Scott Fitzgerald


Scott Fitzgerald Essay, Research Paper

F. Scott Fitzgerald is in many ways one of the most important American writers

of the twentieth century. In his first novel, This Side of Paradise, Fitzgerald

epitomized the mindset of an era with the statement that his generation had,

?grown up to find all Gods dead, all wars fought, and all faiths in man

shaken??(Fitzgerald 307). Aside from being a major literary voice of the

twenties and thirties, Fitzgerald was also among ?The Lost Generation?s?

harshest and most insightful social critics. In his classic novel The Great

Gatsby, Fitzgerald blatantly criticized the immorality, materialism, and

hedonism which characterized the lifestyles of America?s bourgeois during the

nineteen-twenties. Collectively, Fitzgerald?s novels and short stories provide

some of the best insight into the lifestyles of the rich during America?s most

prosperous era, while simultaneously examining major literary themes such as

disillusionment, coming of age, and the corruption of the American Dream. The

life of F. Scott Fitzgerald is marked by as much, if not more, romanticism and

tragedy than his novels. Throughout Fitzgerald?s life, he unsuccessfully

battled alcoholism, depression, and himself, in a quest for both personal and

literary identity. At the age of twenty-three, Fitzgerald published his first

novel, This Side of Paradise, to critical raves and unimaginable economic

success. Shortly after the publishing of this novel, Fitzgerald was able to

coerce Zelda Sayre into marriage. This marriage is manifestly the most

significant event of his life?eventually, Zelda would not only expedite, but

essentially, cause the personal and literary downfall of Fitzgerald. Upon

marriage, and also coinciding with the pinnacle of Fitzgerald?s fame, Scott

and Zelda began living a life of wasteful extravagance that was often

characterized by recklessly drunken behavior. In order to maintain this

lifestyle, Fitzgerald was forced to put aside working on novels, and focus his

creative efforts on penning lucrative, but by no means extraordinary, short

stories. Throughout their marriage, Zelda put constant economic, as well as,

emotional strains on Fitzgerald. She encouraged his short story writing, as well

as his drinking, and was continually swaying his focus from writing to

socializing. Also, Zelda?s eventual mental breakdown triggered Scott?s own

series of nervous breakdowns. Because of these factors, Zelda is often

considered the prime instigator of Fitzgerald?s literary and personal

declines. Yet in spite of Zelda?s overtly negative influence on Fitzgerald, he

continued to love his wife to the day he died. Later in life, after Zelda became

mentally ill, Fitzgerald clearly illustrated his unconditional love for his wife

by compromising his artistic integrity in order to write short stories to

support her medical expenses. Aside from Zelda, two major American literary

figures played a substantial role in Fitzgerald?s life, and his personal

decline as well. On an extended trip to Europe, and at the pinnacle of his fame,

Fitzgerald met and became acquainted with a then obscure fellow expatriate named

Ernest Hemmingway. Throughout the course of their friendship, Hemmingway would

become Fitzgerald?s harshest critic, and in the eyes of Fitzgerald, his,

?artistic conscience?(Meyers 263). The second major American literary figure

who influenced Fitzgerald?s life was Edgar Allen Poe. Fitzgerald?s intrigue

with both the tragic and romantic elements of Poe?s life, as well as the many

similarities these two men shared, may have very well facilitated his plunge

into the unforgiving abysses of alcoholism and depression. Jeffrey Meyers?

biography Scott Fitzgerald provides a complete and seemingly unbiased account of

the life of one of the most complex men in American literary history. Whereas

previous biographies tended to over-exaggerate either the romantic or tragic

elements of Fitzgerald?s life, Scott Fitzgerald does not in any way attempt to

emphasize these aspects. Rather, this biography offers a strait-forward

interpretation of both the life and works of Fitzgerald. It illustrates the

importance of his relationships with Zelda Sayre and Ernest Hemmingway; the

mentally and physically destructive influence of his alcoholism; and the

parallels between his life and his writings. Through these facets, and many

others, Meyers provides insight into Fitzgerald?s life, without forcing his

own opinion of the subject upon the reader. Personally, I found Scott Fitzgerald

to be both insightful and interesting. Compared to other Fitzgerald biographies

that I have read, Meyers? biography was clearly the least biased and the most

strait-forward. In terms of literary style, I found this biography very pleasing

to read. Meyers? deftly wove primary quotes, his own prose, and excerpts of

Fitzgerald?s writing into a coherent and thought provoking portrayal of a very

complex man. To all fans of F. Scott Fitzgerald, I recommend this biography

strongly, but to those who don?t know the difference between Scott and Ella

Fitzgerald, I recommend this biography with reservation.

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