F. Scott Fitzgerald (1896–1940)
From F. Scott Fitzgerald: Novels & Stories 1920–1922
F. Scott Fitzgerald infused his stories with his first-hand observations of the optimism and glitter, the excesses and despair of the Jazz Age—a decade he called “the greatest, the gaudiest spree in history.” Published in 1920 as part of the collection Flappers and Philosophers, “The Cut-Glass Bowl” gives us Evelyn Piper, a New York housewife whose domestic tragedies and disappointments are connected by a single, insidious object. “Unlike Henry James’s golden bowl or even the pickle dish in Wharton’s Ethan Frome,” observes critic Alice Hall Petry in Fitzgerald’s Craft of Short Fiction, the “punch bowl is an ordinary serving bowl that sees plenty of mundane use in a middle-class household,” but it is also a reflection of its troubled owner. This important early work anticipates many of Fitzgerald’s later themes.
There was a rough stone age and a smooth stone age and a bronze age, and many years afterward a cut-glass age. In the cut-glass age, when young ladies had persuaded young men with long, curly mustaches to marry them, they sat down several months afterward and wrote thank-you notes for all sorts of cut-glass presents—punch-bowls, finger-bowls, dinner-glasses, wine-glasses, ice-cream dishes, bonbon dishes, decanters, and vases—for, though cut glass was nothing new in the nineties, it was then especially busy reflecting the dazzling light of fashion from the Back Bay to the fastnesses of the Middle West.
After the wedding the punch-bowls were arranged on the sideboard with the big bowl in the centre; the glasses were set up in the china-closet; the candlesticks were put at both ends of things—and then the struggle for existence began. . . . If you don't see the full story below, click the right button at the top of the reader to view the story in Google Docs or click here (PDF) to read it—free!