A Study of the Life and Works of F. Scott Fitzgerald

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About the Life and Work of F. Scott FitzgeraldWriters on Fitzgerald

He had one of the rarest qualities in all literature, and it's a great shame that the word for it has been thoroughly debased by the cosmetic racketeers, so that one is almost ashamed to use it to describe a real distinction. Nevertheless, the word is charm â€" charm as Keats would have used it. Who has it today? It's not a matter of pretty writing or clear style. It's a kind of subdued magic, controlled and exquisite, the sort of thing you get from good string quartettes.

Detective novelist Raymond Chandler on F. Scott Fitzgerald. Selected Letters of Raymond Chandler, Ed. Frank MacShane. New York: Columbia University Press, 1981, p. 239. Quoted in Matthew J. Bruccoli, Some Sort of Epic Grandeur: The Life of F. Scott Fitzgerald, Second Revised Edition. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 2002. Re-read a lot of Scott Fitzgerald's work this week. God, I love that man.

Damn fool critics are forever calling writers geniuses for their idiosyncracies (sic) â€" Hemingway for his reticent dialogue, Wolfe for his gargantuan energy, and so on.

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Fitzgerald's only idiosyncrasy was his pure brilliance. J.D. Salinger, quoted in Richard Anderson, "Gatsby's Long Shadow: Influence and Endurance," New Essays on The Great Gatsby. Ed. Matthew J. Bruccoli. London: Cambridge University Press, p. 31. Repeatedly he disclaims his role as spokesman and symbol of the Jazz Age, but by reflecting upon it from his chosen distance, he tolls its dreadful excesses in his own life, and so finds its meaning in the body of his wrecked career.

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There is gallantry in that. We begin to understand our particular affection for this writer. He lacked armor. He did not live in protective seclusion, as Faulkner. He was not carapaced in self-presentation, as Hemingway. He jumped right into the foolish heart of everything, as he had into the Plaza fountain. He was intellectually ambitious â€" but thought fashion was important, gossip, good looks, the company of celebrities. He wrote as arebel, a sophisticate, an escapee from American provincialism â€" but was blown away by society, like a country bumpkin, and went everywhere he was invited. Ambivalently willed, he lived as both particle and wave. "The test of a first-rate intelligence," he wrote, "is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function." And while he was at his first-rate quantum best, he used everything he knew of society, as critic, as victim, to compose at least one work, The Great Gatsby, that in its few pages arcs the American continent and gives us a perfect structural allegory of our deadly class-ridden longings. E.L. Doctorow, "Introduction," The Jazz Age. New York: New Directions, 1996.

My generation thought of F. Scott Fitzgerald as an age rather than as a writer, and when the economic strike of 1929 began to change the sheiks and flappers into unemployed boys or underpaid girls, we consciously and a little belligerently turned our backs on Fitzgerald.Budd Schulberg, screenwriter who worked on a film with Fitzgerald in his final days, quoted in Ruth Prigozy, "Introduction: Scott, Zelda, and the culture of celebrity," The Cambridge Companion to F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ed. Ruth Prigozy. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2002. p 15.FSF's Contemporaries on Fitzgerald†.if he prefers to paint with startling vividness and virility the jazz aspect of the American scene, why not? Who can do it better â€"or as well? On the other hand, those who view with alarm both our riotous, unheeding young men and young women, their actions and reactions, are inclined to blame the F. Scott Fitzgerald school of fiction as much as the strident social saturnalias of Scotch and sex-consciousness that he chronicles. Roy L. McCardell, "F. Scott Fitzgerald â€" Juvenile Juvenal of the Jeunesse Jazz," Morning Telegraph, November 12, 1922. Reprinted in Conversations with F. Scott Fitzgerald. Ed. Matthew J. Bruccoli and Judith S. Baughman. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2004.

