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F. Scott Fitzgerald

F. Scott Fitzgerald F. Scott Fitzgerald[2†]

F. Scott Fitzgerald, born as Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald, was an American short-story writer and novelist who rose to prominence as a chronicler of the Jazz Age, a term he himself coined[1†][2†]. Born on September 24, 1896, in Saint Paul, Minnesota[1†][2†], Fitzgerald is best known for his depictions of the 1920s, with his most brilliant novel being “The Great Gatsby” (1925)[1†][2†].

His private life, with his wife, Zelda, in both America and France, became almost as celebrated as his novels[1†]. Fitzgerald’s works are viewed as emblematic of the jazz age, and he is often regarded as one of the greatest American writers of the 20th century[1†][2†].

Fitzgerald’s writing reflects his extravagant lifestyle and his love for wealth and status, which he pursued until his death on December 21, 1940, in Hollywood, California[1†][2†]. Despite his relatively short life, Fitzgerald left a lasting legacy and continues to be celebrated as a central figure in American literature[1†][2†].

Early Years and Education

Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald was born on September 24, 1896, in Saint Paul, Minnesota[1†][3†]. He was the only son of an unsuccessful, aristocratic father and an energetic, provincial mother[1†]. Half the time he thought of himself as the heir of his father’s tradition, which included the author of “The Star-Spangled Banner” Francis Scott Key, after whom he was named, and half the time as “straight 1850 potato-famine Irish”[1†].

Fitzgerald attended St. Paul Academy (1908–10) and Newman School (1911–13), where he tried too hard and made himself unpopular[1†]. However, these experiences did not deter him from his love for literature. At both schools, he had an intensely romantic imagination, what he once called “a heightened sensitivity to the promises of life,” and he charged into experience determined to realize those promises[1†].

In 1913, Fitzgerald entered Princeton University[1†][4†][5†]. He became a prominent figure in the literary life of the university and made lifelong friendships with Edmund Wilson and John Peale Bishop[1†]. He wrote for student publications and neglected his studies to write scripts and lyrics for the college musicals[1†][4†][5†]. His academic performance suffered as a result, and he was put on academic probation[1†][3†]. In November 1917, Fitzgerald left Princeton to enlist in the U.S. Army[1†][4†][6†].

His early years and education played a significant role in shaping his literary style and themes. His experiences at Princeton, in particular, influenced many of his novels and short stories[1†].

Career Development and Achievements

Fitzgerald’s career began when he was in the U.S. Army. During his time in the army, he made his first attempt at a novel, "The Romantic Egotist"[5†]. However, it was after he was discharged from the army that his writing career truly took off[5†][1†][5†].

In 1919, Fitzgerald moved to New York to seek his fortune and win the hand of his beloved, Zelda Sayre[5†]. However, Zelda was unwilling to live on his small salary and broke off their engagement[5†]. This setback did not deter Fitzgerald. Instead, he returned to St. Paul and worked on a novel that he had been writing during his time in the army[5†][7†].

Fame came almost overnight for Fitzgerald with the publication of his first novel, “This Side of Paradise” (1920)[5†][6†]. The success of this novel made him an instant celebrity[5†][6†]. A week after the publication of “This Side of Paradise”, Fitzgerald married Zelda in New York[5†].

In the following years, Fitzgerald wrote his second novel, “The Beautiful and Damned”, and settled in St. Paul in time for the birth of his only child, Frances Scott (Scottie)[5†]. However, he started drinking heavily, triggering frequent domestic rows[5†].

Despite these personal challenges, Fitzgerald continued to write. He wrote his way out of debt with short stories after his political satire, “From President to Postman”, failed[5†]. In 1924, he went to France, where he wrote his most brilliant novel, "The Great Gatsby"[5†]. Although critics raved about “The Great Gatsby” and a sale of stage and screen rights followed, initial book sales were disappointing[5†].

Fitzgerald continued to struggle with his fourth novel while Zelda turned to ballet, hoping to become a professional dancer[5†]. The Fitzgeralds returned to France, where Zelda’s intense devotion to dance damaged her health—and their marriage[5†].

In 1936, Fitzgerald went to Hollywood and earned $1,000 a week working for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer[5†]. After MGM dropped his option at the end of 1938, Fitzgerald worked as a freelance scriptwriter and wrote short stories for Esquire[5†]. He had written much of a draft of a novel called “The Love of The Last Tycoon” when he died of a heart attack on December 21, 1940[5†].

Fitzgerald’s career was marked by his remarkable ability to encapsulate the spirit of the age in his works, and despite the many challenges he faced, he has left an indelible mark on American literature[5†][1†][5†].

First Publication of His Main Works

F. Scott Fitzgerald’s literary career was marked by several notable works that have left an indelible mark on the literary world[8†][1†].

Fitzgerald also wrote more than 150 short stories[8†], including “The Diamond as Big as the Ritz” and “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” which are considered some of his most important works[8†][9†].

