What Inspired F. Scott Fitzgerald to write his books?

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

So many elements of Fitzgerald's own life found their way into his writing.  The conditions of his life helped to inspire his writing as his work provided the grounds upon which significant moral, ethical, and spiritual issues were understood and delved into by the impressionable Fitzgerald.  One such element was the role of wealth.  As a child, Fitzgerald saw his father fail in one endeavor after another to make money.  He also saw his mother as inheriting a large amount of money that enabled the family to live in comfort and style.  This element of inherited money and how people use it was inspirational for Fitzgerald.  The condition of inherited "old money" served as inspiration for much of his work.

As Fitzgerald became attracted to the life of wealth and privilege, he enrolled at Princeton.  While at Princeton, Fitzgerald was profoundly influenced by the spiritual teaching and literary encouragement of Father Sigourney Fay.  Father Fay instructed young Fitzgerald about the role of transcendental ideals in a temporal and contingent world.   Along these lines, Father Fay taught Fitzgerald about the "accompanying dangers of anything that would weaken that character, disrupt its resolve, or corrupt its nature: the lure of unearned wealth, sins of the flesh, moral weakness."  Such teachings cast a large impression on Fitzgerald and his writings.  These elements are woven in nearly all of his works as Fitzgerald never strayed from focusing on characters whose idealism was fundamentally challenged by the world in which they lived.

Finally, the Jazz Age itself became a huge influence on Fitzgerald and his writings.  He became the time period's "chronicler."  In his works, Fitzgerald sought to explore the ornate grandeur of the time period and the fraudulent foundation upon it was built. His own relationship with his wife, Zelda, embodied such a dynamic and further inspired his work.  He explored the parties and the haunting emptiness within it.  Fitzgerald delved into the women of the time period with their unhappiness and the men of the time period who walked in confusion.  The roar of the 1920s was something that inspired Fitzgerald.  It inspired him because he was able to perceive the deafening silence intrinsic to it. For Fitzgerald, the 1920s served as the ultimate inspiration for his work because it provided the moral and thematic grounds for exploration of concepts related to consciousness that are relevant today.