Francis Scott Fitzgerald was the first author to chronicle the younger generation at the moment when youth was becoming supreme and defiant. Pubescence had mushroomed overnight into a powerful factor of every-day existence. A new era was dawning. A new type of girl was being created. This was the beginning of the Flapper Age, an epoch during which the heroine of This Side of Paradise exerted a drastic influence. Her actions, her speech, her manners, her habits and her appearance were under the microscope, and she permeated every phase of life from the schoolroom to politics. When it was learned that the author of This Side of Paradise was a young man in his first year of voting possibility, the amazement of the reading public turned into something like frenzy.

The book became a bestseller in two weeks. Critics raved over the discovery of a new literary personality. Their blurbs on the merits and the depravity of the book were taking up all the space in the daily press. F. Scott Fitzgerald's became a householdname; debutantes dreamed on it, hard-boiled critics foamed at the mouth, college youths and faculty members quarreled, mothers sighed, fathers wept, shop-girls envied and country wenches patterned their conduce along the lines exampled by the heroine of the story â€" in short, something more than a stir was made by the appearance of this incoherent, disconnected, flagellating, first novel which sold into the hundred thousand copies. B.F. Wilson, "Notes on Personalities, IV â€" F. Scott Fitzgerald," the Smart Set, 73 (April 1924), pp. 29-33. Reprinted in Conversations with F. Scott Fitzgerald. Ed. Matthew J. Bruccoli and Judith S. Baughman.Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2004.F. Scott Fitzgerald, who left Princeton when he was twenty-one and wrote a book that made every critic in the country hail him as the interpreter of the youth of the Jazz Age- Who has written dozens of stories about flappers and gin parties and wild dizzy nights maddened by mutedsaxophones â€" Who, at the age of thirty, is certainly the youngest, and possibly the most brilliant, of the younger generation of American authors â€" Acquired the literary ability which provided him with a luxurious room overlooking the vivid green lawns of the Ambassador Hotel, in a very ordinary, but serious manner. He did it by reading books â€" the best books. Gilmore Millen, "Scott Fitzgerald Lays Success to Reading," Los Angeles Evening Herald, January 15, 1927.

Reprinted in Conversations with F. Scott Fitzgerald. Ed. Matthew J. Bruccoli and Judith S. Baughman. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2004.Scholars on FitzgeraldF. Scott Fitzgerald is one of the most recognized figures in American literary and cultural history, not only as one of the major writers of the twentieth century, but also as a man whose life story excites the fascination of a public that knows him primarily as the author of The Great Gatsby. Any study of Fitzgerald's career must trace its familiar trajectory: early success, then public oblivion, and finally posthumous resurrection; had he lived a few years longer, he might have proved the exception to his own belief that there are no second acts in American lives. Fitzgerald's life and work were intertwined from the very beginning; his career spanned one of the most turbulent eras of the century, and from the very start he was part creator, part victim of the new culture of celebrity which accompanied the rise of modern technology. His fame and his marriage coincided, and so today, as in the 1920s, the names of F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald are linked in public perception; indeed, for the last three-quarters of a century they have been indissolubly tied to American popular culture. Ruth Prigozy, "Introduction: Scott, Zelda, and the Culture of Celebrity," The Cambridge Companion to F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ed. Ruth Prigozy. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2002.

Fitzgerald is so central to the American twenties that it would be difficult to picture that time fully had he not existed. Part of his central role has to do with the style with which he responded to his immediate experience, that made him see certain aspects of the life of the twenties as having a stronger actuality than they had for his contemporaries. He named the Jazz Age and was in part a historian of its social surfaces. But The Great Gatsby is central to the literature of the twenties in more than surfaces; in its articulation of modern estrangement, it is in the mainstream of American realism as it emerged after World War I. Robert Emmet Long, The Achieving of The Great Gatsby: F. Scott Fitzgerald, 1920-1925. London: Associated University Presses, 1979. p. 177.The popular image of Fitzgerald, something of a combination of the youthful Byron and the dying Keats, undoubtedly became fused, in many American consciousnesses, with images of his protagonists Amory Blaine, Jay Gatsby, and Dick Diver. How much this confusion reinforced Fitzgerald's literary reputation as a slipshod caretaker of an unfulfilled talent is difficult to assess. Ultimately, it may have led readers to the novels and stories themselves and thus may actually have worked to establish his merit rather than obscure it.

