Bernice Bobs Her Hair

by

F. Scott Fitzgerald

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Marjorie’s cousin and the story’s titular protagonist. Bernice is an 18-year-old girl from an exceptionally wealthy family in New England. She regularly spends her summers with her Aunt Josephine, whose daughter Marjorie, also 18, shows by comparison how far Bernice stands from her peers in terms of social ability. Bernice feels intimidated by Marjorie at first, finding her cruel and unfeminine. Sheltered from the realities of dating, peer pressure, and teenage culture—let alone the struggles of anyone beneath her family’s socioeconomic sphere—Bernice begins the story believing earnestly in the conservative mores of her parents’ generation. She is prudish and ladylike, but also childish, naive, and awkward. Challenges to her values frequently end in confusion, tears, and embarrassment. Bernice’s resentment towards Marjorie is eventually replaced by admiration, as Marjorie teaches her how to be popular and trendy. Gradually, through Marjorie’s advice, Bernice gains self-confidence and social savvy, though she still falters occasionally. Much of her success is due to Marjorie’s precise coaching, but her downfall is also Marjorie’s doing. Jealous at the newfound attention Bernice is getting, Marjorie tricks her cousin into getting a bad haircut. This swiftly destroys Bernice’s popularity, but it also causes her to find the willpower and courage she has been missing. At her core, Bernice proves to be strong and clever. Her critical thinking skills are what led her to seek Marjorie’s help in the first place—and together with her newfound self-reliance, they help her cast aside the insecurities and misconceptions about popularity that kept her from actualizing her potential. With newfound bravery, she strikes back at Marjorie by snipping off her braids in the dead of night, and leaving for home on her own terms, cleanly cutting ties with her cousin.

Bernice Quotes in Bernice Bobs Her Hair

The Bernice Bobs Her Hair quotes below are all either spoken by Bernice or refer to Bernice. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
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). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Scribner edition of Bernice Bobs Her Hair published in 1995.
Part 1 Quotes

No matter how brilliant or beautiful a girl may be, the reputation of not being frequently cut in on makes her position at a dance unfortunate. Perhaps boys prefer her company to that of the butterflies with whom they dance a dozen times an evening, but youth in this jazz-nourished generation is temperamentally restless, and the idea of foxtrotting more than one full fox trot with the same girl is distasteful, not to say odious.

Related Characters: Bernice, Otis Ormonde
Page Number: 28
Explanation and Analysis:

Warren fidgeted. Then with a sudden charitable impulse he decided to try part of his line on her. He turned and looked at her eyes.

“You’ve got an awfully kissable mouth,” he began quietly.

Related Characters: Warren McIntyre (speaker), Bernice
Page Number: 28
Explanation and Analysis:
Part 2 Quotes

Marjorie never giggled, was never frightened, seldom embarrassed, and in fact had very few of the qualities which Bernice considered appropriately and blessedly feminine.

Related Characters: Marjorie Harvey, Bernice
Page Number: 29
Explanation and Analysis:

“Sarah Hopkins refers to Genevieve and Roberta and me as gardenia girls! I'll bet she'd give ten years of her life and her European education to be a gardenia girl and have three or four men in love with her and be cut in on every few feet at dances.”

Related Characters: Marjorie Harvey (speaker), Bernice, Mrs. Harvey / Aunt Josephine
Page Number: 31
Explanation and Analysis:

“I think it’s that crazy Indian blood in Bernice,” continued Marjorie. “Maybe she’s a reversion to type. Indian women all just sat round and never said anything.”

Related Characters: Marjorie Harvey (speaker), Bernice, Mrs. Harvey / Aunt Josephine
Page Number: 31
Explanation and Analysis:
Part 3 Quotes

“Girls like you are responsible for all the tiresome colorless marriages; all those ghastly inefficiencies that pass as feminine qualities. What a blow it must be when a man with imagination marries the beautiful bundle of clothes that he's been building ideals round, and finds that she's just a weak, whining, cowardly mass of affectations!”

Related Characters: Marjorie Harvey (speaker), Bernice
Page Number: 34
Explanation and Analysis:

“I hate dainty minds […] But a girl has to be dainty in person. If she looks like a million dollars she can talk about Russia, ping-pong, or the League of Nations and get away with it.”

Related Characters: Marjorie Harvey (speaker), Bernice
Page Number: 35
Explanation and Analysis:
Part 4 Quotes

“Do you believe in bobbed hair?” asked G. Reece in the same undertone.

“I think it’s unmoral,” affirmed Bernice gravely. “But, of course, you’ve either got to amuse people or feed ‘em or shock ‘em.”

