The Last Of The Belles by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Author: Francis Scott Fitzgerald
Published: The Saturday Evening Post (March 2, 1929), Taps at Reveille (1935)
Genre: Short Story
1. The Last Of The Belles Synopsis
Set against the backdrop of the changing South, “The Last of the Belles” follows the narrator’s experiences in Atlanta and his relationships with various characters, particularly Ailie Calhoun. The initial enchantment with the city’s uniqueness is juxtaposed with the complexities of human interactions. Ailie, embodying Southern charm and purity, captures the narrator’s fascination, but their relationship remains unfulfilled. Ailie’s entanglements with other men, including Bill Knowles and Lieutenant Canby, reveal the intricate layers of her personality.
World War I intervenes, altering dynamics; the narrator departs, and Ailie’s relationship with Lieutenant Earl Schoen develops and dissolves. Years later, the narrator returns, realizing his enduring love for Ailie. However, she is engaged to another man. Their visit to a former campsite signifies the passage of time and the inevitable changes that come, emphasizing the transient nature of emotions and relationships.
2. Story Summary
In the midst of Atlanta’s vibrant Southern charm, the narrator underestimates the impact of Tarleton. The scorching Georgia sun and unusual sights, like cows wandering the streets, create a surreal experience. Staying at camp, the protagonist hears about girls from Lieutenant Warren. Envious of a North-based beloved’s wedding, they meet Bill Knowles who introduces them to Ailie Calhoun.
Despite initial dislike, the protagonist is drawn to Ailie’s Southern purity. They develop a close connection but it remains unfulfilled. Ailie’s complex dynamics with others, including Bill and Lieutenant Canby, unfold. The chapter ends with Canby’s tragic death affecting Ailie deeply, emphasizing the complexity of relationships.
The narrator’s evolving feelings towards Ailie are explored, while Ailie becomes involved with Lieutenant Earl Schoen. Ailie’s encounter with another woman, Kitty Preston, sparks tension. Schoen’s pursuit of Ailie leads to her mixed emotions. As World War I progresses, the narrator departs for France while Schoen and Ailie’s relationship develops. After the war ends, the men return, and Schoen’s arrival with changed behavior and appearance disappoints Ailie. Earl and Ailie break up, realizing their incompatibility. Earl then departs, acknowledging Ailie’s “aristocrat” world wasn’t genuine. He spots other women on the train and expresses interest in them, contemplating the fleeting nature of relationships.
After six years apart, the narrator becomes successful and builds airplanes. During this time, Ailie Calhoun remains a distant memory. He encounters Nancy Lamar, who informs him that Ailie was engaged but broke it off. The narrator feels an emptiness and decides to visit Ailie. He finds her changed, more subdued, engaging in light banter to avoid deeper conversations.
The narrator realizes he’s still in love with her. Ailie admits she’s engaged to a man from Savannah and that she couldn’t marry a Northern man. Despite his feelings, he respects her decision. He asks her to visit their old campsite, hoping to find something familiar. As they visit the site, the narrator reflects on how time has changed everything and realizes that Ailie and the South will soon be gone from his life.
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