F. Scott Fitzgerald

Jackson R. Bryer

in American Literature

ISBN: 9780199827251
Published online August 2012 | | DOI:
F. Scott Fitzgerald


Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald (b. 1896–d. 1940), named after his distant relative, the author of “The Star-Spangled Banner,” was born in St. Paul, Minnesota, and educated at private schools there and in the East. He attended Princeton University, dropping out to join the army after the United States entered World War I. While in the service, he began his first novel, This Side of Paradise, which he revised twice before its publication in 1920. It is a highly autobiographical account of its author’s teenage and college years; its frank descriptions of adolescent behavior and its unique literary form brought Fitzgerald literary success and made him and his glamorous young wife, Zelda, celebrities as the prototypical couple of the 1920s and its Jazz Age culture. His second novel, The Beautiful and Damned (1922), which, again partially autobiographically, followed the lives of a young couple through the tumultuous early years of their marriage, was not nearly as successful with the critics and the public as his first had been; but after a failed attempt at writing a play, The Vegetable (1923), he produced in The Great Gatsby (1925) the intricately patterned, poetic, and concise novel that is generally acknowledged as his masterpiece and one of the greatest American works of fiction. Thereafter, he struggled to complete his fourth novel, continuing to write short stories to offset his constant money problems, which were increased in the early 1930s by his wife’s mental illness. When Tender Is the Night appeared in 1934, its focus on wealthy young Americans on the Riviera was not received well by an America struggling through the Great Depression; but increasingly it has come to be regarded as, if not equal to The Great Gatsby, certainly a major literary work. Similarly, some of Fitzgerald’s short stories, which he tended to dismiss as potboilers written to support his often extravagant lifestyle, are now thought to be among the best of that genre. Fitzgerald is admired for the skill and accuracy with which he depicted his era, for the beauty and artistry of his style, and for what his first biographer Arthur Mizener described, in the introduction to Afternoon of an Author (1958), as “the curious way in which he combined the innocence of complete involvement with an almost scientific coolness of observation” (p. 3).

Article.  17288 words. 

Subjects: Literary Studies (American)

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