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Francis Scott Fitzgerald & His American Dream Research Paper

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Updated: Nov 13th, 2021


Francis Scott Fitzgerald is a renowned American writer of the Jazz Age. He wrote about the disconcerting time in which he lived, where people were either rich or dreamt of wealth. Just like the majority of Americans, Fitzgerald could not resist the urge of wealth accumulation; unfortunately, this quest brought misery and devastation.

Fitzgerald’s life is an example of both sides of the American Dream: the joys of young love, wealth and success, and the tragedies associated with success and failure. His prodigious literary voice and style provide remarkable insight into the lifestyles of the rich and famous, as well as himself.

Early Life

Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald was born in “St. Paul, Minnesota, the U.S. on 24 September 1896 (Edward 5). His father, Edward, was a nobleman from Maryland. Francis’ mother, Mary McQuillan, came from a wealthy background. Fitzgerald first attended St. Paul Academy, in 1908-1910, before joining the Newman School, a Catholic preparatory school in New Jersey, in 1911-1913.

His dreams of fame came close to reality later in 1917 at Princeton University, where he became a member of the prominent Princeton Triangle Drama Club. Fitzgerald made a significant contribution to the club, by writing scripts and lyrics for the club’s music, and contributed to The Princeton Tiger Humor Magazine and the Nassau Literary Magazine(Broom 65).

Fitzgerald struggled with his academics and finally dropped out of the college of Princeton and joined the army in November 1917, where he was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the junior team. Fitzgerald “fell in love with Zelda Sayre, the youngest daughter of an Alabama Supreme Court Judge while in Camp Sheridan, near Montgomery, where he had been assigned, in June 1918” (Curnutt 96).
He had grand hopes of marrying Zelda Sayre, who was eighteen years old then, in a few years (Bryer and Barks 36). After discharge from the army, in 1919, he involved himself in advertisement work, in New York, to in a bid to get money for marriage.

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In July 1919, Fitzgerald quit from advertisement work and engaged in writing the novel “This Side of Paradise,” which made Zelda famous almost overnight on 26 March 1920 as one of the characters in his publication (Donaldson 56). They had a reunion and had a marriage a week later in New York, where they got on as young celebrities with expensive living.

His wife Zelda became pregnant during his summertime in Westport, where he was writing his second novel, and they had the first trip to Europe in 1921 before settling in St. Paul for the birth of their only child, Frances Scott, in October 1921 (Prigozy 96).

Literary Career

The literary works of Fitzgerald include the novel “This Side of Paradise” that he begun in Princeton. He wrote the book after breaking with fiancée Zelda Sayre and returning to St. Paul, Minnesota. The inspiration for writing this novel was to highlight both sides of youth in the U.S., morality, and immorality.

The novel was published in 1920, which made him famous. Within no time, Fitzgerald could make publication in prominent literary magazines like Scribner and other high paying popular publications, which included The Saturday Evening Post.

“The Beautiful and Damned” was his second novel, which he wrote in New York City, where he had rented an apartment after riotous summer in Westport, Connecticut. The book gives a picture of the immoderation of the Eastern Elite, during the Jazz age, through the characters Anthony and Gloria Patch, who end up to carefree life, as they wait for the young man to inherit wealth. The novel, a collection of short stories, “Tales of Jazz Age” in 1922, sold remarkably well, and Fitzgerald rented a house on Long Island.

Fitzgerald went to Europe for over two years, where he made publication “The Great Gatsby” in 1925 and began companionship with Ernest Hemingway of Scott. His first movie assignment was in 1927 in Hollywood and afterward went abroad several times. “Tender Is the Night” was his other novel based on his wife, Zelda, who had a main nervous breakdown in 1930 and her treatment in a Swiss Clinic. It describes his futile fight to save their marriage.

The novel describes his failure to marriage through the description of a psychiatrist, who gets used up after marrying one of his patients and exerting his vitality on her. “Tender is the Night” expresses Fitzgerald’s downright hopelessness and struggle caused by depression and Zelda’s sickness.

Critical Review

His fellow authors Ring Lardner and Ernest Hemingway, were critics of his first novel, “This Side of Paradise,” who appreciated his work (Eble 84). The book brings out the theme of romantic egoism, which he uses to enlighten his fellow America’s youths. The understanding of this novel, though outdated in the current generation, is that money should not be the only factor to determine love.

In the novel “Tender is the Night,” Fitzgerald describes the society in Riviera where he and his family had moved to live after his misfortune of late inheritance. They had joined a group of wealthy American expatriates whose life was profoundly influenced by Gerald and Sarah Murphy.

This gives a description of his struggles due to depression and economic failure in a bid to save his marriage. Following the challenges in life, Fitzgerald became an alcoholic (Canterbury and Birch 17). In real life, people have cases or even indulge themselves in irresponsible behavior because of marital problems and financial failure in a bid to avoid stress and depression.

“The Beautiful and Damned” novel was criticized by his friend Edmund Wilson and editor Marx Perkins who made the editorial suggestion (West 29). The book brings out social concerns of the quest for the status quo, through the life of Anthony and his wife Gloria, whose main work was to go down into laziness and alcoholism, while Antony awaits inheritance. Fitzgerald’s sluggish background affected his spending, which led him to deteriorate to a middle class, as he expected inheritance. They moved to Riviera to escape the misfortune.