Certainly, this public Fitzgerald has played some part in consolidating in the American consciousness the permanence of Gatsby:both the character Jay Gatsby, whose shadow falls across the face of modern American fiction as does that of no other figure from American literature, and the novel The Great Gatsby, which is admired, emulated, and used as a basis of reference and allusion to an extent only a few works...can claim. The fusion, at some level of the public mind, of F. Scott Fitzgerald and Jay Gatsby â€" mistaken and simplistic though it may be â€" has served to make Gatsby a figure of nostalgic mythologizing with power to stir imaginations that have never encountered the pagesof the novel. Richard Anderson, "Gatsby's Long Shadow: Influence and Endurance," New Essays on The Great Gatsby. Ed. Matthew J. Bruccoli. London: Cambridge University Press, p. 17-18 Characters and Synopsis CHARACTERSThe Saxman, an African American musician Jay Gatsby, 32, a mysterious Romantic Idealist, with a disarming smileDaisy Buchanan, 24, Southern, with a voice that sounds like moneyNick Carraway, 29, Midwestern, with a kind face and gentle manner Tom Buchanan, 30, Daisy's Husband, with a powerful, cruel body Jordan Baker, 22, Southern, Daisy's Friend, with an athletic, almost masculine bodyMeyer Wolfshiem, 60s, a Broadway Character Myrtle Wilson, 35, Tom's Girlfriend, New Yorker, fleshy and sensualGeorge Wilson, 38, Myrtle's Husband, New Yorker, spiritless and anemicActor One (Chester Mckee, Waiter, Soldier, Dancer, Cop) Actor Two (Lucille Mckee, Dancer, Mrs. Michaelis)TIME AND PLACESummer, 1922, Long Island, New YorkSYNOPSISF.

Scott Fitzgerald's Jazz Age tale of a self-made millionaire's romantic quest betrayed by the illusions of the American Dream, Moving the action fluidly from Gatsby's mansion in West Egg to New York City and into the past â€" while the eyes of Dr. T. J. Eckleburg watch over the Valley of Ashes â€"paints a Roaring Twenties world that crackles with vibrancy. We meet Nick Carraway, who has come East from the Middle West to make his fortune in bonds. Nick soon finds himself both an observer and participant in the lives of the rich â€" namely, those of his distant cousin, Daisy Buchanan, and her wealthy, "hulking" husband Tom, with whom Nick graduated from Yale. A visit to the Buchanans' home in East Egg introduces Nick to Daisy's friend Jordan Baker, a golf pro with whom he soon begins a summer romance. Nick also learns that Tom is having an affair, which he witnesses when he accompanies Tom through the Valley of Ashes and into New York City for an alcohol-soaked party.

Nick has rented a cottage in West Egg, next door to a mysterious mansiondweller, Jay Gatsby, who fell in love with Daisy before her marriage, when she was a Louisville debutante and he was a young soldier. Daisy and the possibility she represents is still frozen in time for Gatsby, who has amassed a fortune and keeps his houseconstantly filled with party guests in the all-consuming hope of winning her again. After five years of living across the Sound from the object of his colossal romantic illusion, Gatsby wants Nick to facilitate a reunion. But Gatsby's hopeful vision and recent wealth aren't enough to transcend insurmountable class barriers and the forward march of time. After Gatsby forces Daisy's choice between dream and reality one blisteringly hot summer day at the Plaza Hotel, a violent turn of events sends Tom and Daisy retreating into their old money and "vast carelessness." Nick, the story's central conscience, explains the profound impact of Gatsby's ensuing tragedy: Nick is haunted by "what preyed on Gatsby, what foul dust floated in the wake of his dreams."F. Scott Fitzgerald on The Great Gatsbyl feel old too, this summer â€" I have since the failure of my play [The Vegetable] a year ago. Thats the whole burden of this novel â€" the loss of those illusions that give such color to the world so that you don't care whether things are true or false as long as they partake of the magical glory. Fitzgerald, letter to Ludlow Fowler (a classmate from the Newman School and Princeton), August 1924. From F. Scott Fitzgerald: A Life in Letters. Ed. Matthew J. Bruccoli. New York: Scribner, 1994. pp.78.

