12 of the Best F. Scott Fitzgerald Short Stories You Should Read
F. Scott Fitzgerald, the literary genius of the Jazz Age, left an indelible mark on American literature with his brilliant short stories. Let’s embark on an exhilarating journey and explore the best F. Scott Fitzgerald short stories, each a gem that showcases Fitzgerald’s storytelling prowess.
1. The Lees of Happiness: The Fragility of Happiness
In “The Lees of Happiness,” Fitzgerald weaves a tale of love, loss, and the fragile nature of happiness. The story follows the life of Marjorie, a young woman who marries the successful Bernard Lee. Initially, their life together is filled with happiness, but as the years pass, they face hardships and personal tragedies that test the strength of their love.
Fitzgerald’s exploration of the ephemerality of happiness and the human capacity to adapt to change is both poignant and thought-provoking. “The Lees of Happiness” is a compelling narrative that reminds us that even in the face of adversity, the pursuit of happiness remains a deeply human endeavor.
2. Absolution: The Burden of Guilt
In “Absolution,” Fitzgerald delves into the complex themes of guilt, forgiveness, and redemption. The story revolves around Rudolph Miller, a young man who seeks absolution for a childhood sin that continues to haunt him. His encounter with Father Schwartz provides a powerful exploration of the human desire for redemption.
Fitzgerald’s vivid characterization and introspective narrative style shine in “Absolution.” Through Miller’s internal struggle, the story invites readers to contemplate the weight of guilt and the transformative power of forgiveness. It’s a tale that lingers in the mind, challenging us to confront our own moral dilemmas.
3. The Offshore Pirate: A Romantic Escape to Paradise
“The Offshore Pirate” whisks readers away on a romantic adventure. The story introduces Ardita Farnam, a spirited young woman, and her unexpected encounter with a dashing pirate, Captain Flint. Stranded on a deserted island, their budding romance unfolds amidst the backdrop of a tropical paradise.
Fitzgerald’s storytelling prowess shines in this short story, creating memorable characters and a sense of escapism that transports readers to a world of romance and intrigue. “The Offshore Pirate” is a testament to Fitzgerald’s ability to craft engaging narratives that captivate readers and leave them yearning for more.
4. Head and Shoulders: A Witty Take on Intellectual Romance
In “Head and Shoulders,” Fitzgerald showcases his talent for witty dialogue and satire. The story follows the unconventional romance between Horace Tarbox, a genius who has skipped grades to become a university student at a young age, and Marcia Meadow, a glamorous dancer. Their intellectual and social differences create a humorous yet endearing dynamic.
Fitzgerald’s gift for sharp humor and astute social commentary shines through in this story. “Head and Shoulders” is a delightful exploration of love, ambition, and the quirks that make us human. It’s a charming addition to Fitzgerald’s repertoire of short stories that showcases his versatility as a writer.
5. Bernice Bobs Her Hair: A Satirical Take on Social Climbing
In “Bernice Bobs Her Hair,” Fitzgerald offers a satirical critique of social climbing and the lengths some will go to fit into society’s mold. The story follows Bernice, a young woman visiting her wealthy cousin Marjorie. Marjorie takes it upon herself to transform Bernice into a popular and socially accepted figure, leading to a surprising turn of events.
Fitzgerald’s sharp wit and keen observations of human behavior are on full display in this story. “Bernice Bobs Her Hair” is a humorous and incisive exploration of societal norms and the pressure to conform. It’s a cautionary tale that reminds us of the pitfalls of sacrificing one’s authenticity for the sake of social acceptance.
6. The Diamond as Big as the Ritz: A Fantastical Escape
“The Diamond as Big as the Ritz” takes readers on a mesmerizing journey into the realm of fantasy and extravagance. This short story unfolds the extraordinary tale of John T. Unger, who visits the Washington estate and discovers a secret of unimaginable wealth hidden in the family’s mansion.
Fitzgerald’s narrative flair shines as he crafts a surreal world where opulence knows no bounds. The story explores themes of power, privilege, and the consequences of unchecked ambition. “The Diamond as Big as the Ritz” showcases Fitzgerald’s versatility as a writer, effortlessly transitioning from the realism of his other works to the realm of fantasy. It’s a captivating tale that keeps readers enthralled from start to finish.
7. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button: A Whimsical Exploration of Aging
“The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” is a whimsical and imaginative story that challenges the conventional notions of aging. Born as an elderly man, Benjamin Button ages backward, living his life in reverse. Fitzgerald’s narrative unfolds as a diary chronicling Benjamin’s unique and often humorous experiences.
