Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald
Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald, one of the most outstanding
American writers of the lost generation, was born in St. Paul,
Minnesota, in the family of unsuccessful businessman. Yet the
money, inherited from Fitzgerald’s grandfarther, a wealthy gro-
cer, enabled him to attend Princeton, a university for well – to
do Americans. The cult of success, popular at Princeton, lies at
the basis of Fitzgerald dual attitude to the rich. Influenced by the
spirit of competition ruling at the University, he tried to join
the most fashionable and respectable students’ clubs, enjoying their
carefree, aristocratic, idle atmosphere. He was fascinated by the
independence, privileges and elegance that money gave. Money gave style
and ease and beauty. Poverty was mean, gray and narrow. It is much later
that he found out the falseness of his belief.
Fitzgerald left Princeton without a degree because of illness
and poor grades. However, his literary career started at the University.
He wrote pieces for the “The Tiger”, the university
magazine, and contributed texts to several campus variety shows.
In 1917, he joined the army as a second lieutenant. All his
life he regretted the fact that he spent his time in service in
American training camps and was never sent to the war in Europe.
His major novels appeared from 1920 to 1934: “This side of
Paradise” (1920) , “The Beautiful and Damned” (1922) , “The Great
Gatsby” (1925) and “ Tender is the Night” (1934). Fitzgerald’s best
stories have been collected in four volumes:
“ Flappers and Philosophers “ (1920), “Tales of Jazz Age” (1922),
“All the Sad Young Men” (1926) and “Taps at Reveille” (1925).
The main theme of almost all Fitzgerald’s fiction is the
attraction and the corrupting force of money. Once he said to
Hemingway , “The very rich are different from you and me”. And
when Hemingway made a remark , ”Yes, they have more money “, he
did not understand the joke. He thought that they were a special
glamorous race and only gradually, moving from one painful
revelation to another, as his work progressed, he found out their
corruption, inhumanity, spiritual emptiness and futility. He found it
out together with his heroes who are largely autobiographical.
Fitzgerald is the first American author to portray the lost
generation, a generation, for whom “all the battles have been
fought“ and “all the gods were dead”. The young generation has
no ideals to uphold against the corruption of the rich. They are
empty people afraid of poverty and idolizing richness, trying to
fill their spiritual void with all kinds of wild entertainments.
”The Great Gatsby”
Fitzgerald’s best work “The Great Gatsby” tells the life
story of Jay Gatsby, the son of poor farmer, who falls in love
with a rich and beautiful girl Daisy Fay who answers his love
while his uniform conceals for a time his poverty. When the war
is over, she marries the rich and elegant Tom Buchanan. Gatsby
devotes his whole life to obtaining money and social position to
make himself worthy of Daisy, though the only road open to him
is bootlegging and dealing in dubious stocks.
When later he meets Daisy again, she is impressed by rumours
of his incredibly large fortune, his mysterious origin, his rich
mansion and his gorgeous and fashionable parties and makes him
believe she would leave Tom. Yet once , driving Jay back from New
–York to Long Island in his car, she runs over and kills Myrtle
Wilson, her husband’s vulgar mistress. Myrtle’s husband, whom Tom
has persuaded that Gatsby was driving the car, follows Jay and
shoots him. Daisy, having learned about Gatsby’s dubious source of
income, deserts him even before his death, notwithstan-
ding the fact that Gatsby gallantly takes the blame of Myrtle’s
death upon himself.
Gatsby’s fanatic attempt to reach his dreams is contrasted
to the disillusioned drifting life of the cynical members of
upper society who do not know what to do “this afternoon, the
day after that and the next thirty years ” , and whose existence
with wild parties and vulgar merriment is compared to the terrible
grey “ valley of ashes ” with the sordid eyes of an oculist’s
advertising sign watching the gaudy show. Fitzgerald stresses that
Gatsby’s romantic dreams of the vast possibilities for happiness on
“ the fresh green breast of the New World ” no longer correspond
to reality .
The device of the intelligent and sympathetic observer at
the center of the novel allowed the author gradually to expose
the moral corruption behind the false structure of upper of Gatsby
class respectability and splendour, at the same time the stature
of Gatsby gradually growing and achieving almost poetic elevation.
Satire in the portrayal of the empty pleasures of the rich is
combined with lyrical atmosphere enveloping Gatsby’s romantic dream.
Thus, if Dreiser was the scientist dissecting vast cross-
sections of American society with his social observations,
Fitzgerald was the chronicler of its moral atmosphere.
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