I think my novel is about the best American novel ever written. It is rough stuff in places, runs only to about 50,000 words, and I hope you won't shy at it It's been a fair summer. I've been unhappy but my work hasn't suffered from it. I am grown at last. Fitzgerald, letter to Maxwell Perkins, his editor at Scribner's, c. August 27, 1924. From F. Scott Fitzgerald: A Life in Letters. Ed. Matthew J. Bruccoli. New York: Scribner, 1994. p. 80.1 have written a story. It is not about the younger generation. The hero is twenty-nine. Fitzgerald, quoted by John Chapin Mosher, "That Sad Young Man," the New Yorker, 2 (April 17, 1926), pp.20-21. Reprinted in Conversations with F. Scott Fitzgerald. Ed. Matthew J. Bruccoli and Judith S.Baughman. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2004. Now that this book is being reissued, the author would like to say that never before did one try to keep his artistic conscience as pure as during the ten months put into doing it. Reading it over one can see how it could have been improved â€" yet without feeling guilty of any discrepancy from the truth, as far as I saw it; truth or rather the equivalent of the truth, the attempt at honesty of imaginationâ€.But, my God! it was my material, and it was all I had to deal withâ€). The present writer has always been a "natural" for his profession, in so much that he can think of nothing hewould have done as efficiently as to have lived deeply in the world of imagination. F. Scott Fitzgerald, "Introduction," The Great Gatsby, Modern Library Edition (New York: Random House, Inc., 1934). Reprinted in F. Scott Fitzgerald: The Great Gatsby. Ed. Nicolas Tredell. New York: Columbia University Press, 1997, p. 39.F. Scott Fitzgerald and the Middle West: St. Paul rootsF. Scott Fitzgerald was born in St. Paul, Minnesota in 1896.

His family moved away for a time during his childhood, but returned again in 1908; Fitzgerald would spend some of the most formative years of his youth there. He began writing stories and plays while at the St. Paul Academy, and traveled home for visits during his prep school, college, and army years from 1912-1919. It was in his parents' home at 599 Summit Avenue that he finished This Side of Paradise, and he returned to his hometown with Zelda for a time after they were married in 1921-1922, after Paradise had made Scott famous. Many of the Minnesota sites associated with Fitzgerald still survive, and books documenting their whereabouts are cited at the end of this section. Fitzgerald was born in St. Paul on Sept. 24, 1896, and his birthday is celebrated here because the memory of him is so vivid, though the city has never developed him as a tourist attraction. He is our brave romantic among the taciturn Scandinavians, the chronicler of those with vast hopes and not much to base them on, and when you walk under the canopy of elms through his old neighborhood, along Summit and Portland and Laurel and Goodrich Avenues, especially on a fall day, it's easy to imagine him back in the fall of 1919, with no money, living with his parents, desperately rewriting his first novel.

