Bernice Bobs Her Hair

by

F. Scott Fitzgerald

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Bernice Bobs Her Hair Study Guide

Welcome to the LitCharts study guide on F. Scott Fitzgerald's Bernice Bobs Her Hair. Created by the original team behind SparkNotes, LitCharts are the world's best literature guides.

Brief Biography of F. Scott Fitzgerald

Though he was born in the American Midwest, Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald—known as Scott Fitzgerald to personal acquaintances—lived most of his early life in New York, where his father worked. He enrolled at Princeton University in 1913, where he honed his craft by writing for the Nassau Literature Review and pursued various independent works, including an early rejected novel. When his academic performance suffered, he decided to drop out of Princeton and join the U.S. Army as a commissioned officer. Not long afterwards, Fitzgerald met Zelda Sayre, who would famously become his wife. The glowing success of This Side of Paradise in 1920 marked the beginning of their marriage—and as Scott’s career gained traction, the Fitzgeralds’ tumultuous relationship would become as sensational as his fiction. Through the 1920s and 1930s, living with Zelda as an expatriate in Paris, Fitzgerald wrote over 60 short stories for the Saturday Evening Post alone, as well as others for Collier’s Weekly, Esquire, and Redbook. The Great Gatsby, his best-acclaimed novel, was published to some popular success in 1925; Tender is the Night, published in 1934, was less warmly received. Mental illness and alcoholism ruined Fitzgerald’s health by the time he reached middle age, and mounting expenses for Zelda’s hospital treatments—she was first admitted for schizophrenia in 1930—left the writer struggling financially. He sustained himself by writing for Hollywood until his death in 1940. Critics have subsequently remarked on how this writer who so eloquently captured the decadence, excess, and crippling ennui of the “Jazz Age” lived a life cut short by these very things.
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Other Books Related to Bernice Bobs Her Hair

Social competition and its hollow rewards is a key theme in “Bernice Bobs Her Hair” and in many of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s other works. The Great Gatsby famously discusses this theme across class and racial boundaries, and several of Fitzgerald’s earlier short stories touch upon it from various angles. Similar to “Bernice Bobs Her Hair,” “Dice, Brassknuckles & Guitar” is a relatively lighthearted short story about a poor Southern man who finds himself on the social periphery of New Jersey’s wealthy young people. “A Diamond as Big as the Ritz,” meanwhile, dispenses with Fitzgerald’s usual realist or semi-realist style in order to satirize old American wealth of the kind seen in “Bernice Bobs Her Hair.” Other coming-of-age stories from this literary period tend to be more serious and introspective; the closest match to “Bernice Bobs Her Hair,” structurally and tonally, comes in the works of Roald Dahl, some 25 years later. Dahl’s short stories for adults were published in nearly all of the magazines to which Fitzgerald submitted stories, and follow a structure leading to some kind of “zinger” or “twist” or otherwise punchy climax like the ending of “Bernice Bobs Her Hair,” albeit usually darker. Dahl’s “Dip in the Pool” is a prime example of this. Structurally, the story resembles the build-and-payoff of “Bernice Bobs Her Hair,” while thematically it discusses the financial desperation and self-destructive gambling that Fitzgerald discusses in several of his other stories.
Key Facts about Bernice Bobs Her Hair
  • Full Title: “Bernice Bobs Her Hair”
  • When Written: 1920
  • Where Written: New York
  • When Published: May 1, 1920
  • Literary Period: Jazz Age, Modernism
  • Genre: Short Story, Realism, Coming-of-Age
  • Setting: The Harveys’ home; various country clubs of the New England elite
  • Climax: Bernice succumbs to pressure and gets a short bob haircut.
  • Antagonist: Marjorie Harvey
  • Point of View: Third Person

Extra Credit for Bernice Bobs Her Hair

Dear Annabel. This story was inspired by a letter which F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote to his sister, Annabel, on how to win boys’ attention. The full letter is archived, and available to read in the Complete Correspondence of F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Counter-Culture Cut. The first bob haircut, which appeared in 1909, was inspired by Joan of Arc, who wore her hair short. Far from having connotations of saintly purity, however, it took the reputation of the counter-culture “flapper” generation.