The two short stories, which are going to be considered, were set over a hundred years apart. Both stories concern the subject of women’s choices and were written by men. “The Melancholy Hussar” written by Thomas Hardy was set in the first years of the nineteenth century although it was written around 1875. The main character in this story is Phyllis who lives with her father on the South Coast of England. Parallel to this is the short story of “The Ice Palace” written by F.
Scott Fitzgerald. This was written in 1919 about contemporary times. “The Ice Palace is set in the Southern states of North America which is a totally different continent to that of “The Melancholy Hussar”. This helps to demonstrate the different social groups and influences.
The first short story, by Thomas Hardy, is about a young girl named Phyllis. Phyllis lives with her father on the South Coast and is not very social and is restricted due to her relationship with her father.
Phyllis’s father is not the sociable type and prefers to keep himself away, because of this he feels Phyllis should act in the same way.
“beyond the seclusion of the girl lay the seclusion of the father…”
“The Melancholy Hussar” is set along the South coast. Thomas Hardy presents a quiet village in his introduction to the story. He explains the atmosphere first and a field is being described. The scenery is described as sombre and lifeless until the meaning of the scenery is introduced as symbolic.
The scenery relates back to ninety years ago when the King’s German Legion slept there in tents.
The main subject of the story is about Phyllis meeting a soldier and seeing him regularly. A good relationship was built up while Humphrey Gould, Phyllis’ fiance, is away. The story concerns love and when all the soldiers visit Phyllis is interested. She finds a soldier and begins talking to him. They meet every night at the same time until her father tries to send her to her aunt’s house. After a while Mattheus Tina, the German Hussar decides to run away as he does not like England. He wants to take Phyllis with him.
“…you go with me…be my wife there”
Phyllis’ main decision is when she decides to join him. Phyllis sees that running away with Matthaus is a way of escaping her dull life. Daringly she risks her life and decides to change everything. Phyllis would not be able to return to her current life if she ran away as her father would be disgusted and embarrassed. Everything is planned and the night eventually arrives when Phyllis is just about to run over to Matthaus and a coach pulls up. It happens to be Humphrey and he talks about a present he is going to give to her for treating her badly. At this point Phyllis reverses her decision and decides to stay. Phyllis thinks to her self that she should stay and suffer for the rest of her life.
“She would stay at home…marry him, and suffer”
It is terrible to think that a woman would rather lead a suffering life for security than to run away to be with whom she wanted. Society as a whole was cruel to women and they did not have the “status” which women have today. Men were of a higher class than women and women had to be married to be respected. This was not always the case but in “The Melancholy Hussar” Phyllis is happy to be engaged so she can be accepted in the village.
In a way Phyllis made the correct decision because that night her lover, Matthaus Tina, and his friend, Christoph Bless, are caught and are killed. Phyllis watches their killing for desertion and sinks down into her garden. Phyllis does not have a happy life, and although Humphrey has bought her a present he asks her to break off their engagement as he has already met somebody else. Phyllis does this as if a man breaks off an engagement it is considered rude and impolite.
“The Ice Palace” however is a story on the same subject, women’s choices, as the Melancholy Hussar and is about a young girl called Sally Carrol who is around the age of nineteen. The language style written by F.Scott Fitzgerald introduces this character after setting the scenery of a languid town.
“The sunlight dripped over the house like golden paint…”
Each sentence is stringed together by words suggesting quietness and laziness and the description and F.Scott Fitzgerald sets the scene perfectly for a nice romantic story. Sally Carrol is middle class and lives in a family house, she is painting when first introduced, painting for her sister and when she kicks over a paint jar leaves it lying on the floor while preparing to go swimming with her best friends.
“…kicked over the painting water…but let it lay…”
From the quotation above Sally Carrol is suggesting that she has a maid to tidy the house. From the general language style the South is portrayed a family orientated and the houses named after the families show this. The “Butterworth”, “Larkin” and “Happer” houses are the three mentioned and only the “Happer” house, of which Sally Carrol lives, is in view of the sun.
The way in which Fitzgerald has written the story makes it easy reading and concentration is not needed as there are long flowing sentences to help the description nicely and also the main character, Sally Carrol, is convincing. She is portrayed as down to earth and human by the way in which she acts when around her friends. It is clear to see from the choices that Sally Carrol has to make that she is from a middle class setting from the 1920’s. When Fitzgerald describes the North, he uses harsher language and short, sharper sentences. The flow of language is faster and more intense.