He grew up on these streets, a slight, fairhared boy whose family lived in a series of apartments and row houses on the periphery of great wealth and who developed a "two-cylinder inferiority complex." He wrote, "I spent my youth alternately crawling in front of the kitchen maids and insulting the great." â€. The next three months of his life [the summer of 1919] are part of St. Paul folklore. Whenever old St. Paulites drive past the row houses on Summit, east of Dale, we look up at the third-floor window of 599, where Fitzgeraldlived in his parents' guest room that summer and pinned the chapters of his novel to the curtains and revised them and wrote new scenes. A few blocks away is W.A. Frost's drugstore, now a popular restaurant, where Fitzgerald bought cigarettes and hung out in the evenings. Some evenings, he stopped at Mrs. Porterfield's boardinghouse on Summit and Mackubin and sat on the porch with friends who lived there and talked about books and writing. In September, he sent the new manuscript to Maxwell Perkins at Scribners and got a job at the Northern Pacific shops, repairing car roofs. Two weeks passed. "Then the postman rang, and that day I quit work and ran along the streets, stopping automobiles to tell friends and acquaintances about it â€" my novel This Side of Paradise was accepted for publication. That week the postman rang and rang, and I paid off my terrible small debts, bought a suit, and woke up every morning with a world of ineffable toploftiness and promise. "Garrison Keillor, "Scott Fitzgerald Slept Here, Briefly," The New York Times, Sept. 22, 1996.

In July 1919 F. Scott Fitzgerald moved into the third floor of his parents' home at 599 Summit Avenue in St. Paul. He was twenty-two years old. It was not a hopeful homecoming, for he had made a mess of things at Princeton, where his poor academic scores cost him social and scholastic success, at Camp Sheridan, Alabama, near Montgomery, where he was a hapless infantry lieutenant and the rejected suitor of a young belle named Zelda Sayre, and in New York, where he tried to sell some stories and verse to commercial publications and held down a job in advertising.†Whatever else happened that summer, F. Scott Fitzgerald rewrote his novel†in the process creating This Side of Paradise, a first novel which would establish him as the voice of a generation, provide him with the professional support of the legendary editor Maxwell Perkins and the literary agent Harold Ober for the next twenty years, and make the rest of his career, both its brilliance and its pathos, possible, if not inevitable. Most importantly to the twenty-two-year-old author, it would allow him to marry Zelda Sayre. 599 Summit Avenue is recognizably the same structure now that it was in 1919, a handsome row house of red stone.

A plaque stands outside to let the curious know something of the eventual literary great who inhabited its third floor. One can pause on the sidewalk in front and look up at the belvedere where Fitzgerald crawled out to take the air and gaze down the broad avenue that summer during breaks from writing. Fitzgerald sometimes worked in 15-hour stints, subsisting on cigarettes for stimulation. He pinned chapter outlines carefully to the curtains of his room. â€. He was without money. His parents refused to offer him an allowance, but stayed out of his way, and tacitly conspired in his enterprise. In the evenings he hung out with another literary aspirant, Donald Ogden Stewart, destined to become a popular humorist, who took a room at Porterfield's boardinghouse at 513 Summit Avenue. On the porch there, Fitzgerald, Stewart, and the headmaster of the St. Paul Academy, John De Quedville Briggs jawed about literature, and Fitzgerald could bend his friends' ears about the novel in progress.

He also borrowed change for Coca-Cola and cigarettes from his friend Tubby Washington, when they strolled up to W.A. Frost's pharmacy on Selby Avenue. Kate Moos, "1919: Saint Paul, Minnesota," Fitzgerald: A Commemorative Publication. Minneapolis: Primarius Limited Publishing, Sept. 1996.F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote that the rich are different from you and me. This observation, with its mixture of envy, awe, admiration, and cynicism, succinctly expressed his own attitude, an attitude formed in St. Paul where he grew up on the fringe of the city's most elegant residential area. His parents, Edward and Mary ("Mollie") McQuillan Fitzgerald, were comfortable, but they were not rich by the standards of Summit Avenue, the most prestigious street in the city. Like their houses, the Fitzgeralds stood a little at the edge of society: they occupied a slightly precarious social position and possessed a certain genteel shabbiness.... The elder Fitzgeralds did not mingle in society, but Mollie saw to it that Scott met the right people. He was enrolled in the dancing class and prep school to which St. Paul's elite sent their children.

