F. Scott Fitzgerald
Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald was born
in St. Paul, Minnesota, on September 24, 1896. He was named after the author
of the National Anthem who was a distant cousin. His father, Edward Fitzgerald
was a manufacturer of wicker furniture in St. Paul and his mother, Mary
Mc Quille was the daughter of a wealthy wholesale grocer. When Edward Fitgerald
business failed, he became a salesman for Procter & Gamble in upstate
When his father lost his job, the family returned to St. Paul
and Fitzgerald attended the St. Paul Academy and the Newman, a Catholic
prep school. From there he went to Princeton where he distinguished himself
as a writer. He wrote the scripts and lyrics for the Princeton Triangle
Club musicals and was a contributor to the Princeton Tiger humor
magazine and the Nassau Literary Magazine. His college friends included
Edmund Wilson and John Peale Bishop.
His literary interests took precedent and he neglected his
studies to the point of being placed on probation. This prevented him from
graduating with his class and he joined the army in 1917.
He was commissioned a second lieutenant in the infantry and
was assigned to Camp Sheridan near Montgomery, Alabama. There he fell in
love with a celebrated belle, eighteen-year-old Zelda Sayre, the youngest
daughter of an Alabama Supreme Court judge. The war ended just before he
was to be sent overseas. After his discharge in 1919, he went to New York
City to seek his fortune in order to marry. Unwilling to live on his small
salary, Zelda broke their engagement.
This incident spurred Fitzgerald into writing his first novel,
This Side of Paradise. The book was published in 1920 and brought
him fame. His success made Zelda reconsider and they were married shortly
The couple lived an extravagant life, traveling, and buying
expensive homes in Westport, Connecticut as well as in Great Neck, Long
Island. This type of life distracted Fitzgerald and marred his image as
a serious writer. He began to drink heavily and even though he wrote only
when he was sober, he lost the respect of literary critics.
Fitzgerald's marriage also started to disintegrate and Zelda
began having emotional problems. As her condition worsened, Fitzgerald was
forced to give up more and more of his time. He learned that each breakdown
made her final recovery less likely and his dependence on alcohol increased.
He went to Hollywood in 1937, where he met Sheilah Graham,
a gossip columnist, with whom he lived for the rest of his life. Fitzgerald
worked on various screenplays, but completed only one, THREE COMRADES (1938),
before he was fired because of his drinking.
Fitzgerald died of a fatal heart attack in 1940 at the age
The chief theme of Fitzgerald's work is aspiration--the idealism
he regarded as defining American character. Another major theme was mutability
or loss. As a social historian Fitzgerald became identified with "The
Jazz Age": "It was an age of miracles, it was an age of art, it
was an age of excess, and it was an age of satire."
Fitzgerald wrote The Great Gatsby in France, where
he and his wife and daughter spent most of the last half of the 1920s. The
novel bears almost no resemblance in form to those that had come before.
In Jay Gatsby, Fitzgerald created far more than just another Amory Blaine
seeking his fortune in the world. In his misguided romantic way Gatsby stands
for a deeper malaise in the culture. It typifies a sickness that drives
young men to think that riches can obliterate the past and capture the hearts
of the girls of their dreams.
The reviews for The Great Gatsby were the most favorable so
far. Most notably Gilbert Seldes proclaimed that Fitzgerald has mastered
his talents and gone soaring in a beautiful flight, leaving behind him everything
dubious and tricky in his earlier work, and leaving even further behind
all the men of his own generation and most of his elders. He praises Fitzgerald
's ability to report on a a tiny section of life ... with irony and pity
and a consuming passion, calling the novel passionate ....