Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald

(1896-1940)

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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