VJ Day, New York, 1945

MAX: Wait a minute. I recognize this.
KIRK: Nice photo, huh?
MAX: This is VJ Day, New York, 1945.
KIRK: Right. I include it as an example of the excellence that I aspire to.

The photo is V-J Day in Times Square by Alfred Eisenstaedt, showing an American sailor kissing a woman in a white dress on Victory over Japan Day in New York’s Times Square on August 14, 1945. The photo was published in Life magazine, and is very famous.

Quotes for the Wedding Invitations

Rory selects three quotes for Lorelai to choose from, one of which will be printed on the wedding invitations.

The first one is: “What is love? It is the morning and the evening star.” – Sinclair Lewis

This is a quote from Sinclair Lewis’ 1927 novel Elmer Gantry, a scathing satire on fundamentalist religion. The title character is a religious hypocrite and a fraud. Lorelai obviously knows very little about Sinclair Lewis, who she describes as “sappy”. In fact the Nobel Prize Winner was known for his biting wit and critical eye on American culture and materialism. The quote itself is from the title character, who is being entirely insincere. Rory may have read Elmer Gantry partly on Richard’s recommendation – Sinclair Lewis was a favourite author of H.L. Mencken, and he attended Yale, Richard’s own alma mater.

The second one is: And all went merry as a marriage bell. But hush! Hark! A deep sound strikes like a rising knell!” – Lord Byron

This is from Lord Byron’s 1818 long narrative poem Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage. Semi-autobiographical, it describes a world-weary young man, looking for distraction by travelling through foreign lands. It made its author immediately famous. This section of the poem is about a grand party in Brussels, which is brought to a disastrous and sinister end by the Battle of Waterloo.

Lorelai’s comment is, “Byron and Lewis, together again”. She may be referring to Matthew Gregory (“M.G.”) Lewis, the author of the 1796 Gothic romance The Monk. He and Lord Byron were friends, and travelled together. Rory may have read Byron’s poem because it is mentioned in Herman Melville’s Moby Dick. It seems like Rory to want to follow up on a literary work that is referenced in another.

The last quote is: “We have buried the putrid corpse of liberty.” – Benito Mussolini

The whole quote is, “The Truth Apparent, apparent to everyone’s eyes who are not blinded by dogmatism, is that men are perhaps weary of liberty. They have a surfeit of it. Liberty is no longer the virgin, chaste and severe, to be fought for … we have buried the putrid corpse of liberty … the Italian people are a race of sheep.” It comes from Writings and Discourses of Mussolini, a twelve-volume work published between 1934 and 1940.

The choice of Mussolini seems to be a callback to Lorelai calling Headmaster Charleston “Il Duce“, the title of Fascist dictator Mussolini. She said this to Max during an argument they were having about Rory’s education in The Deer Hunters. Amazingly, this is the quote which Lorelai chooses, an apparent acknowledgement that her freedom is now at an end.

As you can see, all the quotes are completely inappropriate for wedding invitations. The first one is an insincere summing-up of love by a hypocrite and fraud, the second one is about a celebration which ends in disaster, and the third one equates marriage with the death of Lorelai’s liberty, said by a fascist dictator, and referencing a fight between Lorelai and Max.

What message is Rory trying to send with her choice of these quotes? They suggest a deep cynicism in her about marriage in general, and Lorelai and Max’s wedding in particular.

Guy Fawke’s Day

FRAN: After all, what’s more important than your wedding day?
LORELAI: Well, it ain’t Guy Fawkes Day.

Guy Fawke’s Day, or Bonfire Night, is an annual commemoration on November 5, observed primarily in Britain. It marks the events of November 5 1605, when Guy Fawkes was arrested guarding explosives beneath the House of Lords that were intended to blow up Parliament.

Beginning as a celebration that the plot to kill King James I had failed, it became an annual event that could at times be violent, and until the mid 19th century had strong anti-Catholic overtones. Today Guy Fawke’s Day is much more fun and peaceful, with public bonfires and fireworks displays. Guy Fawke’s Day was celebrated in colonial America until the American Revolution.

In A Year in the Life, Lorelai and Luke get married on November 5 – Guy Fawke’s Day, as an apparent callback to this scene.

Castro

EMILY: And this is what we need to discuss right now?
LORELAI: These [Emily’s maids] are women from countries that have dictatorships and civil wars and death squads and all of that they survived, but five minutes working for Emily Gilmore, and people are begging for Castro.

Fidel Castro (1926-2016) was a Cuban communist revolutionary and politician who governed Cuba as Prime Minister from 1959 to 1976, and as President from 1976 to 2008. He was also First Secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba from 1961 to 2011. Under his administration, Cuba became a one-party communist state, industry and business were nationalised, and socialist reforms implemented. Castro was the longest-serving non-royal head of state in the 20th and 21st centuries.

More than a million Cubans left their country to emigrate as political refugees, mostly to the United States, with Florida being the US state with the most Cuban-Americans. Lorelai suggests that at least a couple of Emily’s maids were Cuban-American, and there are more than 10 000 Cuban-Americans in Connecticut, with the highest number in Bridgeport.

Gettysburg Address

LORELAI: You know, the Gettysburg Address was only one page long, and that was about a war.
LUKE: I just call them like I see them.

The Gettysburg Address is a speech given by US President Abraham Lincoln during the American Civil War in 1863. It was delivered at a dedication of the Soldier’s National Cemetery in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, and is one of the best-known speeches in American history. Famous for its pithiness, in just two minutes Lincoln invoked the founding principles of freedom as set out in the Declaration of Independence, and proclaimed the Civil War to be a struggle for the Union that would bring true equality to all American citizens.

The Ruins of Pompeii

RICHARD: I wanted to walk the ruins of Pompeii.

Pompeii was an ancient Roman town near modern Naples, mostly destroyed and buried under tons of volcanic ash and pumice in the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD. The ruins of Pompeii have been a tourist destination for over 250 years, and today is one of Italy’s most popular tourist sites.

J. Edgar Hoover

RICHARD: Rory, wonderful news. You finished in the top three percent of your class.
LORELAI: Oh yeah, Dad, J. Edgar Hoover over here was just telling us.

John Edgar Hoover (1895-1972) was the first Director of the FBI, and instrumental in its founding in 1935. Lorelai is making fun of her mother’s “spy work” in discovering that Rory is in the top 3% of her class from Bitty Charleston, the headmaster’s wife.

Rory had got herself into the top 10% by the time of the midterm exams, and now the top 3% by the time she completed her final exams for the year. This rise is remarkable, and not very believable in a prestigious school full of excellent students. She started late, began the year getting a D and missing a vital test in her best subject, English Literature, and only got a B+ for her Biology midterms – surely that would bring her average down a bit further than that?