He became part of the group which was invited to dances at Summit Avenue homes, patronized the University Club, and sailed and swam at the White Bear Yacht Club.John J. Koblas, F Scott Fitzgerald: His Homes and Haunts. St. Paul: Minnesota Historical Society Press, 1978It is still possible to revisit the streets of Fitzgerald's St. Paul. With a little imagination, one can re-create in fancy how these neighborhoods looked when F. Scott Fitzgerald was young. Elegant homes, almost unaltered by time, still adorn the picturesque bluff overlooking the Mississippi River Valley, and the seemingly alien world of the modern city stretches out below like an immense carpet. In the midst of these buildings of a bygone era one can hear the whispering voices of yesterday, when a boy wore Eton collars, rode the electric streetcars to White Bear Lake, and dreamed of being a famous writer.

A walk through the streets of Fitzgerald's St. Paul allows one to recapture, for a little while, the past of the early twentieth century, gain insights into the young author's world, and sense the ambience and the ambivalence that he recorded so well. John J. Koblas, F Scott Fitzgerald: His Homes and Haunts. St. Paul: Minnesota Historical Society Press, 1978In a house below the averageOn a street above the averageln a room below the roofWith a lot above the ears shall write Alida Bigelow.... Scribner has accepted my book. Ain't I smart! Fitzgerald's famous description of 599 Summit Ave. in St. Paul, where he finished his breakout novel This Side of Paradise, written in a letter to a friend at Smith College. For more information on Fitzgerald-related sites in St. Paul, see:John J. Koblas, F. Scott Fitzgerald in Minnesota: His Homes and Haunts. St. Paul: Minnesota Historical Society Press, 1978.Dave Page and John Koblas, F. Scott Fitzgerald in Minnesota: Toward the Summit. St. Cloud: North Star Press of St. Cloud, 1996.Money and social class: Gatsby and Fitzgeraldâ€TMs experiencePoor boys shouldn't think of marrying rich girls. Fitzgerald, F. Scott Fitzgerald's Ledger: A Facsimile. Washington, D.C.: A Bruccoli Clark Book, 1972, 170. Quoted in F. Scott Fitzgerald in Minnesota: Toward the Summit, David Page and John Koblas. St. Cloud: North Star Press, 1996. p. 85.Jimmy Gatz/Jay Gatsby confuses the values of love with the buying power of money. He is sure that with money he can do anything â€"even repeat the past.

Despite his prodigious faith in money, Gatsby does not know how it works in society and cannot comprehend the arrogance of the rich who have been rich for generations. As a novelist of manners Fitzgerald was fascinated by class stratification, which he perceived from a privileged outsider's angle. Matthew J. Bruccoli, Some Sort of Epic Grandeur: The Life of F. Scott Fitzgerald. Second Revised Edition. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 2002. pg. 219-220.Jay Gatsby is not using Daisy. He strives to move in higher circles because Daisy is there. Of course, in doing so, he violates a cultural norm. He tries to buy into tradition instead of accepting one. Social convention and time triumph. The wearing away of freedom and the impossibility of realizing the only dreams that make life worth living are the themes of The Great Gatsby.

The absence of great love is more painful because the sense of possibility money provides is so ambient in Gatsby's world. Again, because the dream is unrealizable, the past becomes increasingly important to the book, for it is in memories that the dream can live. Roger Lewis, "Money, Love and Aspiration in The Great Gatsby," New Essays on The Great Gatsby. Ed. Matthew J. Bruccoli. London: Cambridge University Press, p. 54. That was always my experience-a poor boy in a rich town; a poor boy in a rich boy's school; a poor boy in a rich man's club at Princeton.... However, I have never been able to forgive the rich for being rich, and it has colored my entire life and works.Fitzgerald, from a 1938 letter to Anne Ober (wife of Fitzgerald's literary agent, Harold Ober). F. Scott Fitzgerald: A Life in Letters, Ed. Matthew J. Bruccoli. New York: Scribners, 1994. pg. 352. During a long summer of despair I wrote a novel instead of letters, so it came out all right, but it came out all right for a different person.

