The two shorts stories, Everything That Rises Must Converge by Flannery O’Connor and Babylon Revisited by F. Scott Fitzgerald both integrate the element of fiction and history to portray the various themes and messages in the story. Fiction means things that are not factual or actual happenings while history means events that happened in the past. This research will seek to analyze and lay out the relationship between history and fiction in both of the short stories and the instances where they were used.
In his story, Babylon Revisited, Fitzgerald tells a historical fiction about himself. The Fitzgeralds frequented Paris in the 1920s, and lived there on and off. Fitzgerald would hang out at the Ritz bar with guys like Ernest Hemingway; the Ritz bar was an American hangout for the expatriates in Paris. He had a daughter named Scottie who was nine years old when he wrote Babylon Revisited (Honoria is nine in the text). In a letter to his daughter, Fitzgerald explicitly states that she was the basis for the character of Honoria Wales: ‘I sold Babylon Revisited, in which you are a character’ he told her (Turnbull, P.10, 1975). This is a historical and fictional combination.
There are specific events in Babylon Revisited that are taken straight from Fitzgerald’s life like Lorraine’s reminiscence about the stolen tricycle. In 1929, Fitzgerald stole a baker’s tricycle and pedaled all over Paris with it, ‘thumping the Russian doormen with a long loaf of bread. Scott Fitzgerald was big on the drinking and extravagance, and that his marriage to Zelda Fitzgerald was full of intense drama. It was all documented in letters back and forth between the spouses. Charlie’s comment that he and Helen ‘had senselessly begun to abuse each other’s love, tear it into shreds’ is likely rooted in his own tumultuous marriage to Zelda’ (Mellow, P.120, 1984). She ended up in a sanitarium for schizophrenia in 1930, and her poor health was likely aggravated by F. Scott’s constant drinking which usually caused them to fight and he spent most of his time in the bar and away from his family.
Charlie’s hostile relationship with Marion fuels Fitzgerald’s own hostile interactions with Zelda’s sister, Rosalind Sayre. When Zelda was taken to a sanitarium, Rosalind wanted to take custody of Scottie because she felt F. Scott was an alcoholic and not fit to be a father. There’s a plethora of angry letters back and forth between the two of them. This brings out the element of fiction in that the characters are imaginary, although they are based on existing persons (Mellow, P.130, 1984). Some events such as the death of Charlie’s wife are fictional since in real life, she was taken to a sanitarium, contrary to what happened in the story, another instance of fiction being used to point out on things that happened in the past.
Also, the author might have added some other fictional scenes to make the story juicier and more exciting, while still maintaining the historical facts while at it and educating the reader to get a better perspective of the past.
In Everything That Rises Must Converge, the first scene portrays how Julian and his mother differ in how they view race relations in the South. While Julian’s mother hates racial integration, Julian believes that blacks and whites should live harmoniously and totally dislikes his mother’s views and is constantly disturbed by how her mother perceives the colored people as explained in the story (Turnbull, P.10, 1975). He represents a young white Southerner’s relationship to their cultural history which is characterized by slavery of black people and discrimination based on color of skin, albeit one of the few sympathizers who actually didn’t tolerate the vice and had a different view on the issue.
Julian is totally against all that but his family history connects him to the racist tradition. His mother boasts of how his grandfather, owned a plantation and two hundred slaves and further suggests that the blacks were better off slaves, much to the dismay of Julian who tries to device means to show her mother that she is wrong.
This short story uses fiction to create characters that depict real life situations.For example, when the black man boards the bus and he is the best dressed.This shows how the blacks have become more successful than even other whites. A thing that would be uncalled for in the past and a very unfamiliar scene in the historical realms.
Also the fact that Julian’s mother is wearing the same hat as a black woman in the bus shows some sense of equality among blacks and whites, which was there in the historical times although in rare occurrence. This fictional character created by the author is used to portray the historical happenings and at the same time give an insight of what used to go on in the past while maintaining a creative storyline.
Fiction is also used to describe how the black woman, whose son Julian’s mother tried to give a penny, hit her with a bag on the face which later rendered her unconscious. This occurrences are well documented historically. The author here creates a fictional character who depicts different scenarios and happenings that occurred in the day to day lives of blacks mingling with whites in the dark days of discrimination and various outcomes that came with it.
