Time and Artifice
"Fitgerald lived in a room full of clocks and calendars" (Malcolm Cowley)
Time in the novel becomes jumbled somewhat as we start in media res, like great epics of Homer it begins in the middle. Fitzgerald neglects the linear form of narrative and instead there is the meeting of Rosemary and the Divers in book one, followed by a retrospective book two of the meeting of Nicole and Dick. This structure mirrors the process of psychoanalysis which takes the patient back to the past, the history beneath the surface of the present which informs it and shapes it. Fitzgerald's knowledge of history gets into his novels as metaphors for the life of consciousness. Events of the present are overshadowed by the past; the idyllic and fabricated façade of the Divers life comes under attack from the sublimated and significantly darker past. Tommy Barban plays the role of the watchdog over Villa Diana's perfect façade as he warns Violet McKisco to speak no further "It's inadvisable to comment on what goes on in this house" (46). What goes on behind closed doors is both hinted at and concealed.
"Well, upstairs I came upon a scene, my dears ... " (46)
Violet McKisco says little but with the cryptic shake of her head gives a world of dark significance. Throughout book one we are teased by the narrator with the appearance of the revelation of dark secrets only to have it withdrawn again behind closed doors and silenced tell-tales. It is much like the trick of the swimwear. When Dick comes out wearing the black lace swimming trunks he creates laughter and delight in Rosemary and disgust in the McKiscos (30). The spectacle is not as it appears, there is a flesh-coloured lining and little is revealed. Whilst it is a trick is amusing, but has darker undertones; playing with sexualities, whether it be homosexuality (it was considered a disease, an inversion, that needed curing) or incest, has mental implications as the section in book two at the institution Nicole is treated by shows. Rosemary is delineated as somewhat naïve as she considers their openness and flamboyance as "the furthermost evolution of a class" whereas the narrator highlights in contrast that she was "unaware of its complexity and its lack of innocence" (30). Fitzgerald is perhaps warning us against the deceptive nature of surfaces and the dual nature of things.
"Oh, we're such actors - you and I" (118)
Villa Diana appears as a magical world, a secret idyll, to Rosemary as she is described as "dewy with belief as a child from one of Mrs Burnett's vicious tracts" (43). But she is unaware of its "intensely calculated perfection" (37). The sentimentality of the image of the guests like children at a Christmas tree is counterbalanced by the artificial and staged contrivance of the risen table "like a mechanical dancing platform" (44). The pretence and artificiality of the surroundings is highlighted by the theatrical vocabulary "on such a stage anything was likely to happen" (38). Dick struggles when Rosemary declares her love, as the former puppeteer of the party he is left undirected in an "unrehearsed scene and unfamiliar words" (48). Their relationship is saturated with performative epithets and silverscreen moments. "Everything you do" says Dick to Rosemary, "like pretending to be in love or pretending to be shy gets across" (74). When they visit the house of awful women in Paris Rosemary experiences the detached feeling of an actress, of "being on set" "wishing the director would come" (83). Their kisses in the hotel in Paris appear like a romantic film moment as they stop and kiss at each landing and they finally part "with their hands stretching to touch along the diagonal of the banister and then the fingers slip apart" (87). The novel is permeated with film and theatrical vocabulary heightened further by Rosemary's status of moviestar. The sexual attraction between herself and Earl Brady the movie director is explained through camera metaphors:
"It was a click. He desired her and, so far as her virginal emotions went, she contemplated a surrender with equanimity. Yet she knew she would forget him half an hour after she left him - like an actor kissed in a picture" (33)
Desire is explained as a spontaneous camera 'click' and is put on a transient and superficial level of acting and pretence. Boundaries are blurred between the real and illusionary, fact and fiction, performed and innate characteristics. Appearance and actuality do not coalesce and the destructive possibilities of this disparity begin to unfold.