今日は洋書二作について話してみたいと思う。F. Scott Fitzgeraldといえば 「The Great Gatsby」の作品で有名だが、その彼の執筆活動に多大な影響力を及ぼした一人が 「My Antonia」の作品で名の知られているWilla Catherである。Fitzgeraldの執筆のパターンや表現法などの箇所箇所が Catherと類似している部分がある。これはただ単に真似をしたのではなく、FitzgeraldがCatherに多少なりとも彼女の作品に影響されていた表れである。今回私はその類似していると見られる部分を挙げ、そしてFitzgeraldのCatherに対する評価がいかに高かったかを書き下ろしたものである。ちなみに、英語での書き下ろしとなっているので、英語の分からない方はあしらかず。この二つの作品は日本語訳もきっと出版されていると思うので、あまり本を読まない方にお薦めの作品である。
The Influence of Willa Cather on F. Scott Fitzgerald
“The similarity of theme and tone between the closing sections of My Antonia and The Great Gatsby has probably not been sufficiently noticed by historians of literary craft: a similarity which extends through phrases and rhythms of the writing to the almost identical “dying-fall” of Fitzgerald’s last sentence in Gatsby: ‘So we beat on boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past’” (Miller 88). According to Miller’s statement in his book, it seems likely, that is, that Fitzgerald drew upon Willa Cather’s work for his own development of the theme. Here is another book mentioning about Fitzgerald’s reading of My Antonia by Willa Cather. “… but he had read A Lost Lady (1923) and My Antonia (1918) by Willa Cather (Perosa 78). There is no evidence that he imitates everything of Cather’s writing techniques; however, the last sentence in My Antonia, “Whatever we had missed, we possessed together the precious, the incommunicable past” (Cather 419), is obviously remarkably close in rhythm and feeling to (though different in meaning from) the last line of The Great Gatsby. And the device of the sensitive observer is common to both novels.
Like My Antonia, The Great Gatsby has a narrator who interprets ? as he recounts in a series of impressionistic scenes ? the fortunes and misfortunes of a protagonist at least outwardly unlike himself. In My Antonia, there is an introduction in which the author meets an old friend, Jim Burden, on a train ride through the West. They begin reminiscing about their childhood,
and their talk keeps “returning to a central figure, a Bohemian girl,” Antonia. Jim Burden tells the narrator that he has been writing down what he remembers about Antonia. And the narrator expresses an interest in reading this account:
Months afterward, Jim called at my apartment one stormy winter afternoon, carrying a legal portfolio. He brought it into the sitting-room with him, and said, as he stood warming his hands, “Here is the thing about Antonia. Do you still want to read it? … I suppose it hasn’t any form. It hasn’t any title, either.” He went into the next room, sat down at my desk and wrote across the face of the portfolio the word, “Antonia.” He frowned at this a moment, then prefixed another word, making it “My Antonia.” That seemed to satisfy him (Cather x-xi).
By use of this device, Willa Cather is able to tell the story of Antonia through the consciousness of a sensitive, sympathetic narrator, thereby effacing herself as author almost completely: Jim Burden, placed within the story, takes over most of the functions of (in the fictional sense, becomes) the author. In this connection I may add that both Gatsby and Nick Carraway themselves may be Fitzgerald’s alter ego. He was born and raised inMinnesota to parents of Irish lineage; therefore, he may have had two different feelings between the Irish and Americans that were also connected and reflected between Jay Gatsby and Nick, or East and West of theUnited States. Anyhow, we very much understand that Cather’s thoughts and way of writings are qualities and values F. Scott Fitzgerald greatly admires.
Another similarity between My Antonia and The Great Gatsby are, to treat the theme of recapturing the past. In the novel, The Great Gatsby, “Jay Gatsby had waited for five years and bought a mansion where he dispensed starlight to casual moths so that he could “come over” some afternoon to a stranger’s garden” (Fitzgerald 83). Gatsby hopes Daisy would wander into one of his parties some night, but she never did. Gatsby wanted “the” Daisy he first met five years ago. Since they had not seen each other, he started living his own world and pictured “his” Daisy. However, he was unable to change the fact that five years had elapsed since he and Daisy had seen each other. When Gatsby and Daisy met each other again, he realized that Daisy was not “his” Daisy, the one he had envisaged all these years. Compare with the thoughts of Jay Gatsby about Daisy, pretty much the same concept / plot is used in the book, My Antonia. “Similarly, the elided twenty years in My Antonia serve Jim as a period in which to appropriate Antonia in his imagination. So tenaciously does Jim cling to his illusions about Antonia during these years that they miraculously take shape as reality” (Peck 153). Finding that Antonia still shares his consciousness, Jim lays claim once again to their mutual stock of memories, concluding his narrative with the jubilant assertion, “Whatever we had missed, we possessed together the precious, the incommunicable past” (Cather 419).
Jim Burden’s phrase “whatever we had missed…” reminds us that Jim has deliberately missed sharing most of the central events of Antonia’s life: her grief over her father’s death, her shame over her abortive affair and pregnancy, her marriage, her raising of her family, her growing old. Only because Jim has overlooked these differences between himself and Antonia has he been able, in his view, to share with her a more precious and ineffable possession, like an ideal childhood freedom and innocence. “At the end of My Antonia Jim Burden could assert that he and Antonia “possessed” the “precious, the incommunicable past”; the very fact that he felt the compulsion to commit that past to a written record suggests that he felt insecure in its possession” (Miller 123). In the same manner, in the novel, The Great Gatsby, “It was Nick’s discovery that the past cannot be “possessed”; he had watched Gatsby searching for a past (a “past that had not even had not even had a momentary existence, that was the invention of his imagination) and, ultimately, finding death in its stead (Miller 123). “Daisy vanished into her rich house, into her rich, full life, leaving Gatsby – nothing. He felt married to her, that was all” (Fitzgerald 157). “His” American Dream was only alive in “his” own world. In coming to this conclusion “Fitzgerald was perhaps most influenced by a contemporary novel, Willa Cather’s My Antonia, which we know he read with deep interest, dealing with a topic so close to his own that he wrote Cather insisting that, despite the extraordinary similarity, he was not guilty of plagiarism (Lehan 107).
“Both works are pervaded with a bittersweet nostalgia, and both are written in finely crafted, evocative prose” (Donaldson 58).