F.Scott Fitzgerald uses the sentences and the language to create the atmosphere and pace of the story. The first sentence of the second part of the story introduces Harry Bellamy.
“Harry Bellamy, tall, broad and brisk…”
From the quotation above it shows that short and sharper words can create pace and a new atmosphere. Whenever Harry Bellamy, Sally Carrol’s fiance, is spoken about, the short and quick pace is brought back to the writing and it is easy to distinguish that Harry Bellamy is not from the laid back Southern Georgia like Sally Carrol.
Sally Carrol wants to go to places and to meet people and to do this she has made the decision that she is going to go to the North and live with a man whom she met in the summer.
This was a hard decision for Sally Carrol but as stated in the text, she wants to make something of her life.
“I want to go places and see people” and
“…tied down here…feel I was-wastin’ myself”
The two quotations show how Sally Carrol tries to tell her friends that she needs to move on. After meeting Harry again she visits the North with him to spend some time. The contrast from the South shocks her especially the weather and she feels that the weather reflects the people there, cold.
Sally Carrol’s first vision of the North is when she is on the train there. The train becomes very cold and Sally Carrol wants another blanket. The pace of the writing becomes rather intense, as the Pullman gets closer to its destination.
“…two tracks ran up beside the train-three-four…”
As the train enters the urbanised area, it speeds up the pace until eventually it stops at the frosty station. Sally realises almost immediately that she will not like the North as it is such a contrast to the warmth of the South and there are many unfamiliar faces. Sally finds the people “cold” and the people seem to be hidden away underneath coats.
“…saw three fur-bundled figures”
In “The Ice Palace” there are two main significant places. These happen to be the graveyard of which Sally Carrol loves and has a place in her heart. One gravestone is especially meaningful to Sally Carrol and this is of “Margery Lee”. Margery Lee is the symbol of the South, a kind of motherly figure like the “Southern Belle”. The other significant place is the Ice Palace.
When Sally Carrol goes to the North to stay with Harry they visit the Ice Palace. Harry is very excited about this and looks forward to it. In the Ice Palace, Sally Carrol loses Harry and all the lights go out. Sally Carrol panics and begins to think of the cold, ghosts and death. The cold and quietness of the Ice Palace symbolises Sally Carrol’s dying love for Harry and she realises that her relationship will not work with him when Margery Lee “talks” to her in her head.
“…your tears would just freeze…all tears freeze up here!”
Sally Carrol is rescued by Harry but has already made up her mind to return to the South as she realises her friends are much more important.
The language style that F.Scott Fitzgerald uses to continue the South is the same description as in the introduction. It goes back to describing Sally Carrol eating an apple. Sally Carrol seems to have an easy life. She made the decision to move to the North and live with Harry but found that the North did not have the atmosphere to her liking so returned.
The two stories are very closely related in both decision-making and also the way in which both women see men as a way to get to be a “person” society. They have very different decisions to make and for Phyllis her decision could change her whole life and there would be no way out. Sally Carrol experienced her choice and then decided that it would be better to return to her old life and carry on as normal without being thought of a “different”. It is clear to see that both women needed to marry to have a good life and in Phyllis’ case she needed to marry young to be respected when older. In Sally Carrol’s case she returned to her normal life knowing that if she wanted she could get married whenever she wanted as she was in different circumstances and was prettier.
A third short story, which I read, was called Desiree’s Baby and also involves women’s choices. Desiree was adopted when a child and managed to make a good marriage with a plantation owner. She had a baby who appeared to be of the slave race and she was rejected by her husband. In the face of her pain and humiliation Desiree decided to choose death for herself and her baby. After Desiree had left, the husband finds a note from his mother to his father. He learns that his mother was of the slave race and he had wronged his wife by dismissing her and her child.
All three women had very major and hard decisions to make. They all had to choose what to do, as they could not just live their lives as normal. All three women were in different circumstances and under different social affluences. Sally Carrol is the main woman who could choose to go and then return to her normal life if she disliked it and she took that opportunity. The other two women either had to go or stay. Desiree decided to go and took her life, Phyllis decided to stay and suffer which meant that she did not have a happy life anyway.
Life through the years has had a major effect on women’s choices and the way they make decisions. If a woman is faced with a major decision today she has the right to do what to do without male interference. Men were respected and if a woman wasn’t married, she was not treated the same in society. In the present day, women can have careers without being criticised and live a normal happy life without the need to get married and they are not treated much differently at all. Influences and affluences play a major part in life but in the twenty-first century women can make their own choices and are becoming as dominant as men.