In F.Scott Fizgererald’s ‘Bernice Bobs Her Hair,’ there are significant character changes noted throughout this short story. In this essay, I will examine the development and representation of Bernice who is a central character. We can observe that her cousin Marjorie changes Bernice’s personality from a quiet, passive person to someone full of confidence in society. We will also see how F.Scott Fitzgerald teaches us an important lesson about the insignificance of popularity.
When first introduced to Bernice, she appears as wealthy, dependant, shy and rather old-fashioned. She was not a good conversationist with boys. It is noticeable that when Bernice is at home in Eau Claire, she is protected by both her wealth and her mother. Her difficulties are therefore somewhat disguised from reality. A possible reason for her unpopularity and wariness was because of her mother who constantly reassured her that boys admired girls like her who talk about cars and that are well off. This is a problem, as Bernice does not know how to adapt to other situations in society. We learn that she longs for female conversation and company, which is ” exchanging confidences flavoured with giggles and tears”.
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On the other hand, Marjorie was thought of as a wonderful character, full of charisma. One of her admires Warren McIntyre was “crazy about her” (pg 1) and she also “had affairs with other boys”(pg 1). We can see here the contrast between these cousins. Marjorie and her friends consider Bernice as “sorta hopeless”(pg 1) because she can’t make witty conversation and doesn’t dress fashionably. However, Bernice cannot understand her unpopularity and finally agrees to let Marjorie teach her how to be popular. According to Marjorie’s formula for popularity, the conversation must be carefully planned in order to surprise and entertain the audience. For conversational purposes, Marjorie suggests that Bernice use the topic of bobbing her hair. In 1920, when the story was written, short hair was a daring new fashion, adopted by only the riskiest women.
In my opinion, Marjorie forces Bernice’s change of character, as she is extremely forceful and nasty towards her. Things also come into hand when she overhears Marjorie discuss her with her aunt. The next day she confronts Marjorie, who persuades Bernice to get her hair bobbed in order to become more noticed. Bernice is intimidated and takes in her advice. Here we witness her determination to be popular as she is willing to get her hair bobbed, which is considered extremely daring in those years. As she starts to communicate more with people, she is more admired and boys begin to take an interest in her. Here we see a huge development in Bernice’s character. Instead of the limelight focused on Marjorie, it is on Bernice and here we see how Marjorie’s plan backfires. At this point, Marjorie becomes jealous of Bernice, as she is not receiving all the attention and tells Bernice “you may as well get Warren out of your head “.
We can see here Marjorie is far from confident because she is in fear of losing Warren to Bernice. At the end of this short story, it is evident that a new aspect of Bernice’s character is evident. The ending is highly unexpected when Bernice cuts of Marjorie’s hair when she is sleeping. Bernice was then “feeling oddly happy”, which indicates she is content as she has her revenge on Marjorie. We have overall noted an immense character development in this short story. F.Scott Fitzgerald has shown us not to be overruled by people in society and how those can be easily influenced by other’s actions.