F. Scott Fitzgerald: Contribution as American Author

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      Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald (1896-1940), was born in St. Paul, Minnesota and he grew up in the outskirts of the upper class life that he identified himself as a target of his endeavor. His education was significantly both that of public school and of the private school. While very young, he was introduced to very sophisticated life to travel and the ways of the rich who are different from ‘you and me’. He attended Princeton where in he became a close friend of Edmund Wilson and contributed to the literary magazine. In 1917, he left college to join army and he never completed his work for his degree. Low grades and illness spoiling his political chances in Princeton, he contributed to his eagerness to share the war glamour of the young soldier abroad. However, he was never sent overseas. His life almost resembles a fairy tale.

      During World War I, Fitzgerald enlisted in the U.S. Army and fell in love with a rich and beautiful girl, Zelda Sayre, who lived near Montgomery, Alabama, where he stationed. In her, he found “the golden girl” who epitomized for him the romantic and charming world of his adolescent vision. Zelda broke off their engagement because he was relatively poor. After the discharge at war’s end, he went to seek his literary fortune in New York in order to marry her. His first novel, This Side of Paradise (1920), became a best seller, and at 24, they married. Neither of them was able to withstand the stresses of success and fame, and they squandered their money. They moved to France to economize in 1924 and returned seven years later. Zelda became mentally unstable and had to be institutionalized.

      Fitzgerald’s securing a high place in American literature rests primarily on his novel The Great Gatsby (1925), a brilliantly written, economically structured story about the American dream of the self-made man. In his fictional art and achievement, he is, no doubt, equal to the great romantic novelist Nathaniel Hawthorne.

      In The Great Gatsby, the narrator Nick Carraway rents a cottage in West Egg, Long Island, next door to the mansion of Jay Gatsby and across the water from the home of Tom Buchanan and his wife Daisy, Carraways’s cousin. Gatsby’s mansion is the scene of extravagant nightly parties, attended by many people who are uninvited and do not their host. Carraway, both cynical and curious about Gatsby, soon becomes his confidante. He learns that Gatsby had met Daisy while he was in the army. However, she had grown impatient for him to return and had married Tom a rich though boring man from Yale. Having risen from his lowly origins as Jimmy Gatz through dubious business deals, Gatsby is obsessed with winning Daisy back. He persuades Carraway to arrange a meeting between them, and Daisy, after a initial resistance, succumbs to her former lover’s generous attention, impressed by his newly acquired wealth.

      Tom, Daisy, Gatsby, Carraway and Carraway’s girlfriend, Jordan Baker, spend a day together in New York. Tom, who himself had a long-standing affair with Myrtle Wilson, the wife of a Long Island garage owner, becomes aware of Daisy’s attentions to Gatsby. Gatsby tries to convince Daisy to leave Tom, who, in turn, tries to discredit Gatsby by revealing that he had made money by from bootlegging. Gatsby and Daisy leave in Tom’s automobile, with Daisy driving. Myrtle Wilson, recognizing the car, as it passes her husband's garage, runs Out into the street and is hit and killed by Daisy, who drives on. Taking revenge on Gatsby, Tom tells Wilson that it was Gatsby who lulled his wife, and Gatsby, attempting to protect Daisy, let the blame fall on himself. Wilson murders Gatsby and commits suicide. Carraway is left to arrange Gatsby’s funeral, which hardly anyone attends, and Tom and Daisy retreat ‘back into their money or their vast carelessness, or whatever it was that kept them together. In the novel, the protagonist, the mysterious Jay Gatsby, discovers the devastating cost of material success in terms of personal fulfillment and love.

      Other fine works include Tender Is the Night (1934) about a young psychiatrist whose life is doomed by his marriage to unstable women, and some stories in the collections Flappers and Philosophers (1920), Tales of the Jazz Age (1922), and All the Sad Young Men (1926). More than any other writer, Fitzgerald captured the glittering, desperate life of the 1920s. This Side of Paradise was heralded as the voice of modem American youth. His second novel, The Beautiful and the Damned (1922), continued his exploration of the self-destructive extravagance of his times. Fitzgerald’s special qualities include a dazzling style perfectly suited to his theme of seductive glamour. A famous section from The Great Gatsby masterfully summarizes a long passage of time: “There was music from my neighbor’s house through the summer nights. In his blue gardens, men and girls came and went like moths among the whisperings and the champagne and the stars.” Fitzgerald himself became an alcoholic and died young still as a movie screenwriter.

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