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The final short story from my 2013 Deal Me In project is F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Lees of Happiness”. In somewhat of a departure from the other Fitzgerald stories I’ve read this year in Tales of the Jazz Age, this one has real people with real problems. Even if it contains a little melodrama and sentimentality, I enjoyed it for the fact that the characters show a depth of humanity and responsibility that doesn’t frequently appear in Fitzgerald’s 1920’s “lost generation”.
Jeffrey Curtain, a budding writer, marries Roxanne, an actress. They move to a Chicago suburb with the proverbial house with a picket fence. They move in social circles that are typical of Fitzgerald’s characters; however, tragedy strikes when Jeffrey suffers a blood clot in the brain and becomes essentially “brain-dead”. Most of the story revolves around Roxanne’s sacrificial giving of her life to taking care of Jeffrey. There are those that criticize her for continuing to maintain her marriage – those that tell her that Jeffrey wouldn’t want her to “waste” her life this way. I would not say that Fitzgerald is attempting to take a stance on the “right to die” issue, by any means (nor am I attempting to do that with this post). I think he just wanted to show one human being committed to another for better or worse, in sickness and in health.
While I still consider The Great Gatsby one of my favorite books, I am well aware of the shallowness and decadence portrayed in that novel. I think Fitzgerald, himself, was aware of the situation and that’s why he wrote the novel. But I’m glad he wrote a story like “The Lees of Happiness”, also, showing humanity with something more.