Connecting Across Time

A viral image urging people to unplug:

Wifi 1993

Rachel Baron Singer challenges “the writer’s questionable sense of nostalgia.” Looking back past the 90s to the Jazz Age parties of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s day, she suggests that meaningful human connection was no easier when people met only face-to-face instead of on Facebook:

[A]part from the wild parties, [artists and socialites] Gerald and Sara Murphy are also famous for being the inspiration behind Dick and Nicole Diver, the alluring but emotionally insolvent protagonists of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Tender is the Night, a novel that is, if nothing else, a tale of detachment and marital loneliness. The book is rife with comments about how alone Dick and Nicole feel in one another’s company (and with friends and lovers, to boot). In one scene, in which the pair sits in frosty silence, Fitzgerald notes how Dick “often felt lonely with [Nicole],” and in another, he describes Nicole as “leading a lonely life, owning Dick, who did not want to be owned.” Most poignantly, in Chapter 12, Fitzgerald writes: ” . . . they sat with the children on the Moorish roof and watched the fireworks of two casinos, far apart, far down on the shore. It was lonely and sad to be so empty-hearted toward each other.”

How much of this sentiment is based upon impressions of the Murphys versus Fitzgerald’s own fractured relationship with [his wife] Zelda is difficult to say, but the point still stands that in the literary imagination of the Jazz Age, people who engage in the most public, grandiose acts of socialization (what our sign writer might consider to be living), are the ones who are the most isolated from real human interaction. This is certainly a prevalent theme in The Great Gatsby, where lavish, glamorous parties — undoubtedly influenced to some degree by those thrown by the Murphys — are portrayed as the ultimate symbol of social disengagement. Gatsby is as alone at his parties as he is in death, and that goes for anyone and everyone else.