Ah, parties. Who doesn’t love a good party? You’ve got awesome food, drinks, cool people, loud music and unrestrained hijinks abound. Beyond being an opportunity to go buck wild or to be a social animal, parties also serve a purpose of potential serendipity. What we mean is that the human celebratory party is the setting for chance interactions and fateful meet-ups. For example, you can meet the love of your life at a chance encounter during a college party, then quickly proceed into the happily ever after stage of marriage, children and even a chocolate lab. If it wasn’t for that party, you might never have had Bruno the dog.
The party setting is also a literary staple. Authors use parties in their stories because it offers an opportunity to converge two unacquainted characters or two distinctive plot lines in one place, allowing the story to advance or change its course.
Consider Shakespeare’s teen drama, Romeo and Juliet. Romeo sneaks into the Capulets lavish party, hiding his true identity because of the whole Capulet vs. Montague beef. He comes across Juliet and falls instantly in love. The party scene is a catalyst their relationship and ensuing demise. In a sense, the party becomes a fulfillment of fate for the two star-crossed lovers, a tactic used by Shakespeare not only to advance the story but to brew the formula for pending tragedy.
In other words, the party gives free rein to Shakespeare to add any elements he sees fit—logical restrictions and continuities do not readily apply. As in real life, the party allows authors to mingle their intentions for the story.
Another key example of a party-filled book is, of course, The Great Gatsby. In F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic novel about the 1920s, extravagant get-togethers are symbols of excess, status and class. Most of the scenes are party-like settings, giving the novel and its occasionally deplorable characters an air of leisure and aristocracy. This feeling is essential to not only the novel’s thematic focuses, but it is also fundamental in building the novel’s social critic of wealthy people and the upper middle class. Take, for example, the title character Jay Gatsby in this select Great Gatsby quote:
“There was music from my neighbor’s house through the summer nights. In his blue gardens men and girls came and went like moths among the whisperings and the champagne and the stars… On week-ends his Rolls-Royce became an omnibus, bearing parties to and from the city between nine in the morning and long past midnight, while his station wagon scampered like a brisk yellow bug to meet all trains. And on Mondays eight servants, including an extra gardener, toiled all day with mops and scrubbing-brushes and hammers and garden-shears, repairing the ravages of the night before.”
The exemplar of wealth and extravagance, indeed. Neighbor Nick Carraway, our narrator. Again, parties bring together individuals who might not have ever met. Yet, his parties largely define him, though he barely knows the people who show up. He throws them in the chance that Daisy, the one who got away, might show up—very a la Romeo and Juliet, even though its an attempt at planned serendipity.
Whether it’s planned or happenstance, parties are classic elements authors use when they need to bring people together, tear them apart or just make things seem fun. Except in The Raven
That guy needed a party badly.
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