Zelda Essay - Critical Context

Nancy Milford

Critical Context

In her “Notes and Sources,” Milford acknowledges her indebtedness to two famous biographies of F. Scott Fitzgerald: Arthur Mizener’s The Far Side of Paradise (1951) and Andrew Turnbull’s Scott Fitzgerald (1962). In looking at the intertwined lives of the Fitzgeralds from Zelda’s vantage point, instead of from Scott’s, Milford’s book provided a badly needed balance. During the two decades after it was published, however, Zelda became even more significant. Realizing that, in many cases, women writers had been overlooked or devalued simply because of their gender, feminist critics became interested in Zelda Fitzgerald’s only published novel, the highly autobiographical Save Me the Waltz (1932), as well as in Milford’s account of Zelda’s life. It is notable that Milford quotes her subject as saying that the theme of Save Me the Waltz is the heroine’s search for identity. In emphasizing not only Fitzgerald’s confusion as to her identity and her role in marriage but also the problems faced by creative women in a male-dominated society, Milford seems to have been at least a decade ahead of her time.

By the time that they finish high school, most young Americans have encountered at least one novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald, most often The Great Gatsby (1925), an account of Gatsby’s attempt to create his own identity based on his faith in the American Dream. Zelda complements Fitzgerald’s novels by dealing with the same themes from a woman’s viewpoint. Young adults will find the book interesting because it captures the spirit of a past historical period while at the same time provoking thought about contemporary society.