At a Glance
F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby is widely regarded as one of the most influential works of the 20th century. If great art is born of great misery, that might help explain Gatsby's success. The novel tells the story of Fitzgerald’s “Lost Generation” during the Jazz Age. The term "Lost Generation" describe the young people of the 1920s who, like Fitzgerald, felt purposeless in a world of excess. Fitzgerald also wrestled with many personal demons—alcoholism in particular and his problematic relationship with his wife, Zelda Sayre. Zelda was from a markedly higher social ranking, so Fitzgerald constantly struggled with feelings of inadequacy. Despite his many publications, Fitzgerald died believing he was a failure as a writer. History has judged otherwise, and today Fitzgerald is considered one of America’s most celebrated authors.
Facts and Trivia
- Don’t underestimate the influence of Zelda Sayre on Fitzgerald’s work. She was the basis of the characters Judy Jones in “Winter Dreams” and Daisy Fay in The Great Gatsby. Later, Zelda’s mental illness would also influence his novel Tender Is the Night.
- Hemingway once ridiculed Fitzgerald’s famous line, “The rich are different than you and I,” by quipping, “Yes, they have more money.”
- Despite his successes, Fitzgerald was continually in debt and often had to write for magazines to support his family.
- During the last three years of his life, Fitzgerald worked as a scriptwriter in Hollywood.
- A famous line from The Great Gatsby embodies Fitzgerald’s lifelong philosophy of trying to reclaim youth: “So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”
Article abstract: With a poetic style and an insight into the lure of and the fallacies within the American Dream, Fitzgerald created some of the most distinctively American fiction.
Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald was born September 24, 1896, in St. Paul, Minnesota. His father, Edward Fitzgerald, was a furniture manufacturer, and his mother, Mollie McQuillan Fitzgerald, the daughter of a wealthy St. Paul businessman. After Edward Fitzgerald’s business failed in 1898, he became a wholesale grocery salesman for Procter and Gamble in Buffalo, New York. Edward was transferred to Syracuse, New York, in 1901 (when Scott’s sister Annabel was born) and back to Buffalo in 1903 before losing his job in 1908. The family then returned to St. Paul to live off the money Mollie had inherited from her father.
Edward Fitzgerald, who had cowritten a novel when he was young, read from the works of George Gordon, Lord Byron and Edgar Allan Poe to his son and praised the boy’s attempts at writing, but he hoped that Scott would become an army officer. Mollie did not encourage his literary interests and wanted him to be a successful businessman like her father, to make up for Edward’s failure and to live up to the illustrious ancestors on his father’s side of the family, a long line of wealthy Maryland landowners, politicians, and lawyers. (Francis Scott Key was a distant relative.)
Because Scott’s family believed that he needed discipline, he was sent in 1911 to the Newman School, a Catholic preparatory school in Hackensack, New Jersey. At Newman, Fitzgerald met Father Sigourney Fay, a wealthy intellectual who introduced him to Henry Adams and other well-known literary figures. Fay became the boy’s surrogate father and is the model for Monsignor Darcy in This Side of Paradise (1920).
In 1913, Fitzgerald enrolled at Princeton University. He dreamed of becoming a college football star but did not make the team. He had worked on school publications throughout high school and began writing for the Princeton Tiger , the college humor magazine. He also wrote the books and lyrics for musical productions of the prestigious Triangle Club, and through such literary endeavors he made friends with fellow students Edmund Wilson, who became one of America’s most important critics, and John...
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