‘The Baby Party’ by F. Scott Fitzgerald: Short Story Analysis
‘The Baby Party’ is an early modernist Jazz Age short story by American writer extraordinaire F. Scott Fitzgerald. F. Scott Fitzgerald, also known as Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald, is one of the greatest twentieth century American writers. Fitzgerald penned ‘The Baby Party’ in 1925 when he was not so well known and was down on his luck. He wrote ‘The Baby Party’ to support himself financially. ‘The Baby Party’ is one of the early works of hidden satire penned by Fitzgerald. It shows how human beings, especially adults, are nothing but little grown up baby toddlers at the end of the day. We are so much like our toddlers and act a lot like them. However, we deem our toddlers’ actions to be immature, whereas the same behavior from an adult lies on the borderline of maturity and immaturity. The childish behavior of adults concerning their children is one of Fitzgerald’s main themes in this short story.
‘The Baby Party’ begins with a clear statement that the main protagonist John Andros a thirty-eight-year-old man, was in a peculiar way fond of his toddler, a two-and-a-half-year-old child named Ede. He likes her to a certain degree. Her presence proves to him that his legacy and his family line will live on because of her. John has gone through the many troubles of adulthood at a young age and finds himself tired and weary of life at the age of thirty-eight. However, his child Ede makes him do many things that would be called childish or immature. Like a baby boy who was not getting his way, he was ready to fight with a neighbor and train companion Joe Markey. He was prepared to fight Joe in the snow to prove that:
- He would not take kindly any insult to his child Ede and wife Edith.
- He was going to fight for the rights of Ede because he loved her and had pride in her.
- He could not bear to think that he would go home without settling the issue in Ede’s favor.
- He wanted to fight for the honor of his defenseless child. Though I would like to add here that Ede seemed quite capable of looking after herself and her affairs!
We would deem this a little boy’s typical behavior, yet John Andros and Joe Markey fight each other in the snow like wrestling schoolboys. They only stop when a passer-by walks their way and hide in the shadows so that the news of their fighting should not spread throughout the neighborhood. They fought because their wives had insulted each other and their respective toddlers at a birthday party in the Markey home. Throughout this story titled ‘The Baby Party’, we see adults acting like children in the following ways:
- They like to sit at the party, mainly the women, and compare each other’s toddlers. It reminds one of children comparing toys, game cards, and toy gadgets.
- They only like responsibility to a certain degree, after which they, too, like children, throw a sort of immature temper tantrum, which adults call anger. We see this when John creates a ruckus in the house one Sunday when Ede successfully hid a card from the bridge game that was in progression. His ‘acting out’ or temper was so ferocious that it made his wife cry. John here was acting like an overgrown child. Just because he is the breadwinner of the family, his behavior is tolerated.
- They like to show the capabilities of their toddlers like some children want to show off their toys. The more company is present while it is being done, the better; that is why Edith Andros was very disappointed when her husband showed up late for the Baby Party at the Markey’s.
- They are very self-centered and have strong opinions about one another. This was so in Edith’s case, who thought the Markey’s to be what she termed as ‘quite common’.
- They overreact and make a mountain of a molehill. The whole fight between Edith and the Markey’s at the end of the Baby Party are three adults acting out. They cannot tolerate their toddlers’ juvenile transparent behavior but do not mind their juvenile behavior playing out before others.
- They do not have the quality of anger management nor the discretion to control emotions. We see this when Edith laughs when she sees her toddler Ede push Billy Markey down to get his teddy-bear. When Billy comes for his teddy bear again, Ede confidently pushes him again with much more violence. This is nothing but Ede acting out how violence was shown or displayed to her back at her own home. She was a ‘chip of the old block’.
In ‘The Baby Party’, all the activity occurs in the Markey home where the party takes place, then outside in the darkening winter evening where the toddler’s fathers John and Joe fight violently. Activity also occurs in the Andros’ home where wounds are healed with iodine and where the true nature of John Andros comes out, as something of a caveman trying to protect his property and the honor of his home. The Baby Party is the two-year-old Billy Markey’s birthday party. He seems to be heavier and much healthier than Ede, which spites Edith, her mother. The toddlers act more like adults and are more faithful to their nature and transparent with their motives and feelings.
