F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby is generally regarded as a portrayal of the evils of America’s wealth-driven culture. I suggest it really was about Fitzgerald’s tumultuous marriage to his wife Zelda who constantly drove him crazy. When the book’s narrator, Nick Carraway, says about the wealthy Tom and Daisy Buchanan, “Let me tell you about the very rich. They are different from you and me”, I submit Fitzgerald really has Zelda in mind for Daisy. And he is not referencing Daisy’s money but her infuriating ability to easily manipulate Jay Gatsby and, ergo, Zelda’s penchant to drive Fitzgerald over the edge.
It is the institution of marriage, especially Fitzgerald’s complete inability to keep up with Zelda, that was the impetus for one of America’s great novels. Most married couples can relate to such a theme. For example, let’s you and I consider the dynamics between Peg and me as we negotiate our move from Posey County, Indiana to Osage County, Oklahoma. If there is anything more challenging than paddling a canoe for a couple it is moving.
I do want to be fair in relating both Peg’s and my viewpoints on the matter, but let me point out it was not Adam who first suggested taking a bite of that apple; original sin in-deed! Anyway, let’s start at the beginning when Peg first saw our cabin on the prairie.
“Oh, Jim, it is perfect.” That should have been my clue but then I am a man and female-speak will forever remain a foreign language. I did not comprehend that by perfect Peg meant everything from the yard to the interior absolutely required change. Let me suggest the fact that women generally outlive men by several years disproves Dr. Joseph Brady’s Executive Monkey Theory.
You may recall that in 1958 Brady published the results of his psychology experiment in which two monkeys would both be shocked if one of them did not “correctly” press a lever. One monkey had control, the Executive (or wife), and one monkey (or husband) had no control. The non-executive felt no pressure and lived a normal life. But the Executive died young. So, there, Dr. Brady; why do not us non-executive men live longer? But back to our move to the prairie.
Please allow me to cite just one example of a marital disaster in moving. It involves our “new” antique dining table that Peg saw as perfect until we moved it into the cabin. Then she demanded I modify it so there was more leg room. Not being completely obtuse I referred the problem to an expert, our general contractor in charge of implementing all of Peg’s changes to our once perfect property. Gentle Reader, I assume you agree that tables play a huge role in our lives. There is Leonardo da Vinci’s table of the Last Supper. There is Sir Thomas Malory’s Round Table in Le Morte d’Arthur. There were the endless squabbles over the shape of the “peace” talk tables between South and North Korea and South and North Vietnam. And there is Peg’s once perfect antique dining table.
So, I told Mark, our highly skilled contractor, about my problem and he, also of the male persuasion and also not conversant in female-speak, volunteered to help. You know what they say about good deeds. Mark understood the problem to be not that the sides of the table were too low to allow leg room, but that the whole table was too tall. When Peg saw all four legs had been cut off by four inches, well, somethings cannot be printed in a family newspaper.
All’s well that ends well however as Mark was able to apply his magic and restore Peg’s table including ample leg room. Peg, of course, never blamed Mark anyway. I am the one who had to deal with my own Zelda crisis. Well, Gentle Reader, let’s just table that thought!