F. Scott Fitzgerald’s story “The Diamond as Big as the Ritz” first appeared in the June 1922 issue of The Smart Set, a popular magazine of the 1920s. Fitzgerald had attempted to sell it to the Saturday Evening Post, which had published many of his other stories, but its harsh anticapitalistic message was rejected by the conservative magazine. In September 1922, the story appeared in his second collection, Tales of the Jazz Age.
The story was inspired by Fitzgerald’s 1915 visit to the Montana home of a Princeton classmate, Charles Donahoe, and was one of Fitzgerald’s few forays into the realm of fantasy. It tells of young John Unger, who is invited to visit a classmate at his impossibly lavish home in Montana. Gradually, Unger learns the sinister origins of his host’s wealth and the frightening lengths to which he will go to preserve it.
In this story, Fitzgerald begins to explore many of the themes he used later when writing his best-known work, The Great Gatsby. The carelessness and immorality of the vastly wealthy and the American fascination with wealth are personified by Braddock Washington and his narcississtic family, who seem to believe that all others have been put on Earth for their amusement. The cataclysmic ending, in which the family and their home are destroyed, shows the result of their single-minded pursuit.