“All life is just a progression toward, and then a recession from, one phrase—I love you.”
F. SCOTT FITZGERALD, “The Offshore Pirate”
F. Scott Fitzgerald is praised as a writer for being a forerunner in the modern age of literature and for how his works encompassed the theme of love and desire more than other writers of his time. He was one of the most famous writers of the Jazz Age and is credited for his many works exposing the underlying problems with what people called “the American Dream”; showing how it led to greed, self-indulgence, and destruction. Fitzgerald’s Style and Themes in his novels and short stories summed up the life of the roaring twenties and allowed the readers to draw a connection from the stories into their own lives.
In his short story “The Offshore Pirate”, part of a collection of stories in Flappers and Philosophers, Fitzgerald was able to demonstrate his development as a versatile fiction writer. Through “The Offshore Pirate”, he created his famous story plot of a heroine won by her lover’s performance of an extraordinary act, which would later be the basis for some of his most famous works.
The significance of F. Scott Fitzgerald is his use of a warm, graceful style and keen observation. His stories provided insight into the inner dealings of man and his environment, and how people cope in this new “Modern Age” world. He was able to explore and use themes in his short stories that he would later use in his novels- themes that exposed the world of man.
Fitzgerald was one the leading men of his lifetime, dubbed the “King of the Jazz Age” for his ability to connect with the readers of the new modern age in ways no other writer was able to do before. He was able to be seen as both a popular success and a serious artist in many of his works, and grew in fame of his miraculous usage of words and phrases in his stories that made him known as one of “America’s greatest writers”. As in “The Offshore Pirate”, Fitzgerald is able to design fantastic heroines who seem to throw out the normal social convention with ease for the sake of a weightless, unburdened freedom of spirit and character. The men in his stories seem powerless to affect their own fates from the feminine influence and beauty.
Fitzgerald’s ability to use this literary style in his work derives from his ability to apply the phrase “romantic wonder” to American civilization, and to show the underlining corruption of “the American dream” in an industrial America. He has been admired by scholars for his aesthetic complexity and interest, and how his work is of the “New World” and the imagination of this new way of thinking and perceiving literature with his style. His stories revolve around the patterns of quest and seduction, in which the quest is a search for “romantic wonder”. In Fitzgerald’s stories the pattern of quest follows two symbolic goals, eternal youth and beauty, and money and fame. The pattern of seduction represents how people will go to any means to achieve their quest. The quest is a journey of which the characters escape reality, normality, time, and fate.
In “The Offshore Pirate”, Fitzgerald makes it quite clear about how the style of the short story revolves around youth and beauty, as Ardita sees herself as its definition. “Oh, they talk about me,” she yawned. “They tell me I’m the spirit of youth and beauty.” Fitzgerald goes as far as showing her love for herself and how well she thinks of herself by naming the yacht the “Narcissus”. In the story, Ardita herself is the “romantic wonder” to many men that fall in love with her, and how even one man Toby Moreland, will go so far to achieve the quest of the romantic wonder, as to create a story “invented out of thin Florida air.” (Anderson, 2).
As in many of Fitzgerald’s writings, novels and short stories alike, there is a consistent theme that goes on, as such through the “Offshore Pirate”. The theme that goes on in the “Offshore Pirate” is interlaced through Fitzgerald’s use of the pattern of quest and seduction. To explain this I quote a passage from the article of my last summary, “The quest is a flight: from reality, from normality, from time, fate, and the conception of limit. In the social realm, the pattern of desire may be suggested by the phrases “the American dream” and “the pursuit of happiness.”.” (Anderson, 1). As we see in “The Offshore Pirate” the characters are in a flight away from reality and normality, and Fitzgerald shows the reader this through his use of the word “dream”. In the story he uses the word in phrases to give the reader a sense that this is a place only found and could only happen in their dreams. Such phrases he uses are “this unlikely story begins on a sea that was a blue dream”, or “quiet as a dream boat star-bound through the heavens”. (Tate, 1). Fitzgerald gives off the illusion that this could all possible be a figment of Ardita’s imagination, on her quest away from reality and normality. The theme of this being nothing more than a dream is reiterated in the second conclusion he wrote for the story, due to the Post complaining it was too vague of an ending. Fitzgerald wrote, “She kissed him softly in the illustration”- which he regarded as “one of the best lines I’ve ever written”. (Tate, 1).
Another theme found in “The Offshore Pirate” is Ardita’s false sense of courage. In the story Ardita saw her life was scarcely worth living until she found courage, and through that courage, she is able to defy the norms of life, enjoy shocking people, diving in what Carlyle thought was shallow water from 40 feet above, and standing up to the pirates. Through the story Ardita uses this courage as a focal point for all that she does and her defiant attitude toward her “silly” uncle. In the end of the story, Carlyle reveals to Ardita that her courage is only based on her pride for herself. “You can call it courage, but your courage is really built, after all, on a pride of birth. You were bred to that defiant attitude.” And goes on to say to himself, “To me the interesting thing about Ardita is the courage that will tarnish with her beauty and youth.” (Tate, 2).
Fitzgerald’s use of the style of “romantic wonder” in “The Offshore Pirate” made way for many of his later works such as The Great Gatsby which revolve around the concepts of youth, beauty, money, and fame. They created the underlying theme that the “American Dream” is corrupt in many ways and can lead to the destruction of one’s self and the people around them. “The Offshore Pirate” was the base on which he created the iconic themes and enhanced his style which he would become famous for in the age of modernism. His use of the theme that she was in part, dreaming for these riches and adventure to happen; to make herself feel superior shaped Fitzgerald’s use of the overall theme how with youth and beauty, greed and self-indulgence can flourish.
Text Citation: Fussell, Edwin S. “Fitzgerald’s Brave New World.” In Bloom, Harold, ed. F. Scott Fitzgerald, Bloom’s BioCritiques. Philadelphia: Chelsea House Publishing, 2001. Bloom’s Literary Reference Online. Facts On File, Inc. http://www.fofweb.com/activelink2.asp?ItemID=WE54&SID=5&iPin= BMNFSF06&SingleRecord=True (accessed April 2, 2012).
Text Citation: Tate, Mary Jo. “‘The Offshore Pirate’.” Critical Companion to F. Scott Fitzgerald: A Literary Reference to His Life and Work, Critical Companion. New York: Facts On File, Inc., 2007. Bloom’s Literary Reference Online. Facts On File, Inc. http://www.fofweb.com/activelink2.asp?ItemID=WE54&SID=5&iPin= CCFSF2305&SingleRecord=True (accessed April 2, 2012).
Text Citation: Anderson, George P. “the short stories of F. Scott Fitzgerald.” In Tate, Mary Jo. Critical Companion to F. Scott Fitzgerald: A Literary Reference to His Life and Work, Critical Companion. New York: Facts On File, Inc., 2007. Bloom’s Literary Reference Online. Facts On File, Inc. http://www.fofweb.com/activelink2.asp?ItemID=WE54&SID=5&iPin= CCFSF2223&SingleRecord=True (accessed April 2, 2012).
Text Citation: Fitzgerald, F. Scott, and Matthew J. Bruccoli. The Short Stories of F. Scott Fitzgerald: A New Collection. New York: Scribner, 1989. Print