"Concerning the Fitzgeralds" was an essay written for American Literature Studies Class in the summer semester of 2008 at Ferris State University. It was written by the Dozerfleet founder as an assignment in which all students were expected to do a little bit of reading up on F. Scott Fitzgerald and his wife, and then report their findings in class.
The full essay is written below, more-or-less as it appeared in class.
Paper on the Fitzgeralds
Fitzgerald and his wife Zelda arose from fortune and success in the early 20’s; and were heavily into leading the mostly Epicurean lifestyle of the times. Both of them were raised Catholic and retained a trace amount of that in their lives even in their older years. According to Encarta Online, Fitzgerald often questioned whether hard work and perseverance were sufficient to obtain the self-betterment, wealth, and success that the American dream promised.
Personally, I believe that what he left out of the equation is morality. A good counter to Fitzgerald that demonstrates the value of morality in the equation would be Edmond Rostund’s version of Cyrano de Bergerac , in which the protagonist willfully gives up possession of the one he loves when he feels he cannot justify the pursuit. Nevertheless, he devotes his life to the betterment of hers and that of her new suitor. While he is overrun by his enemies in the end, who despise him for being incorruptible, he nevertheless gets to live his French equivalent of the American dream.
This insight is all but completely absent from The Great Gatsby, where Gatsby thinks that the possession and pursuit of a love object is the only real way to express that love and must be fulfilled at all costs. Gatsby seems to denounce belief in the American dream being the path to happiness, but fails to distinguish whether or not there can be contentment if one refuses to allow dishonest gain to be a part of the equation of the hard work. Clearly, Gatsby seems to suggest that the only way to obtain anything is through dishonesty, as virtually everyone in the story is having an affair.
Fitzgerald married his wife some time around 1917, when she was only 18 years of age. She soon became the inspiration of most of his female characters. The couple often lived high on the hog, enjoying what they could of their times together during the Jazz Age. They did, however, become self-destructive after the 20’s came to an end.
They eventually moved to the French Riviera and became involved with alcohol, drugs, and excessive parties. This only caused them to self-destruct even faster. After the success of Gatsby, Fitzgerald found himself alienated from the world of publishing after his novel Tender is the Night failed to generate positive reviews. He based it on his wife’s deteriorating mental health, trying to fictionalize and dramatize the event. However, fans of Gatsby were not amused. One of Fitzgerald’s last novels before his death by heart attack in 1944 was The Last Tycoon, which addressed the issues of corruption in Hollywood.
Fitzgerald was known for a few other successes before his death. His novels Afternoon of a Young Man and All the Sad Young Men fared better than his final pieces. He was also known for mild-to-mediocre success with Letters, The Pat Hobby Stories, and This Side of Paradise.
Literary critic Edmund Wilson and novelist John Pearle Bishop are said to have been the greatest inspirations on Fitzgerald’s work. He met both of them while attending a Catholic school a short time before he met Zelda. Zelda would meet him while he was performing military training in Alabama, since he was natively and originally from Minnesota.
All-in-all, the couple lived a life of luxury that was often devoid of direction and seemed empty regardless of what they did to try to infuse meaning into it. Their lives were perhaps even more tragic, in a sense, than their deaths.
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