F. Scott Fitzgerald is an American author whose stories are set in the ‘Roaring 20s’; the time period that he himself was a part of. A common connection between Fitzgerald’s many novels and short stories is the symbolic use of the weather in these stories to portray the mood, tone and characters emotions. In the novel, The Great Gatsby, the weather event of rain is used to reflect and enhance the mood of Jay Gatsby as he prepares for and awkwardly reunites with his long lost ‘love’, Daisy Buchanan. In the short story Winter Dreams, a clear spell in the weather is used to represent the feelings of a short positive experience of Dexter as he meets his main desire in life, Judy Jones for the first time in years. Furthermore, in the short story the Jelly-Bean, protagonist Jim Powell’s return to his lazy ‘jelly bean’ state is enhanced by a strong heat wave. Finally, in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, a storm is used to symbolise conflicting emotions throughout the movie based on Fitzgerald’s short story. Also to be revealed in this essay is the meaning of this symbolism; not just the effective convenience of the symbol but also its ability to help build our understanding of how external, uncontrollable features, such as the weather, affect our emotions, moods and thought pattern as well as revealing what this symbol says about Fitzgerald, his life and the 1920’s as a whole.
In The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, it is raining as protagonist Jay Gatsby both prepares to meet with his greatest desire, Daisy Buchanan for the first time in five years and is still raining initially during the awkward reunion. The rain is symbolically used by Fitzgerald to enhance the nervous, downward mood of Gatsby’s as well as the heavily anticipated, tense atmosphere in Nick’s house. “The day agreed upon was pouring with rain” and it continued to rain right up to their awkward reunion where Gatsby knocked over a clock and “caught it with trembling fingers”. Here we clearly see the nervousness of Gatsby as he attempts to play out a moment that he has already played out many times in his head for the past five years since their last meeting. His nervousness is indicated by the “trembling hands”, a common feature of a nervous person as well as the general clumsiness of Gatsby which is furthermore due to his flighty, erratic nerves. However after Nick leaves, the reunion gets underway more successfully and by the time Nick returns the two are both exceptionally happy – Gatsby “literally glowed” and “Daisy’s face was smeared with tears”. It is at this point that “It’s stopped raining” and “there were twinkle-bells of sunshine in the room”. This is a symbolic reference that the negative downward rain has now cleared and the bright, happy sunshine has broken through – enforced by the “twinkle-bells” which can be interpreted as various positive things such as Tinker Bell, Jingle Bells or just a general twinkle like the twinkle in somebody’s eye when they are happy or inspired. This change in weather and its connotations are very much reflective of the mood change within the room. The symbolic use of weather in The Great Gatsby is effective as the weather is something that we can all relate to. The symbols use also helps us to understand how the weather and other uncontrollable features of our environment influence and sway our emotions and consequently our decision making.
Winter Dreams by F. Scott Fitzgerald is the short story of a young man named Dexter who spends his summers working as a caddy at the Sherry Island Golf Course. It is at the golf course that he falls in love with one of the member’s daughters, Judy Jones and his dreams of how to become wealthy become a mission as Dexter leaves the golf course, goes to college and then successfully involves himself in the laundromat industry. Dexter then gets engaged to Irene Scheerer however Judy Jones remains the love of his life and he ends up in a brief affair with her but the two are not to be. In Winter Dreams the weather is used once again to reflect and enhance the feelings/mood of the central characters. Like in The Great Gatsby, a clear spell in the weather is used to symbolise a positive opportunity and the emotions that come with that and it is “when the weather balanced for a few days on the thin bridge that led to deep summer” that Dexter and Judy met again. Dexter “was filled with sudden excitement” upon the reunion and after a while of talking the two went to Judy’s house for the night, later getting Dexter in trouble with Irene and her parents who “befriended him”. To Dexter his own life has “balanced for a few days” simultaneously with the weather as his love re-enters his life and he has an affair with her. This is because balanced connotes with stable, steady and fair – exactly how Dexter feels who “could have wept at the wonder of her return”. The weather had improved and so to had Dexter’s emotions and love life. The symbolic use of the clear weather in Winter Dreams has the same meaning as its use in The Great Gatsby. External, uncontrollable features of our environment (such as the weather) subconsciously influence and sway our feelings; often simply because of the fact that a lot of positive events occur in good weather when outdoor activities may be completed.
