Bernice Bobs Her Hair

by

F. Scott Fitzgerald

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Bernice Bobs Her Hair: Part 4 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
The following Wednesday, Bernice picks out a decidedly lackluster boy on whom she can try out several lines that Marjorie scripted for her. At dinner, she asks him whether she should get a haircut, as she intends to become a “society vampire,” and bobbed hair is an easy way to attract attention. Her rehearsed quips—that she plans to sell admission to the barber’s shop, that “you’ve either got to amuse people or feed ‘em or shock ‘em”—win approval from the entire table, especially the boys. Even desirable bachelor G. Reece Stoddard turns his attention to her.
It's fitting that Marjorie chooses quotes from Oscar Wilde for Bernice to use on boys, as Wilde was famous for his wit and his artistic indulgence in superficiality. Believing in the artistic value of appearances and exteriors, or aesthetics for their own sake, he would often indulge in amusing, superficial dialogue—not just to flex his wit, but to contribute to an artistic point that he was trying to make. Removed from this context, Wilde’s quotes are simply clever, superficial banter. This speaks not only to Marjorie’s taste, but to what these teenage partygoers value.
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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 another boy. He notices how beautiful she looks, and how genuine her delight seems to be, yet he still dismisses her as “dull.” Nonetheless intrigued, he approaches the “stag line” waiting to dance with her—and bumps into Stoddard, who is still eager to dance with her. The signs of Bernice’s budding popularity are evident.
Again, Warren proves himself to be shallow, unkind, and completely uninterested in Bernice’s actual character. Just like in Part I, when he judged her for her behavior instead of attempting to see her intentions, Warren is only interested in her exterior here.
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After the dance, Bernice showers Marjorie in gratitude, and voices the concern that she eventually ran out of material. Marjorie dismisses this, yet still promises to “fix up some new stuff” with her tomorrow. The two girls bid each other good night, and as Bernice falls asleep, she entertains the “rebellious thought” that it was she herself, not just Marjorie, who had achieved that night’s grand success. Her last thoughts before she falls asleep are of Warren.
This is the beginning of Bernice’s self-confidence. Having seen the process behind Marjorie’s popularity, it no longer seems impossible to Bernice. Here, as elsewhere, Warren’s attention represents social status—but Bernice’s idea that he is a “nice boy” also shows that she cannot yet separate a person’s public persona from their authentic inner self, despite having made this separation in herself. In other words, Bernice’s innocent belief in other people has made Warren not into a “trophy,” as Marjorie later sees him, but a “Prince Charming” figure.
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