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Author Study: F. Scott Fitzgerald Curated by Leslie Huang '20

An insightful look into the life and accomplishments of a famous author from the Lost Generation, F.Scott Fitzgerald.

CONTEXT & BACKGROUND

Born in Saint Paul, Minnesota on September 24, 1896, Fitzgerald was named after his deceased sister, Louise Scott Fitzgerald. In one of his narrative essays, Fitzgerald recounts the fact that three months prior to his birth, his mother lost her other children — “I think I started then to be a writer,” Fitzgerald observes.

Fitzgerald spent the first half of his childhood primarily in New York where his academies — Holy Angel Convent and then Nardin Academy — first noticed that the boy had a keen early interest in literature. When Fitzgerald’s father was fired, the family moved back to Minnesota where Fitzgerald attended St.Paul Academy. In 1909, at the age of 13, Fitzgerald published his first piece of writing in the school newspaper — a short detective story. Two years later, his parents sent him to New Jersey to attend the prep school, Newman School. Fitzgerald participated in football and it wasn’t until after he met Father Sigourney Fay that he was encouraged to pursue literature.

1917 Princeton Yearbook, The Bric-A-Brac

https://twitter.com/venetianblonde/status/846002631462019073

 

After graduating from Newman School, Fitzgerald attended Princeton University to continue his pursuit of his literary ambitions. During his time at Princeton, Fitzgerald spent the majority of his time writing for the school and eventually submitted a draft novel to Scribners where the publisher praised his writing but still ultimately rejected the book. As Fitzgerald spent more time on his literary works, he began to neglect other aspects of his studies. His poor performance in school eventually lead to his academic probation and Fitzgerald had been unlikely to graduate. In response to his probation, Fitzgerald promptly dropped out and joined the army.

https://www.pinterest.com/pin/388435536586101841/?lp=true

https://www.pinterest.com/pin/566327721865126586/?lp=true

HISTORICAL CONTEXT 

WORLD WAR I

Fitzgerald joined the army around the same time that World War I started, which meant that there was a high possibility that he wouldn’t make it back alive. Worried that he would die in war without achieving his literary dreams, Fitzgerald rushed to draft up his novel, The Romantic Egoist, before he reported to duty. He submitted this draft to Scribners where it was rejected. However, the reviewer noted Fitzgerald’s talents and encouraged him to submit again once the draft was revised.

 

https://www.worldwar1centennial.org/index.php/communicate/press-media/wwi-centennial-news/3045-why-did-america-enter-world-war-i.html​

 

Fitzgerald continued to work on his novel during his time in the army, but when he submitted the revised draft to Scribers, his work was, once again, rejected.

After Fitzgerald was discharged from the army in 1919, he unsuccessfully went to New York to find a stable job in attempt to provide for his fiancé, Zelda Sayre. Fitzgerald quit his job in July of 1919 and rewrote The Romantic Egoist as This Side of Paradise, and his novel was finally accepted by Scribners to be published. 

ROARING '20s

Fitzgerald’s most notable book, The Great Gatsby, was published just as the 1920s began to roar hence the themes of excess luxury and wealth shown in Gatsby’s parties, as well as the superficial nature of individuals during this time. However, the book had many prophetic symbols that tied the novel to the Great Depression. In the 20s, the most valuable asset to man was wealth, which in The Great Gatsby was Daisy for Gatsby and Myrtle for Tom. In addition, Myrtle eventually perishes in a car crash which was thought to be similar to the stock market crash of 1929. This is not saying that Fitzgerald predicted the Great Depression, but it is important to note that the book had similar ideas as the historical event.

 

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/business/2017/01/18/trump-will-carry-wall-street-giddy-heights-1920s-fantastic-crash/​

 

THE JAZZ AGE

Additionally, Fitzgerald is widely credited to have coined the term the “Jazz Age” which essentially, was in the same time frame as the roaring 20s. Fitzgerald was regarded as to have coined the term because he used it in the title of his 1922 short story collection, Tales of the Jazz Age. This was an era where jazz music and dance styles gained rapid popularity.

 

https://brewminate.com/the-jazz-age-redefining-the-nation-1919-1929/

 


POLITICAL INFLUENCE

Fitzgerald’s friends generally maintain that Fitzgerald knew nothing about politics and rarely engaged himself in political matters. It is noteworthy that Fitzgerald, at one point, was interested in communism and was only understanding of political issues in his final years. However, it is unclear of whether or not Fitzgerald explicitly considered himself to be a communist.


CULTURAL BACKGROUND 

CATHOLIC UPBRINGING

Fitzgerald was brought up in a Catholic household but he was not explicitly religious. However, some of the characters in his books are Catholic, such as Daisy in The Great Gatsby.


"I am ashamed to say that my Catholicism is scarcely more than a memory." 

- F. Scott Fitzgerald.


THE JAZZ AGE AND THE '20s

Themes of the Jazz Age reoccur throughout Fitzgerald’s novels and short stories, such as The Great Gatsby and Tales of the Jazz Age. Additionally, the culture of luxury in the '20s shaped Fitzgerald's way of action during that time period and he often indulged himself in the behavior of most wealthy people in that era.

 

https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2016/03/07/it-girls-of-the-jazz-age

IRISH AND ENGLISH ANCESTRY

Fitzgerald’s father was of Irish and English ancestry and his mother was the daughter of an Irish immigrant. Fitzgerald’s upbringing perhaps made him critical of American culture, especially shown in The Great Gatsby, which has a major overarching question of the American Dream and how his characters are achieving them. However, his works do not contain much of Irish culture despite his ancestry.