Everything That Rises Must Converge takes place during the civil rights movement when federal state, and local governments made sweeping reforms in the North and South to end poverty and racial discrimination. By the 1950s, the aristocratic plantation system in the South had been fully dismantled, and urban areas were overflowing job seekers from rural areas. At the same time, many students were lucky enough to be admitted into college because higher education became more affordable for a greater number of whites and a minority of blacks. American blacks in the North and South achieved a major milestone in the 1954 decision in Brown v. Board of Education, when the Supreme Court repealed the “separate but equal” guideline that had separated blacks from whites in almost all public areas (Mellow, P.120, 1984). Rosa Parks’ refusal to give up her seat on a public bus to a white passenger a year later in 1955, as well as her subsequent arrest, launched the Montgomery Bus Boycott and the peaceful protest campaign to end segregation.
All the characters in O’Connor’s story struggle to either maintain or redefine their sense of identity as the drama of the civil rights movement unfolds. The white women on the bus, for example, deride black passengers in order to reestablish their social dominance. Julian’s mother does this as well by repeatedly arguing that her heritage makes her superior to blacks and even other whites, something that used to happen frequently in the past when racial segregation hit its peak in the country (Turnbull, P.15, 1975). Although the author uses fictional happenings, they give an insight of what transpired in that era in a very distinctive manner.
Julian, whose college education actually makes him a benefactor of the changing social climate, oscillates between classes and visions of society, often harping on social inequalities while simultaneously daydreaming of a bygone era. All the African American characters, meanwhile, take advantage of the growing equality to assert their individuality and respectability as an equal class of citizens. It is not surprising, therefore, that the black man Julian tries to befriend is the best-dressed person on the bus or that the large black woman with the ugly hat strikes Julian’s mother for having offered her son a penny. Like all American blacks in the 1960s, these characters refuse to accept further belittlement and discrimination, which is another point brought out by the author in a fictitious but history laden concept with huge reference to past occurrences.
Though the date is never specified, we know from the text that Babylon Revisited takes place after the stock market crash of 1929 – characters repeatedly refer to ‘the crash,’ which is clearly a recent event (Mellow, P.125, 1984). Fitzgerald wrote the story in December of 1930, so we might assume he set the tale in the same year, which is another instance where the author uses fiction to explain n historical occurrences in a concise way, to educate the user on the history of the country and happenings in those eras.
Babylon Revisited is very much the product of its times. The 1920s is seen as a decade of partying, drinking, and jazz. Fitzgerald’s literature is one of the hallmarks of this so-called Jazz Age or roaring age and his own fast-paced lifestyle portrayed the extravagance of his American generation (Turnbull, P.14, 1975). The stock market crash in 1929 brought the party to a screeching halt and ushered America into the era of the Great Depression, another factual occurrence in the past, where the author uses fiction to teach the author facts about the past and important historical hallmarks to keep in mind.
In the 1920s, the character of Charlie Wales was living an extravagant lifestyle in Paris. Now that he’s returned to Paris in the very sobering early 1930s, he can look back at his debauchery with new eyes. Similarly, Americans of the time were looking back at their own wasteful lifestyles of the 1920s (Mellow, P.124, 1984). Babylon Revisited isn’t just the story of Charlie Wales, but the story of a generation who was paying the price for their extravagant irresponsible behavior, which although Charlie is a fictional character, is aptly used to represent people of that historical era and the challenges they used to go through.
The Ritz bar is an example of the historical roots of Babylon Revisited. The bar has always been an American hang out for expatriates in Paris, but never so much as in the 1920s when Paris was a hot spot for wealthy Americans (like Fitzgerald). The bar plays an important role in Babylon Revisited. It frames the story in the opening and the closing scenes, and it is the heart of Charlie’s old Paris. This bar is a fictional one but has a historical truth as its activities can be traced to Paris bars in the past which had striking similarities to the one depicted by the author, who gets the reader to know more about the activities that took place in those spots during those eras.
In conclusion, the relationship between fiction and history in these short stories is very visible. It is evident that in both books the mixture of the both has made them very interesting. Through fiction, history can be told while fiction is formed out of historical knowledge in this case. Through fiction, history can be learned in a much more interesting way. For example, the way Julian’s mother and other passengers were treating the black passengers showed that it was an era in history where the blacks, however much they were trying, still had a hard time proving that they were equal. It is evident that fiction can be used to depict factual occurrences that had initially occurred and can be used to refer to many historical facts.
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