Later in Life

Fitzgerald was despaired, by failure to save his marriage, and became an addict to alcohol. Nonetheless, he managed to secure a job as a scriptwriter in Hollywood in 1937. It was during this time Fitzgerald fell in love with Sheila Graham, whom they lived peacefully despite his moments of bitterness and violence due to alcoholism. He occasionally traveled to the east to visit Zelda or his daughter Frances. He finally wrote, “The Last Tycoon” in October 1939 based on renowned Hollywood producer, Irving Thalberg.

Analysis of the Themes

The Great Gatsby brings the theme of social standing through Gatsby, who spends his whole life to attain financial and social status in life. The desire to win Daisy back and achieve a social status motivated him to move to West Egg and make money by any necessary means. This shows his determination in life to reach a specific position in life through hard work.

Contrastingly, Daisy and Tom bring the theme of misuse of their position to despise others and lead an extravagant life, through Nick Caraways’ story. Jay Gatsby is a farmer’s son who turns a fraudster, due to his romantic illusion about the power of money to win wealthy Daisy. This story reveals a change in culture and lifestyles amongst the Americans. This helps to bring out heartlessness and immorality of the prosperous American society of the 1920s.

Economically there was an increase in the stock market, and the rich spent a lot of money on parties. This wave of prosperity is symbolized, in World War 1, whose fatal mission, and violent death, explains the collapse of the era and beginning of disillusionment, with the American dream of prosperity. The difference between “Gatsby’s dream, vision, and reality are prominent themes of the quest for social classes” (Prigozy 63).

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In this novel, Fitzgerald uses figurative language to bring out his theme. Excessive images bring out idealism and illusion. The green light, which shines off daisy clock, shows the birth of a dream that, in the future, may not be a reality. Bright sunlight represents wealth and good scenes, as well as corruption and moral decay.

The author also uses personification when he says, “the sun smiled” to the children to depict the perspective of children towards the American Dream. The irony is noticeable in the party’s scene, and in Jordan’s observation in her assessment of Gatsby’s party, that to her seems small contrasting to the big parties she likes. The drunk scene in which Daisy destroys a letter from Gatsby and marries Tom the next day is central to irony (F. Scott 58).The theme of this story is the American dream that brings out moral corruption, deception, and delusion.

Fitzgerald’s Lifestyle: My Impression

Fitzgerald’s lifestyle makes an impression of my life’s quest for prosperity. His life is portrayed with struggles from the death of his noble father to his death. In spite of him be a robust literary legend, he had a battle in his academics that led him to join the army where he met the love of his love, Zelda. Later in life, he struggled to maintain his marriage after his wife succumbed to sickness. Fitzgerald became an alcoholic to overcome the stress and depression that made him have struggles in his work life.

Despite his struggles in life, Fitzgerald had exceptional talent in literature and became a prominent literary figure in the university. His notable works include five novels, and numerous publications are still inspiring to date. In his social life, he was unpopular to the other students due to his immense enthusiasm in life.

He became a prominent member of the Triangle club in pursuit of his ambitions and had a lifelong relationship with Edmund Wilson and John Peale. Fitzgerald was in love with Zelda Sayre that made him work hard to maintain the relationship due to his dismal financial income. His wife, Zelda, is used, in his novels, to bring out themes of the quest for the status quo. “The Lost Paradise” is a story after their breakup before their marriage because of his low income.

Further Research

In the second novel, “The Beautiful and Damned,” her wife is portrayed as less understanding as to the two collapses into middle age life as they awaited him to inherit wealth and become rich.

The third novel, “Tender is the Night,” describes his struggle to maintain his marriage due to his failure over Zelda. “The Great Gatsby” is a novel, which describes how Fitzgerald spends the rest of his life struggling to work to maintain his marriage. His last book, The Last Tycoon, was incomplete by the time of his death, and his wife had returned to her matrimonial home.

Conclusively, Fitzgerald is a great writer with his novels and short stories having a substantial impact on addressing socioeconomic issues in the current life. His stories address the issues of social classes in society and the way the rich take advantage of the poor. He brings out the theme of the status quo- who should provide in a family.

Works Cited

Broom, Harold. F. Scott Fitzgerald. London: Chelsea House Publications, 1999. Print.

Bryer, Jackson, and Cathy Barks. Dear Scott, Dearest Zelda: The Love Letters of F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2002. Print.

Canterbury, Ray, and Thomas Birch. F. Scott Fitzgerald: Under the Influence. St. Paul: Paragon House, 2006. Print.

Curnutt, Kirk. A Historical Guide to F. Scott Fitzgerald, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004. Print.

Donaldson, Scott. Critical Essays on F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. Boston, MA: G.K. Hall, 1984. Print.

Eble, Kenneth. F. Scott Fitzgerald: A Collection Of Criticism. New York: Mcgraw-Hill, 1973. Print.

Edward, Rielly. F. Scott Fitzgerald: A Biography. Westport: Greenwood Press, 2005. Print.

Prigozy, Ruth. The Cambridge Companion To F. Scott Fitzgerald. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002. Print.

West, James. The Question Of Vocation In This Side Of Paradise And The Beautiful And Damned. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002. Print.

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