him - this in itself us a criticism, he is undermining her idealism. 

How does the text reflect an aspect of American culture? 

This text reflects a distinctly American idealism and superficiality. Illusion is prioritised over reality. Fitzgerald is undermining the idealism throughout the text - Julia is a personification of this American post-war idealistic landscape, she is naive and optimistic. In the ultimate outcome of the story, the death of Dick and Julia’s heart break - Fitzgerald criticises American culture of the time. This plays into criticism of the American dream and the toxicity of obsession with materialism. 

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