The Bowl, F. Scott Fitzgerald: Analysis & Summary

'The Bowl': Exploring Fame, Football, and Envy

'The Bowl' may not be one of F. Scott Fitzgerald's most well-known short stories, but it addresses compelling themes of fame, football, and envy. Published in 1928 in the Saturday Evening Post, the story follows a college football player who encounters a girl demanding that he give up the sport.

Plot Summary: Football, Love, and Conflicting Desires

The story is narrated by Jeff Deering, who reminisces about his time at Princeton, where his roommate, Dolly Harlan, played American football for the university. Although Dolly was not the star player, he possessed versatility and secured a place on the team despite his lack of enthusiasm for the game and the rigorous training it required.

One evening after a game, Jeff introduces Dolly to Vienna Thorne, a sixteen-year-old girl. Dolly quickly professes his love for Vienna, unaware that she despises football due to her brother's death in a prep school game the previous year. Dolly only learns about Vienna's aversion to the sport when Jeff reveals the truth later that night in their dorm room.

A man named Carl confronts Vienna, accusing her of lying about being in town. Their exchange reveals that Vienna ended their relationship due to Carl's struggles with alcoholism. Distraught, Carl attempts suicide in the washroom but only injures himself. Dolly suspects that Carl's action was a ploy to elicit Vienna's sympathy.

Shortly after these events, Vienna travels to Europe for fifteen months. During Dolly's second year at college, Jeff observes his roommate's improvement as a player and admires his abilities, despite Dolly's genuine dislike for the sport. Vienna returns to America from Madrid in the New Year and surprises Dolly by attending the senior prom, abandoning her date to be with him. They become engaged, and Vienna convinces Dolly to give up football.

Dolly sustains an ankle injury while playing tennis and muses that it would have been easier if he had broken it completely, as that would have forced him to quit football. During the summer break, Jeff receives a letter from Dolly announcing his ankle fracture, but the wording of the letter seems suspicious to Jeff, leading him to suspect Vienna's involvement in its composition.

Without football to occupy his time, Dolly becomes restless and bored. He develops a newfound love for watching the sport, something he never experienced when he played. He begins to miss being on the field and decides to return to the game, much to Vienna's disappointment, resulting in their engagement being called off. Dolly seeks medical assistance for his ankle and makes a triumphant comeback in a crucial game, catching the attention of Daisy Cary, a young film actress. After the game, Jeff, Dolly, and Daisy celebrate together in town.

Dolly reluctantly departs from Daisy, explaining that he needs to meet Vienna. Jeff remains unaware of the specifics of their meeting, but shortly afterward, Dolly arrives at the hotel where Daisy is staying and goes up to see her.

Exploring Fame, Ambition, and Relationships

'The Bowl' delves into the complexities of fame, ambition, and the conflicts that arise within relationships. The story examines the sacrifices individuals make for success and the toll it takes on personal connections.

Dolly's relationship with Vienna becomes strained due to their differing views on football. Vienna's traumatic past influences her desire for Dolly to abandon the sport, while Dolly's love for the game clashes with his relationship with Vienna. The conflicting desires between pursuing personal passion and fulfilling the expectations of a loved one add tension and complexity to their relationship.

Fitzgerald explores the theme of envy as well. Dolly's success as a football player, despite his lack of enthusiasm, evokes jealousy from others. This envy is exemplified through Vienna's former beau, Carl, who resorts to drastic measures to regain Vienna's attention and sympathy.

The story also touches on the allure of fame and its impact on personal choices. Dolly's encounter with Daisy Cary, the young film actress, introduces him to a world of glamour and stardom. This newfound attention and the desire for recognition present a dilemma for Dolly, influencing his decisions and straining his relationship with Vienna.

In 'The Bowl,' Fitzgerald navigates the complexities of fame, ambition, and the intricate dynamics of relationships, showcasing the choices individuals make and the consequences they face in pursuit of personal desires and societal expectations.

Analysis: Exploring Fame, Success, and Envy

'The Bowl' delves into various themes, including fame, success, and the desire for admiration from others. These themes are intricately interconnected, with the longing for admiration often driving individuals to seek success and recognition. The story also examines the contrasting characters of Vienna and Daisy, as well as the perspective of the narrator, Jeff.

One prominent theme explored in 'The Bowl' is the desire for admiration and adulation. Dolly, the central character, initially lacks enthusiasm for football but begins to appreciate the game when he views it from the perspective of a fan. This suggests that he desires the admiration and recognition that come with being a successful athlete. Vienna, on the other hand, accuses Dolly of returning to football out of a weakness and the need for validation from others.

Vienna and Daisy serve as contrasting characters. Vienna is portrayed as selfish and immature, willing to discard men who do not comply with her wishes. Her demand for Dolly to give up football stems more from her own unhappy associations with the game than genuine concern for his well-being. In contrast, Daisy, being an actress, understands the demands and sacrifices of a public career. She recognizes that Dolly's dedication to football is essential and supports him in pursuing his passion.

Jeff, the narrator, embodies the typical Fitzgerald protagonist and carries shades of Nick Carraway from The Great Gatsby. He admires Dolly and yearns for both his success on the field and his overall lifestyle. Jeff envies Dolly's achievements and compares himself unfavorably, even reflecting on his own failed football aspirations. His perspective adds a layer of complexity and explores the dynamics of envy and aspiration.

The story also highlights the dichotomy between the public perception of stars and their personal lives. Dolly and Daisy represent individuals who are celebrated and admired by others, with fans turning out to witness their performances. However, their personal lives and relationships are subject to scrutiny and sacrifice, as they navigate the demands of their respective careers.

Through the exploration of fame, success, and envy, 'The Bowl' offers insights into the human desire for admiration, the complexities of personal relationships, and the sacrifices required to attain and maintain public acclaim.

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