The man with the jingle of money in his pocket who married the girl a year later would always cherish an abiding distrust, and animosity, toward the leisure class â€" not the conviction of a revolutionist but the smoldering hatred of a peasant. In the years since then I have never been able to stop wondering where my friends' money came from, nor to stop thinking that at one time a sort of droit de seigneur might have been exercised to give one of them my girl. For sixteen years I lived pretty much as this latter person, distrusting the rich, yet working for money with which to share their mobility and the grace that some of them brought into their lives. F. Scott Fitzgerald, remembering the summer of 1919 in St. Paul, during which he finished This Side of Paradiseâ€"the novel that enabled him to marry Zelda Sayre. "Pasting it Together," My Lost City: Personal Essays, 1920-1940. Ed. James L.W. West III. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2005. p. 147. Let me tell you about the very rich. They are different from you and me.

They possess and enjoy early, and it does something to them, makes them soft where we are hard, and cynical where we are trustful, in a way that, unless you were born rich, it is very hard to understand. They think, deep in their hearts, that they are better than we are because we had to discover the compensations and refuges of life for ourselves. Even when they enter deep into our world or sink below us, they still think they are better than we are. They are different. From Fitzgerald's short story, "The Rich Boy." The Stories of F. Scott Fitzgerald, Introduced by Malcolm Cowley. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1951. p. 177.In his boyhood F. Scott Fitzgerald sometimes told the story that as an infant he had been left on his parents' doorstep, wrapped in a blanket bearing the royal name Stuart. He had, in fact, been born to his own parents, Edward and Mollie Fitzgerald, on September 24, 1896, in the city of St. Paul, Minnesota. But the story is in a certain sense true, insofar as it reveals his imaginative origins as a fairy-tale prince who has somehow, wrongly, been given the social garments of a middle-class youth. This foundling fantasy persisted throughout Fitzgerald's career.

It can be seen in "Absolution," in the young boy's disbelief that he is the son of his middleclass parents, and even at the very end, in the unfinished novel The Last Tycoon, in Monroe Stahr's assumption of an earthly princehood, as he descends from the heavens to the "warm darkness" of the Hollywood dream capital. In boyhood dreams began a commitment to romantic largness that was to lead Fitzgerald to his exploration of the American dream in The Great Gatsby. Robert Emmet Long, The Achieving of The Great Gatsby: F. Scott Fitzgerald, 1920-1925. London: Associated University Presses, 1979. p. 9.Fitzgerald lived in his great moments, and lived in them again when he remembered their drama; but he also stood apart from them and coldly reckoned their causes and consequences.

That is his doubleness or irony and it is one of his distinguishing marks as a writer. He took part in the ritual orgies of his time, but he also kept a secretly detached position, regarding himself as a pauper living among millionaires, a Celt among Sassenachs and a sullen peasant among the nobility; he said that his pint of vantage "was the dividing line between two generations," prewar and postwar. Always he cultivated a double vision. In his novels and stories he was trying to present the glitter of life in the Princeton eating clubs, on the North Shore of Long Island, in Hollywood and on the French Riviera; he surrounded his characters with a mist of admiration, and at the same time he kept driving the mist away....

It was as if all his stories described a big dance to which he had taken, as he once wrote, the prettiest girl...and as if at the same time he stood outside the ballroom, a little Midwestern boy with his nose to the glass, wondering how much the tickets cost and who paid for the music. But it was not a dance he was watching so much as it was a drama of conflicting manners and aspirations in which he was both the audience and the leading actor. Malcolm Cowley, "Introduction," The Stories of F. Scott Fitzgerald. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1951. p. xiv.

Updated: Nov 01, 2022
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