Analysis and Evaluation

F. Scott Fitzgerald’s work is renowned for its vivid portrayal of the Jazz Age, and he is often considered one of the greatest American writers of the 20th century[10†][11†]. His stories and novels capture the spirit and despair of the era he named the “Jazz Age,” which was characterized by new freedoms in social, economic, and cultural aspects of life, but also by disillusionment with the American Dream[10†][11†].

Fitzgerald’s literary influences reflect his maxim: “Great art is the contempt of a great man for small art”[10†]. The writing he most admired and the work he most often adapted for his own fiction were of lasting quality[10†]. His art steadily evolved through each of his novels, demonstrating how consciously he aspired for greatness and how assiduously he crafted his literary influences toward a distinctive personal style and particular structural and thematic aims[10†].

Fitzgerald’s fiction focuses on young, wealthy, dissolute men and women of the 1920s[10†][11†]. His stories written for popular magazines such as the Saturday Evening Post and, later, Esquire were very much in demand[10†][11†]. However, Fitzgerald’s literary reputation is chiefly based on the artistry of stories such as “Babylon Revisited” and “The Rich Boy” as well as the novel "The Great Gatsby"[10†][11†].

In “The Great Gatsby”, Fitzgerald uses rich imagery and symbolism to portray lives of the careless, restless rich during the 1920s and to depict Jay Gatsby as the personification of the American dream[10†][12†]. The novel is set in America’s Jazz Age, and Fitzgerald creates a world of money, power, corruption, and murder[10†][12†]. Critics often assert that “The Great Gatsby” is a uniquely American novel that depicts American characters and themes[10†][12†].

Personal Life

F. Scott Fitzgerald was born as the only son of an unsuccessful, aristocratic father and an energetic, provincial mother[1†]. He was named after his deceased sister, Louise Scott Fitzgerald[1†][2†]. Half the time he thought of himself as the heir of his father’s tradition, which included the author of “The Star-Spangled Banner,” Francis Scott Key, after whom he was named, and half the time as “straight 1850 potato-famine Irish”[1†].

Fitzgerald got married to Zelda Sayre, whose father was an Alabama Supreme Court Judge, on October 26, 1921[1†][13†]. The couple had a daughter named Frances Scott Fitzgerald, who went on to become a popular journalist and writer[1†][13†]. Fitzgerald’s relationship with his wife, Zelda, in both America and France, became almost as celebrated as his novels[1†][2†]. However, Fitzgerald was an alcoholic, and his wife’s mental breakdown pushed him further towards alcoholism[1†][13†].

Fitzgerald’s personal life was filled with struggles. His father was poor, having failed in business, and his mother’s family financed Fitzgerald’s education at Princeton in New Jersey, one of the so-called ‘Ivy League’ of elite universities[1†][14†]. In 1915, he fell in love with Ginevra King, a girl from a very wealthy Chicago family[1†][14†].

Conclusion and Legacy

F. Scott Fitzgerald is widely regarded as one of the greatest American writers of the 20th century[1†][15†]. His works are the paradigmatic writings of the Jazz Age, a term he himself coined[1†][15†]. Fitzgerald’s most brilliant novel, “The Great Gatsby” (1925), along with his other works, continue to be highly regarded for their enduring thematic depth and stylistic innovation[1†][2†].

Fitzgerald’s life and career paralleled the trajectory of American history, from the sparkling Roaring Twenties into the Great Depression and World War II[1†][16†]. His legacy developed into one of melancholic genius after his death[1†][16†]. He left the earth as one of the best novelists of his time, and through his books, he continues to live on with us[1†][17†].

Fitzgerald’s influence extends beyond literature. His keen observations of his time have provided valuable insights into American society during the Jazz Age, making his works a rich resource for historians and social scientists[1†][2†].

Key Information

References and Citations:

  1. Britannica - F. Scott Fitzgerald: American writer [website] - link
  2. Wikipedia (English) - F. Scott Fitzgerald [website] - link
  3. Study.com - F. Scott Fitzgerald | Biography, Education & Facts [website] - link
  4. Britannica Kids - F. Scott Fitzgerald [website] - link
  5. PBS - American Masters - F. Scott Fitzgerald - Biography and Career Timeline [website] - link
  6. History - F. Scott Fitzgerald - Books, Biography & Zelda [website] - link
  7. Britannica - F. Scott Fitzgerald [website] - link
  8. Britannica - F. Scott Fitzgerald [website] - link
  9. Library of America - F. Scott Fitzgerald - [website] - link
  10. Cambridge University Press - F. Scott Fitzgerald in Context - Chapter: Literary Influences (Chapter 5) [website] - link
  11. eNotes - F. Scott Fitzgerald Analysis [website] - link
  12. eNotes - The Great Gatsby Critical Evaluation [website] - link
  13. The Famous People - F. Scott Fitzgerald Biography [website] - link
  14. BBC Bitesize - Background [website] - link
  15. LibreTexts Humanities - 4.2: Biography: F. Scott Fitzgerald [website] - link
  16. My Modern MET - Get To Know F. Scott Fitzgerald, the Legendary Author Responsible for ‘The Great Gatsby’ [website] - link
  17. IPL.org - F Scott Fitzgerald Legacy [website] - link
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