F. Scott Fitzgerald (1896 -
Roger stared moodily around the stiff, plain room, wondering if they could have blundered into the kitchen by mistake.
'You look like the devil, Roger,' said his host. 'Have a cocktail and cheer up.'
'Have one,' urged Gretchen.
'What ?' Roger turned around absently. 'Oh, no, thanks. I've got to work after I get home.'
'Work !' Tompkins smiled. 'Listen, Roger, you'll kill yourself with work. Why don't you bring a little balance into your life -
'That's what I tell him,' said Gretchen.
'Do you know an average business man's day ?' demanded Tompkins as they went in to dinner.
'Coffee in the morning, eight hours' work interrupted by a bolted luncheon, and then home again with dyspepsia and a bad temper to give the wife a
pleasant evening.' Roger laughed shortly.
'You've been going to the movies too much,' he said dryly.
'What ?' Tompkins looked at him with some irritation.
'Movies ? I've hardly ever been to the movies in my life. I think the movies are atrocious. My opinions on life are drawn from my own observations. I
believe in a balanced life.'
'What's that ?' demanded Roger.
Would that seem horribly egotistic?'
'Oh, no !' Gretchen looked at him with interest. 'I'd love to hear about it.'
'Well, in the morning I get up and go through a series of exercises. I've got one room fitted up as a little gymnasium, and I punch the bag and do shadow-
boxing and weight-
'No,' admitted Roger, 'I take a hot bath in the evening three or four times a week.'
A horrified silence fell. Tompkins and Gretchen exchanged a glance as if something obscene had been said.
'What's the matter ?' broke out Roger, glancing from one to the other in some irritation. 'You know don't take a bath every day -
Tompkins gave a prolonged sigh. 'After my bath,' he continued, drawing a merciful veil of silence over the matter, 'I have breakfast and drive to my office
in New York, where I work until four. Then I lay off, and if it's summer I hurry out here for nine holes of golf, or if it's winter I play squash for an hour at my
club. Then a good snappy game of bridge until dinner. Dinner is liable to have something to do with business, but in a pleasant way. Perhaps I've just
finished a house for some customer, and he wants me to be on hand for his first party to see that the lighting is soft enough and all that sort of thing. Or
maybe I sit down with a good book of poetry and spend the evening alone. At any rate, I do something every night to get me out of myself.'
'It must be wonderful,' said Gretchen enthusiastically. 'I wish we lived like that.'
Tompkins bent forward earnestly over the table.
'You can,' he said impressively. There's no reason why you shouldn't. Look here, if Roger'll play nine holes of golf every day it'll do wonders for him. He
won't know himself. He'll do his work better, never get that tired, nervous feeling -
He broke off. Roger had perceptibly yawned.
'Roger,' cried Gretchen sharply, 'there's no need to be so rude. If you did what George said, you'd be a lot better off. She turned indignantly to their host.
The latest is that he's going to work at night for the next six weeks. He says he's going to pull down the blinds and shut us up like hermits in a cave. He's
been doing it every Sunday for the last year; now he's going to do it every night for six weeks.' Tompkins shook his head sadly.
'At the end of six weeks,' he remarked, 'he'll be starting for the sanatorium. Let me tell you, every private hospital in New York is full of cases like yours.
You just strain the human nervous system a little too far, and bang! -
for repairs.' He broke off, changed his tone, and turned to Gretchen with a smile. 'Not to mention what happens to you. It seems to me it's the wife rather
than the husband who bears the brunt of these insane periods of overwork'.
'I don't mind,' protested Gretchen loyally.
(about 780 words)
1. Find an appropriate heading for the given text.
2. Divide the text into its constituent parts.
3. In what country does the scene take place? Justify.
4.1. How many characters are involved in this scene?
4.2. Whose wife is Gretchen?
4.3. Who are the guests?
4.4. Who is the host (full name, job)?
5. The conversation: What is the main topic in the scene?
6. What conclusions can you draw from Tompkins's timetable (values, rhythm, diversity and personality)?
7. Is Tompkins only giving friendly advice or can the reader suspect other motivations on his part?
8. To what extent do movies influence your ideas about life? Give examples.
9. Describe your own strategies to fight stress, tension or pressure.