- When introduced to each other, they do not act in a disorderly manner, nor on the dance floor. Instead, the toddlers dance in pairs of two or three on the floor.
- They are naughty where the open door was concerned but acted in unison without judging the other children. The toddlers did not discriminate between each other.
- They were least concerned with what they were wearing and their accomplishments as toddlers and enjoyed themselves living in the moment.
When Ede wanted Billy’s teddy bear, she did what she used to see in her own home, pushing Billy and grabbing the teddy bear from him. When adults do such things with each other, we are taught to turn the other cheek. However, when toddlers do the same, we show shock at their behavior when we should not because toddlers learn from adults through observation more than one realizes. That is why in this story titled ‘The Baby Party’, the rudeness and bad behavior of John was described to us first so that we would know that his toddler would behave in the same manner as he acted.
Fitzgerald calls the babies modern babies who are carefully looked after and pampered to a great extent. Ede was getting her way at home, being her father’s pet, so she showed her innate sensibilities when she was mean with Billy Markey. When Mrs. Markey said that Ede ought to be spanked, that shocked Edith and started the adults’ verbal fight. It is mentioned in the text that the situation in this party would not have happened thirty years ago when toddlers were not as pampered as they were in the Jazz Age in America.
Although John tries to show that mothers of toddlers were more prone to fuss over their children, he too ironically fusses over Ede, especially regarding how she would look in her pink dress, interact, and behave at the Markey’s party. There is a subtle ironical sentence where John wonders whether others would see Ede wearing a pink dress to be mature. This is ridiculous because pink dresses are worn by all baby girls even today. John seems to take the bull by the horns where his wife and child’s ridiculing was concerned. He realizes his mistake like children do, after some time. He then forces Edith to meet with the Markey’s when they come to their home for what seems to be an apology. Joe has brought Mrs. Markey without her consent, just like John was forcing Edith to meet with them. He says he would be down soon, but before going to meet with the Markey’s, John cuddles Ede for a while to remind himself of the reason why he fought with Joe that evening: the honor of his daughter. She was fast asleep and oblivious to what was going on among the adults. John’s behavior is akin to a child hugging his toy, trying to soothe himself over a troubling situation. These instances of adults acting like children are very prominent in this Fitzgerald story.
I will add a few more takeaway points to this short story after which I will end this analysis:
- The fathers’ physical fight lasted for about fifteen to twenty minutes in the snow outside the Markey’s home. They fought silently with decorum despite the situation. When they stop, they realize that they could have become the neighborhood’s laughingstock and so shake hands to make up. Markey also asks John whether he would like to come back into his house to clean up.
- The setting of this short story titled ‘The Baby Party’ is just after Christmas, probably the first week after Christmas and before the New Year. It is a society that will undergo a dramatic change after the passing of the Jazz Age and the Second World War. However, the seeds of a modernist mercenary Capitalist society are evident here in these families of the 1920’s.
- There is mention of a Latin-American maid in this story. Fitzgerald calls her the brown maid. Probably, she was Ede’s nurse and did most of the work for the baby.
- John never had time for his toddler and hardly spent time with her. Yet, he felt he was qualified enough to fight Joe and wound him for his daughter when he did not know the actual situation.
I enjoyed reading and analyzing this short story by American writer F. Scott Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald was a dear friend of another American writer Ernest Hemingway. You can read a bit about their relationship in a book titled Hemingway in Love by A. E. Hotchner. You can also read my review here. I hope to read more American fiction and non-fiction bookish content in the coming days till January 2021. I wish to celebrate America’s rich literary content. If you are looking for more American bookish content, keep watching this blog.
If you are interested in book reviews, book analysis, short story analysis, poems, essays, essay analysis, and other bookish content, you can check out my blog insaneowl.com. If you are interested in purchasing my books, you can check out my blog’s products page or my author’s page on Amazon. There is a lot of good stuff to buy! Happy reading to you always!
Copyright © 2020 Fiza Pathan