Fitzgerald's Life Influence on 'The Sensible Thing'

Categories: F Scott Fitzgerald

1. Introduction

As the Jazz Age roared to life, F. Scott Fitzgerald found himself navigating the turbulent waters of the Roaring Twenties, a time of extravagance, societal shifts, and unrestrained pursuit of wealth. This essay delves into the profound connection between Fitzgerald's personal experiences and his literary oeuvre, with a particular focus on his poignant short story, "The Sensible Thing."

Fitzgerald's life and the era in which he lived were intrinsically linked, and his writing mirrored the tumultuous, materialistic, and socially stratified world of the Roaring Twenties.

To truly appreciate the depths of his literary creations, one must embark on a journey through his life and the prevailing values of his time.

2. Influences from Fitzgerald's Life

Fitzgerald's literary canvas was undeniably painted with the vibrant hues of his own life. The materialistic and free-thinking zeitgeist of the era seeped into his creative wellspring, shaping his narratives. Moreover, his tumultuous relationship with Zelda Sayre mirrored the roller coaster of emotions that coursed through his life.

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After a year and a half of courtship, Fitzgerald's pursuit of financial stability became the key to winning Zelda's hand in marriage, reflecting the materialistic values of the time. The Roaring Twenties, characterized by opulence and excess, beckoned Fitzgerald to secure his place within this world of fleeting pleasures.

Furthermore, Zelda's gradual descent into schizophrenia cast a shadow over Fitzgerald's life, leading him on a journey of constant travel to be by her side. These experiences not only influenced his personal life but also became the foundation for the settings of many of his stories.

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3. Societal Values of the Roaring Twenties

The Roaring Twenties, a period of unparalleled societal change, held money and popularity in the highest regard. Fitzgerald and Zelda were eager participants in this moneyed society, viewing wealth as the gateway to realizing life's promises. In a world characterized by shallowness and vanity, material possessions and social standing took precedence.

For Fitzgerald, mingling at lavish parties and socializing with the wealthy elite became more than social activities; they were strategic moves to enhance his career as a writer, to become a recognized figure among the prosperous "flappers" of his time. In this era, societal values were reflected not only in personal lives but also in the narratives that emerged from it.

4. Contrasting Settings in Fitzgerald's Writings

Fitzgerald's narratives often juxtaposed contrasting settings, emblematic of the dichotomies prevalent in his era. Whether it was the South's glamour and romance versus its poverty and failure or the opulence of the East Egg pitted against the modesty of the West Egg in "The Great Gatsby," setting played a crucial role in conveying these disparities.

Notably, the Midwest setting, depicted as both a geographical and moral anchor in "The Great Gatsby," imbued the protagonist, Nick Carraway, with values of wholesomeness and humility. Fitzgerald utilized these settings as a canvas to explore the tension between different social classes and the impact of geography on character development.

5. Themes in Fitzgerald's Work

Fitzgerald's works consistently grapple with themes that resonated with the era's societal obsessions. The relentless pursuit of wealth and the allure of glamorous living were central motifs in his narratives. His characters, often on the verge of fantasy, were deeply entrenched in the romance of glamour, highlighting society's fixation on material possessions and social status.

Furthermore, Fitzgerald's exploration of tragic and complex topics within the framework of romantic and glamorous lives, as seen in Jay Gatsby's rise, dream, and eventual downfall, became a hallmark of his storytelling. His works delved into the vanities and insecurities that plagued individuals who possessed too much or too little, creating conflicts that drove the narrative.

6. Analysis of "The Sensible Thing"

Within the framework of these themes, "The Sensible Thing" stands as a bittersweet love story, emblematic of the realistic characters of the Roaring Twenties. George O'Kelley, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology graduate working as an insurance clerk, embarks on a journey defined by love and societal expectations.

His relationship with Jonquil Cary, filled with ups and downs, echoes the turbulence of Fitzgerald's own life with Zelda Sayre. George's pursuit of financial stability to win Jonquil's love parallels the materialistic values of the era. However, even when circumstances for marriage become acceptable, the emotional circumstances no longer align, highlighting the theme that "there are all kinds of love in the world, but never the same love twice."

7. Conclusion

F. Scott Fitzgerald's life and literary creations remain indelibly intertwined. His exploration of societal values, the pursuit of wealth, and the complexities of love mirrored the Roaring Twenties. "The Sensible Thing" serves as a poignant reflection of these themes, capturing the essence of an era characterized by extravagance and change. Fitzgerald's legacy endures, as his works continue to resonate with readers, offering a timeless glimpse into the human condition amid the tumultuous backdrop of the Jazz Age.

Updated: Jan 17, 2024
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Fitzgerald's Life Influence on 'The Sensible Thing'. (2016, Jun 22). Retrieved from

Fitzgerald's Life Influence on 'The Sensible Thing' essay
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