The significance of the Mr. In and Mr. Out scene toward the end of Fitzgerald’s May Day is that it reveals a last hurrah for Dean and Gordon. For Gordon especially, because he realizes that he will forever be married to Jewell and that suicide is his only escape from this life. The depression of this era, of Gordon not fulfilling his full potential as an artist (his excuse being that he needs to go to art school but doesn’t have enough money to go to art school). It is this idea of potential, of finding identity in post-war America (or in this case during the war) that Fitzgerald’s short story hinges upon.
Either man attended Yale and had the best opportunities afforded to them, but their mutually exclusive hate for each other for ending up in the life they have now (their after Yale life, their, not in the war life). Either man’s drunken stupor, their “In & Out” gag is a revelation of lack of identity. Faulkner’s writing style is very colloquial. He gives the reader a real taste of the character, a real dip into the character’s own mind, no matter how fragile, insane, or gritty their subjective reality may be.
Hemingway’s language in Hills Like White Elephants is prosy in comparison (although both authors use adjectives with a certain flare). Hemingway’s writing is more obsessed about the environment. Hemingway also uses a fair amount of dialogue to juxtapose the natural elements of the setting of the story. Hemingway is caught up in the movement of things; the movement of the girl looking toward the horizon and the dualism of character and nature. Faulkner doesn’t juxtapose his characters with environment in this fashion, rather he juxtaposes action with characters.
Fitzgerald’s character, Gordon Sterret, is a dark and ill man, both in composure and in spirit. Fitzgerald relays this characterization to the reader through use of Gordon’s actions (his continually getting drunk, especially in the presence of Edith whom he may have love, but whom he ultimately falters with). The main action being that he goes with Jewell against his judgment and Dean’s advice and in the end of the story, feeling as though he cannot control his actions and is a pawn of fate, he kills himself thereby exercising the only control over himself that he thinks he has; killing himself.
Similar to this Laura’s character in Flowering Judas doesn’t present her will into her life. She allows Braggioni to try and seduce her, and even though she’s tired from her day and doesn’t much care for the man’s attention she doesn’t ask him to leave her alone. She remains proper with her social values as not wanting to offend anyone. This lack of control over her environment reflects Gordon’s own sentiments. Both Laura and Braggioni’s relationship and Gordon and Jewell’s relationship are similar. Jewell and Braggioni are forceful with their personalities on Gordon and Laura.
Both endure their partners knowing that the world offers them nothing better, or that they themselves cannot find a way of escape. However, instead of killing herself as Gordon does, Laura inadvertently kills one of Braggioni’s adherents. Thus, she is labeled a murderer. In either case, Laura and Gordon are both characters that feel they are not in control of themselves or the events that occur around them, either a war, or a revolution.
The Heath Anthology of American Literature, Vol. II, ed. Lauter, et al (Vols. C, D, and E).