Related Characters: G. Reece Stoddard (speaker), Bernice (speaker)
Related Symbols: Hair
Page Number: 37
Explanation and Analysis:

But a few minutes before she fell asleep a rebellious thought was churning drowsily in her brain—after all, it was she who had done it. Marjorie, to be sure, had given her her conversation, but then Marjorie got much of her conversation out of things she read. Bernice had bought the red dress, though she had never valued it highly before Marjorie dug it out of her trunk—and her own voice had said the words, her own lips had smiled, her own feet had danced.

Related Characters: Bernice, Marjorie Harvey
Page Number: 39
Explanation and Analysis:
Part 5 Quotes

It was all she could do to keep from clutching her hair with both hands to protect it from the suddenly hostile world. Yet she did neither. Even the thought of her mother was no deterrent now. This was the test supreme of her sportsmanship; her right to walk unchallenged in the starry heaven of popular girls.

Related Characters: Bernice
Related Symbols: Hair
Page Number: 42
Explanation and Analysis:

It was ugly as sin—she had known it would be ugly as sin. Her face’s chief charm had been a Madonna-like simplicity. Now that was gone and she was—well, frightfully mediocre—not stagy; only ridiculous, like a Greenwich Villager who had left her spectacles at home.

Related Characters: Bernice
Related Symbols: Hair
Page Number: 43-44
Explanation and Analysis:
Part 6 Quotes

“Why, child,” cried Mrs. Harvey, “in her paper on ‘The Foibles of the Younger Generation’ that she read at the last meeting of the Thursday Club she devoted fifteen minutes to bobbed hair. It’s her pet abomination.”

Related Characters: Mrs. Harvey / Aunt Josephine (speaker), Bernice, Mrs. Deyo
Related Symbols: Hair
Page Number: 44
Explanation and Analysis:
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Bernice Bobs Her Hair PDF

Bernice Character Timeline in Bernice Bobs Her Hair

The timeline below shows where the character Bernice appears in Bernice Bobs Her Hair. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Part 1
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...To win favor with her, Warren has made a habit of dancing with her cousin Bernice, who has been visiting all month, when asked—Bernice’s socially awkward ways have always left her... (full context)
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Warren finds Otis waiting for Bernice, making jokes to the crowd at her expense while she fixes her hair in the... (full context)
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Warren and Bernice take the next full dance together.  The conversation is limited to small talk—the weather, Bernice’s... (full context)
Part 2
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As she brushes her teeth and readies herself for bed, Bernice thinks on the disappointments that her summer visits with Marjorie bring. For one, Marjorie seems... (full context)
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Deciding on a whim to chat with her Aunt Josephine before bed, Bernice goes down the hall to hear voices coming from her aunt’s room. Not intending to... (full context)
Part 3
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At breakfast the next morning, Bernice confronts Marjorie about what she said to Mrs. Harvey the night before. On the verge... (full context)
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...responding with pity, Marjorie says that she “wasn’t trying to be nice” when she criticized Bernice, then bluntly asks Bernice when she would like to leave. When Bernice breaks down in... (full context)
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The girls’ conversation continues some time later, as Bernice returns, red-eyed. When Marjorie refuses to respond with any kind of sympathy, Bernice prompts her... (full context)
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After spending still more time away in thought, Bernice returns to Marjorie with a proposition. Conceding that Marjorie might be right, she agrees to... (full context)
Part 4
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The following Wednesday, Bernice picks out a decidedly lackluster boy on whom she can try out several lines that... (full context)
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Later that evening, Warren McIntyre spies Bernice dancing with G. Reece Stoddard, only to have their dance cut in on by yet... (full context)
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After the dance, Bernice showers Marjorie in gratitude, and voices the concern that she eventually ran out of material.... (full context)
Part 5
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Over the next week, Bernice enjoys the positive attention of her peers as she continues to impress them and get... (full context)
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The chief marker of Bernice’s success is the attention of “the hypercritical Warren McIntyre,” who seems to have lost interest... (full context)
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Later that day, at a party, Marjorie remarks to those present that Bernice is merely bluffing about her hair. The other teenagers question Bernice about it—and Bernice, backed... (full context)
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Before entering, Bernice imagines that the barber has been waiting for her the entire time. She imagines the... (full context)
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...settles into the barber’s chair, it is the sight of Marjorie’s goading smile that gives Bernice the determination to commit to the haircut. There is a “curious narrowing of her eyes”... (full context)
Part 6
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Later that day, Bernice realizes just how badly she had been tricked when her Aunt Josephine remarks, aghast, that... (full context)
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...the haircut looks fine—but after the girls bid each other good night, “something snapped within Bernice.” Immediately she packs her bags and plans her departure home for that very night, writing... (full context)
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Before Bernice leaves the house, “an expression flashed into her eyes that a practised character reader might... (full context)