The Offshore Pirate by F. Scott Fitzgerald, 1920
The magic trick:
Putting memorably witty lines in the mouths of each character
We start Valentine’s Week at the SSMT blog with a wonderful purveyor of love stories, Mr. Scott Fitzgerald. “The Offshore Pirate” is one of my favorites of his, even as I (or maybe because I) recognize it as one of his silliest. The story is sort of a high-seas romance – they even drop anchor in what I imagine to be Treasure Island.
The best aspect? The wit. The characters are relentlessly clever. It recalls Oscar Wilde, the way Fitzgerald will forego a character’s personality trait in favor of getting in an especially witty witticism about life.
So Ardita gives us: “All life is just a progression toward, and then a recession from, one phrase – ‘I love you.’”
She gives us: “To be afraid, a person has either to be very great and strong – or else a coward. I’m neither.”
Remarkably, Carlyle too has the gift for gab: “You see, this is the beauty I want. Beauty has got to be astonishing, astounding – it’s got to burst in on you like a dream, like the exquisite eyes of a girl.”
No wonder a giant case of mistaken identity lies at the heart of the story. Who could keep track of what everyone is all about when they all talk like that? That being said, I love it. Yes, the technique may take away from the story’s believability or depth, but, hey, it’s fun. And that’s quite a trick on Fitzgerald’s part.
“You’re our Lady Luck. Guess we’ll have to keep you with us as a mascot – for the present, anyway.”
“You couldn’t very well ask me to swim back,” she said coolly. “If you do I’m going to start writing dime novels founded on that interminable history of your life you gave me last night.”
He flushed and stiffened slightly.
“I’m very sorry I bored you.”
“Oh, you didn’t – until just at the end with some story about how furious you were because you couldn’t dance with the ladies you played music for.”
He rose angrily.
“You have got a darn mean little tongue.”