A short story by the young Zelda Fitzgerald was recently discovered in a long-lost high school literary journal from 1918. As a teenager, her understanding of the world was profound but also idealistic. Fitzgerald understood women needed a sense of purpose to be fulfilled and acknowledged that marriage may not be everyone’s cup of tea. The main character of the story, Cornelia, is a 30-year-old woman who is regarded as an utter failure for being unmarried. (Thank God I didn’t live in that time period!)
“Cornie’s a fine girl and good looking enough, but she’s got no magnetism.”
Ah, the overrated charm and magnetism. The bubbly personality that people are drawn to, not unlike the Apple store or food trucks. I never understood society’s obsession with charm, as it can be transient and covering the ugliness within. Despite her lack of magnetism, Cornelia knows she can succeed at things other than marriage so she follows her personal journey (becoming a stenographer) in striking contrast to the direction of her peers.
“Perhaps, after all, Cornelia was seeking self-expression.”
Unfortunately, the story takes a childish turn towards a Disney fairytale ending when Cornelia meets a widowed millionaire through work. He becomes smitten with her during a frenzied typing session and yada yada yada…they get married.
The story has true feminist potential but the punchline is ruined by saccharine irony. It was still a pleasure to read, if only to visit the mind of an 18-year-old girl in 1918.