ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Fitzgerald's Craft

Updated on October 6, 2012
F. Scott Fitzgerald as a young man.
F. Scott Fitzgerald as a young man.

F. Scott Fitzgerald had an economical way of including important detail in his stories: the who, what, where, why and when of storytelling that readers expect. Yet, Fitzgerald could be efficient while also maintaining melodic prose. A writer who wrote during extremely difficult, tragic times as well as during times of excess and extravagance, Fitzgerald seemed to be at the center of a worldly hub, and he had the drive and the energy to write about it in the genre of fiction.

In the newly discovered short story, “Thanks For The Light,” Fitzgerald consistently begins a paragraph with a fresh idea to keep the reader interested:

“Eastward, she had known her clientele chattily and had often been offered a drink or a cigarette in the buyer’s office after business was concluded. But she soon found that in her new district things were different.”

The story is about a woman, Mrs. Hanson, who works as a traveling saleswoman, selling lingerie to appointed buyers in her district. Mrs. Hanson’s initial challenge lies in the adjustment of being assigned to a different district. A smoker, it seems at first that Mrs. Hanson’s anxieties are all hinged around her, rather modest, habit of cigarette smoking. Utilizing this trope, Fitzgerald demonstrates the ways people falter from being rigid to casual and from intolerance to compassion. For example, Mrs. Hanson runs into a friend from her old district who tells her that the client she is about to see would never tolerate smoking. The friend points out that the younger men would not mind if a person smoked but an older man usually would detest it:

“…nobody who was in the war would ever object to anyone smoking.”

Compassion enters into the story: those who have experienced life’s horrors, as in a war, will have compassion, but a man who hasn’t experienced things beyond the mundane business world, will usually not be compassionate. Fitzgerald tugs at our human empathy and infuses the main character with vulnerability. To further win the reader’s approval, Mrs. Hanson’s character is always genuinely humble, politely conforming, using temperance and even gratitude. Fitzgerald applies nice detail in depicting a surprisingly young man, “the exception to the rule,” who disapproves of Mrs. Hanson’s cigarette.

“He seemed a pleasant young man but his eyes fixed with so much fascination on the cigarette that she was tapping on her thumbnail that she put it away.”

In a milieu of post war callousness along side the march of progress on the mean streets, Mrs. Hanson suffers a spiritual crisis. She feels “a vague dissatisfaction,” no matter how successful her business calls have been, and she attaches this to the fact that she hasn’t been able to have a single puff of a cigarette. As she stands suddenly in front of a Catholic cathedral; “it seemed very tall,” and goes inside, she ponders over her smoking habit, “I’m getting to be a drug fiend,” and she wonders whether God would approve. It is here that we start to realize this isn’t all about cigarettes.

St. Dominic's Cathedral, San Francisco
St. Dominic's Cathedral, San Francisco

Inside the cathedral, Fitzgerald juxtaposes darkness and light, the tremendous height of the cathedral, inside and out, to Mrs. Hanson’s relative smallness and her remarkable humility, yet the writer brings into alignment the very essence of the Virgin Mary and Mrs. Hanson, herself. – the two women are alike:

“In her imagination, the Virgin came down, like in the play,The Miracle,

and took her place and sold corsets and girdles for her and was tired,

just as she was.”

Though she is not Catholic, or even particularly religious, Mrs. Hanson awakens, inside the cathedral of ever- burning candles, from her lucid nap, to a kind of emancipation in the form of a very personal miracle.

Hence, Fitzgerald quickly and skillfully renders an epiphany with enough emotion and mystery to satisfy his readers!

("Thanks For The Light," by F. Scott Fitzgerald, appeared in The New Yorker, August 6th, 2012)


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)