"The pattern of his fancies": The rhetoric of Chaucer's dream visions in the works of F. Scott Fitzgerald

Date
1986-08-31
Authors
Davis, Deborah Ann
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Abstract

Was F. Scott Fitzgerald influenced by the dream visions of Geoffrey Chaucer? This study provides both external and internal evidence which strongly suggests that he was. Fitzgerald's school records and notebook entries and comments in his short stories and novels indicate his interest in the medieval period in general and in Chaucer in particular; especially significant is Fitzgerald's having composed part of a novel set in the medieval era. Fitzgerald's ideas about dreams are also similar to Chaucer's, and both authors' notions become clear when seen from the vantage point of the theories of Carl G. Jung. Prime evidence of influence has been discovered through a comparison of Chaucer's four dream visions-- The Book of the Duchess, The House of Fame, The Parliament of Fowls, and the Prologue to The Legend of Good Women-- with five early works by Fitzgerald-- "The Offshore Pirate" (1920), "The Ice Palace (1920), "The Diamond as Big as the Ritz" (1922), The Vegetable of From President To Postman (1923), and The Great Gatsby (1925). Structural and stylistic features shared by the works of the two authors reinforce the theme of the artist's struggle to renew his creativity through inner exploration. "The Offshore Pirate" and "The Ice Palace", short stories with female dreamers, are simliar to The Book of the Duchess and The House of Fame, respectively. Yet the stories end with the protagonists' dreams having proved unsuccessful' such endings are reminiscent of the ending of The Parliament of Fowls. "The Diamond as Big as the Ritz," which resembles The House of Fame, also features an artist-figure who fails in the end to learn from his dream. But in the play The Vegetable, which bears little specific resemblance to any one Chaucerian dream vision, the dream does seem to find renewal. Finally, The Great Gatsby is similar to all of Chaucer's dream visions. Especially significant is the fact that the novel features the same point of view as do Chaucerian dream visions: the first person. In Gatsby, even more than in The Vegetable, the dreamer grows and learns from his dream to the extent that he can control his artistry enough to serve as composer of the dream account. In short, the strong possibility exists that the dream visions of Chaucer influenced Fitzgerald.

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Keywords
British literature, 20th century American authors, Thematic similarities in literature
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