Fitzgerald’s ability to infuse a fantastical concept with emotional depth is remarkable. “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” is a story that prompts readers to reflect on the inevitability of aging and the profound impact it has on one’s perspective on life. It’s a delightful departure from Fitzgerald’s more traditional narratives, showcasing his boundless creativity.
8. Winter Dreams: Ambition and Illusion in a Gilded Age
“Winter Dreams” is a compelling exploration of ambition, the pursuit of unattainable dreams, and the inevitable disillusionment that follows. The story traces the life of Dexter Green, a caddy at a golf club who falls passionately in love with Judy Jones, a beautiful but unattainable woman. Dexter’s infatuation with Judy sets the course of his life, driving him to achieve material success in his quest to win her love.
Fitzgerald’s prose sparkles in this tale of wealth, privilege, and the transitory nature of desire. Through Dexter’s journey from humble beginnings to financial prosperity, the story paints a vivid portrait of the American Dream. Yet, it ultimately serves as a reminder that some dreams are ephemeral, fading like “winter dreams” in the harsh light of reality. “Winter Dreams” is a poignant reflection on the pursuit of happiness and the price one pays for chasing illusions.
9. May Day: An Examination of Post-War Disillusionment
In “May Day,” Fitzgerald turns his keen eye toward the disillusionment that followed World War I. Set against the backdrop of a chaotic May Day parade in New York City, the story weaves together the lives of various characters, each grappling with their own post-war disillusionment.
Fitzgerald’s narrative skill shines as he explores the contrasting experiences and perspectives of the characters, from the disillusioned veterans to the privileged elite. “May Day” serves as a powerful commentary on the societal upheaval and disorientation that characterized the post-war era. It’s a testament to Fitzgerald’s ability to capture the zeitgeist of his time.
10. The Ice Palace: A Symbolic Journey of Self-Discovery
“The Ice Palace” is a poignant exploration of the inner turmoil of youth and the desire for self-discovery. The story follows Sally Carrol Happer, a young Southern woman who marries a wealthy
Northern suitor and moves to the wintry North. Her journey becomes symbolic of the challenges and uncertainties faced by those seeking to find themselves.
Fitzgerald’s vivid descriptions and symbolic narrative invite readers to reflect on the transformative power of self-discovery. “The Ice Palace” is a beautifully crafted story that captures the essence of youth, change, and the search for identity.
11. The Cut-Glass Bowl: The Enigmatic Tale of a Fateful Object
“The Cut-Glass Bowl” weaves a narrative around a seemingly innocuous object—a cut-glass bowl—and its mysterious connection to the lives of several characters. Through a series of vignettes, Fitzgerald explores themes of fate, chance, and the interconnectedness of human lives.
Fitzgerald’s storytelling technique in this story is unconventional and intriguing. “The Cut-Glass Bowl” offers readers a puzzle to solve as they piece together the complex web of relationships and events surrounding the fateful bowl. It’s a narrative experiment that showcases Fitzgerald’s willingness to push the boundaries of storytelling.
12. Babylon Revisited: A Symphony of Regret and Redemption
“Babylon Revisited” is a haunting masterpiece that delves into themes of regret, redemption, and the inexorable passage of time. The story follows Charlie Wales, a man who once reveled in the excesses of the Jazz Age but now seeks to regain custody of his daughter. Set against the backdrop of Paris, the narrative oozes with melancholy and a poignant sense of nostalgia.
Fitzgerald’s prose, as always, is enchanting, capturing the essence of a bygone era while exploring the complexities of human relationships. “Babylon Revisited” showcases Fitzgerald’s remarkable ability to craft deeply emotional and resonant narratives. It’s a story that lingers in your mind, reminding you that second chances, though rare, are not entirely out of reach.
Conclusion: Fitzgerald’s Short Stories – Timeless Treasures
F. Scott Fitzgerald’s short stories are a testament to his literary brilliance. Each tale, whether exploring themes of regret, ambition, fantasy, or romance, bears the indelible mark of Fitzgerald’s storytelling mastery. His unique style and profound insights into the human condition continue to captivate readers, making his short stories timeless classics.
Whether you’re a devoted admirer of Fitzgerald or just discovering his shorter works, these stories promise to leave an enduring impact. They remind us of the enduring power of storytelling and why F. Scott Fitzgerald remains an unparalleled literary giant.