The Ice Palace by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Author: Francis Scott Fitzgerald
Published: The Saturday Evening Post (May 22, 1920), Flappers and Philosophers (1920)
Genre: Short Story
1. The Ice Palace Synopsis
“The Ice Palace” tells the tale of Sally Carrol Harper, a young southern lady who has grown bored of her environment and wishes to seek new experiences. She is engaged to a man from the North and embarks on a journey to the northern region with her fiancée. “The Ice Palace” delves into the North-South divide in the United States, highlighting Northerners and Southerners’ contrasting attitudes and perspectives.
2. Story Summary
The story follows Sally Carrol Harper, a young charming southern belle who resides in the fictional Georgian city of Tarleton. She is dissatisfied with her stagnant surroundings and desires to escape the monotony. To introduce excitement to her life, she becomes engaged to Harry Bellamy, a successful northerner from an unnamed town in the northern region. Her engagement shocks her neighbors and friends. She dismisses their worries and reminds them of her desire for more in life.
Harry visits her, and she brings him to a nearby graveyard. The burial ground is filled with the remains of Confederate soldiers who fought in the American Civil War. Sally Carrol has a particular attachment to the grave of Margery Lee, a woman who lived during the war.
During the winter, Sally Carroll makes a trip up north to meet Harry’s relatives and see his hometown. However, after visiting Harry’s frigid hometown and receiving a cold reception from his family and the locals, Sally Carrol feels out of place and longs to return home. Her relationship with Harry grows increasingly strained as they bicker and argue, with each passing day feeling colder than the last. Harry holds a disdainful attitude towards her Southern peers, referring to them as ‘degenerates.’ His viewpoint carries an undertone of racial prejudice, as he attributes the perceived laziness of Southerners to the coexistence of white and black people in the region. These incidents accentuate her disenchantment with the decision to relocate to the North.
One day, Harry takes Sally Carrol and a group of friends to visit the Ice Palace, a magnificent structure made entirely of pure ice blocks. While exploring the palace, Sally Carrol becomes separated from Harry and begins to panic, imagining that she will be trapped inside the labyrinth of the ice palace. As the darkness envelops her, her fear intensifies. She starts seeing what appears to be the ghost of Margery Lee, the woman whose name is etched on the headstone back in Georgia.
When Harry and his friends find her, Sally Carrol begs to be taken back to her warm and sunny home in the South. The story ends with Sally Carrol sitting peacefully by her window, enjoying a bowl of fruit and seemingly unaffected by her harrowing experience.
Sally Carrol Harper – A young woman who desires excitement in her life and decides that becoming engaged is the key.
The primary theme of Fitzgerald’s ‘The Ice Palace’ is the contrast between the North and the South in America, including the different personalities of the people residing in each region. Fitzgerald utilizes the story’s environment in “The Ice Palace” to create a stark contrast. Sally Carrol’s South is associated with warmth and slowness, while Harry’s North is characterized by coldness in terms of weather and the aloof attitudes of the locals. Temperament, as well as temperature, contributes to the coldness of the North.
In ‘The Ice Palace,’ Fitzgerald also connects the North with progress and modernity while associating the South with nostalgia and a love of the past. An example is Sally Carrol cherishing the names on the gravestones in her local Tarleton cemetery. Sally Carrol doesn’t want to marry the men in her community because they are trapped in the past, but she realizes that the alternative, embracing the coldness of the North, is far worse.
5. Fun Facts
The story’s ice palace is based on an actual ice palace that was featured at the 1887 Winter Carnival in St. Paul, Minnesota. The Winter Festival took place intermittently in the following years. As Fitzgerald grew up in the city, he had likely attended the festival. The ice maze on the palace’s lower level was a prominent feature of the 1888 Ice Palace.
Fitzgerald authored “The Jelly-Bean,” a short story featured in the Tales of the Jazz Age collection in 1922. Following “The Ice Palace,” it revisited Tarleton and included allusions to numerous characters from the preceding narrative.
6. Quotes from The Ice Palace
I wouldn’t change you for the world. You’re sweet the way you are. The things that’ll make you fail I’ll love always – the living in the past, the lazy days and nights you have, and all your carelessness and generosity.
Sally Carrol Harper
Recommended: Short Stories Quotes by F. Scott Fitzgerald
7. Frequently Asked Questions about The Ice Palace
What does the ice palace in “The Ice Palace” symbolize?
The ice palace in the story represents the illusions we form about a life that is unfamiliar and intriguing to us.
Initially, Sally deeply craves a change of environment, but when she obtains it, she realizes that the reality is far from what she thought it would be. It is similar to the idea of wanting a palace but not expecting it to be cold and unwelcoming like ice, hence the title.