The Vegetable, F. Scott Fitzgerald
The Vegetable
F. Scott Fitzgerald
3:16 h Novels Lvl 8.41
The Vegetable, or From President to Postman is a 1923 short story by F. Scott Fitzgerald that he developed into a play. The play concerns the misadventures of the middle-class striver Jerry Frost. He is a 35-year-old "clerk for the railroad at $3,000 a year. He possesses no eyebrows, but nevertheless he constantly tries to knit them." His marriage to Charlotte (30) is dull, and he is stereotypically hen-pecked by her. We learn in the first act that Jerry wanted to be a postman, but that he somehow blames his wife for missing out on this ambition...

The Vegetable

Or from President to Postman

by
F. Scott Fitzgerald


“Any man who doesn’t want to get on in the world, to make a million dollars, and maybe even park his toothbrush in White House, hasn’t got as much to him as a good dog has — he’s nothing more or less than a vegetable.”
From a Current Magazine.


Act I

This is the “living” room of Jerry Frost’s house. It is evening. The room (and, by implication, the house) is small and stuffy — it’s an awful bother to raise these old-fashioned windows; some of them stick, and besides it’s extravagant to let in much cold air, here in the middle of March. I can’t say much for the furniture, either. Some of it’s instalment stuff, imitation leather with the grain painted on as an after-effect, and some of it’s dingily, depressingly old. That bookcase held “Ben Hur” when it was a best-seller, and it’s now trying to digest “A Library of the World’s Best Literature” and the “Wit and Humor of the United States in Six Volumes.” That couch would be dangerous to sit upon without a map showing the location of all craters, hillocks, and thistle-patches. And three dead but shamefully unburied clocks stare eyelessly before them from their perches around the walls.

Those walls — God! The history of American photography hangs upon them. Photographs of children with{4} puffed dresses and depressing leers, taken in the Fauntleroy nineties, of babies with toothless mouths and idiotic eyes, of young men with the hair cuts of ’85 and ’90 and ’02, and with neckties that loop, hoist, snag, or flare in conformity to some esoteric, antiquated standard of middle-class dandyism. And the girls! You’d have to laugh at the girls! Imitation Gibson girls, mostly; you can trace their histories around the room, as each of them withered and stated. Here’s one in the look-at-her-little-toes-aren’t-they-darling period, and here she is later when she was a little bother of ten. Look! This is the way she was when she was after a husband. She might be worse. There’s a certain young charm or something, but in the next picture you can see what five years of general housework have done to her. You wouldn’t turn your eyes half a degree to watch her in the street. And that was taken six years ago — now she’s thirty and already an old woman.

You’ve guessed it. That last one, allowing for the photographer’s kind erasure of a few lines, is Mrs. Jerry Frost. If you listen for a minute, you’ll hear her, too.

But wait. Against my will, I’ll have to tell you a few sordid details about the room. There’s got to be a door in plain sight that leads directly outdoors, and then there are two other doors, one to the dining-room and one to the second floor — you can see the beginning of the stairs. Then there’s a window somewhere that’s used in the last act. I hate to mention these things, but they’re part of the plot.

Now you see when the curtain went up, Jerry Frost had left the little Victrola playing and wandered off to the cellar or somewhere, and Mrs. Jerry (you can call her Charlotte) hears it from where she is up-stairs. Listen!

“Some little bug is going to find you, so-o-ome day!”

That’s her. She hasn’t got much of a voice, has she? And she will sing one key higher than the Victrola. And now the darn Victrola’s running down and giving off a ghastly minor discord like the death agony of a human being.

Charlotte. [She’s up-stairs, remember.] Jerry, wind up the graphophone.

There’s no answer.

Jer-ry!

Still no answer.

Jerry, wind up the graphophone. It isn’t good for it.

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