Jim Powell is a ‘jelly bean’ – a lazy, purposeless ‘jelly bean’. Jim lives in South Georgia and becomes somewhat anti-social and gets into gambling early on in this short story by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Jim is invited to a dance by his more social friend, Clark Darrow, and it is at this dance that he sets eyes on and falls in love with Nancy Lamar. Jim tries to win the love of Nancy however fails and Jim goes back to being a ‘jelly bean’. It is at the end of the story when Jim realises Nancy has used him, never had any actual interest in him and has now left to Savannah with another man when the weather all of a sudden becomes “hot” and “hotter still at four”. At the same time Jim claims to be “feelin’ right sick” and to be experiencing an “inexplicable but almost chemical change” as he loses his one piece of enjoyment in life that he has strived for over the course of the story and now that she is gone Jim goes back to being the lazy, purposeless ‘jelly bean’ that he once was. The fact that the weather becomes hot at the same time that Jim loses his one desire in life further illustrates the fact that Jim Powell is becoming a jelly bean once again. This is because sunny hot weather is peaceful and tiring – the kind of state that a lazy purposeless person is in and the kind of mood and tone that Jim is going to spend the rest of his life with. The way that we subconsciously interpret the symbolic use of weather in this short story reflects the fact that humans are influenced by our environment, just the same message that we get from many of Fitzgerald’s texts. The fact that this message has been woven into all three of Fitzgerald’s texts investigated thus far, it should be noted that perhaps Fitzgerald himself felt heavily influenced by external uncontrollable parts of his environment during his life. For example the unsuccessful father he was brought up by or the physiological issues his wife Zelda fought with could all be uncontrollable features of his own environment that have affected his feelings, emotions and thoughts over his life.
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is a movie based on the short story by F. Scott Fitzgerald. It is about the life of Benjamin Button who is born an old man who physically ages in reverse. Benjamin’s mother dies at birth and his father, horrified by baby Benjamin’s aged appearance, drops him off at an elderly home to be raised. The story follows Benjamin’s backward life and backward experiences, including his falling in love and having of a child with Daisy Fuller. The story is told by Daisy herself who is reading Benjamin’s diary to her daughter as she lies on her deathbed. Throughout the reading of the diary, Hurricane Katrina is building up in the background. “The wind, mom. They say the hurricane is coming.” There is also a point where Daisy and Benjamin are in a small hotel waiting out a tropical storm. The two of them are comforting each other and Benjamin concludes that he will look after Daisy “when my step gets slow… when I sleep too much… when you have to push me in a chair…” and Daisy will look after Benjamin “when I have pimples. When I think it’s funny to make fart noises…”. It is at this point when the storm dies down and clears. In both of these scenarios the storm is symbolising the conflicting emotions and the raw mood of the setting and in the latter the feeling of safety and comfort breaks through as the conflicting emotions and nervous tension ‘clear’ with the storm (which connotes with sadness, chaos and foreboding). Once again, weather has been used to represent the mood and emotions of the central characters and consequently their influenced thought patterns. The reason why Fitzgerald has chosen to once again use the weather symbolically is because it is a common thing that all people can relate to. The use of the storm could also be symbolic of both the 1920’s time period as well as the life of Fitzgerald’s; sad and chaotic. Both the 1920’s and Fitzgerald’s life share a further connection with a storm though – both look exciting and bold from the outside, however once you are in it you find yourself in a horrible, tense and generally downward environment.
In conclusion, the common connection between F. Scott Fitzgerald’s many novels and short stories; the symbolic use of the weather to illustrate the mood, tone and emotions of the setting and characters within the setting represents something deeper about Fitzgerald and the 1920’s as well as ourselves. In The Great Gatsby, rain is used to reflect the mood of Jay Gatsby as he prepares for and reunites with Daisy Buchanan. In Winter Dreams, a clear spell in the weather is used to represent the feelings of Dexter as he reunites with Judy Jones. In the Jelly-Bean, Jim Powell’s return to his lazy ‘jelly bean’ state is symbolically illustrated by a strong heat wave. Lastly, in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, a storm is used to symbolise conflicting emotions throughout the film. All of the symbolic uses of the weather represent more than just the effective convenience of the symbol. It also reveals Fitzgerald’s understanding of how external, uncontrollable features affect our emotions, moods and thought pattern as well as saying something more about Fitzgerald’s life and the 1920’s as a whole: exciting and bold on the outside, but once you are a part of it you realise it is actually sad, chaotic and tense.