F. Scott Fitzgerald Critical Context - Essay

Howard Greenfeld

Critical Context

Greenfeld’s biography was essentially the first attempt to address a younger audience on the subject of Fitzgerald, and in that sense it must be reckoned a success. Reviewers from the journals Booklist, Center for Children’s Books: Bulletin, Kirkus Reviews, Library Journal, and Publishers Weekly all gave the book very high marks.

In F. Scott Fitzgerald, Greenfeld singles out The Great Gatsby as the writer’s most important work. In the 1960’s, there emerged a revisionist strain of literary history and criticism, in the context of which Tender Is the Night seemed poised to overtake The Great Gatsby as Fitzgerald’s magnum opus. In a period when the confessional tone or style was so highly valued, that novel seemed—in spite of, or perhaps even because of, its structural flaws—a more vital and engaging work of art. Yet by 1974—the year of Greenfeld’s biography—the pendulum had most decidedly swung the other way, back toward the virtually unchallenged view that, with the possible exception of The Last Tycoon (1941)—whose only major flaw is that it was never completed—Fitzgerald’s only flirtation with perfection was with The Great Gatsby. This shift in literary criticism may explain Greenfeld’s complimentary words on Tender Is the Night but also his placement of that novel one or two rungs below The Great Gatsby.