F. Scott Fitzgerald

The Great Gatsby
F. Scott Fitzgerald
September 24, 1896 - December 10, 1940
Early Years
 Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald (named after
Francis Scott Key, author of the United
States' national anthem "The Star Spangled
 Born in 1896 in St. Paul, Minnesota to an
upper middle class Irish Catholic family.
 1913 - entered Princeton University, but was
not a good student and didn’t finish school
 1917 Fitzgerald left Princeton to join the
Just out of his reach…
 1918 - While in Montgomery, Alabama, he met Zelda
Sayre, daughter of a wealthy Alabama family. A year
later they were engaged, but Zelda broke it off a few
months later because she couldn’t marry anyone who
couldn’t financially support her.
 Fitzgerald sets out to earn her love by earning $$$.
Winning Zelda $$
 1919 - F. Scott = Discharged from army and moved to New York
City. Worked in advertising and wrote his first novel The
Romantic Egoist. It was rejected by Charles Scribner, but after
three revisions they published it as This Side Of Paradise (1920)
and it became one of the most popular books of the year.
 He and Zelda married on April 3, 1920, at St Patrick's Cathedral
in New York City. Their daughter Frances Scott 'Scottie' was
born in 1922.
 They lived the lifestyle of the rich and famous, constantly
 Zelda = flirtatious; Fitzgerald = jealous
 It was the beginning of a turbulent life together.
Lavish Lifestyle
 Zelda embraced the flapper lifestyle, dressing
provocatively and smoking cigarettes
 Together they enjoyed the free-thinking, materialistic
pursuits of the roaring twenties when the post-war
American economy was booming.
 1920’s = prohibition, however, there was plenty of
alcohol in the Fitzgerald household.
 1927 - The Fitzgeralds rented a 27 bedroom mansion
and drunken parties ensued. Fitzgerald was increasingly
turning to alcohol, sometimes becoming abusive. Zelda
often acted out impetuously, embarrassing herself in
front of friends and strangers.
Health and Marriage Suffering
 1930 - While in North Africa, Zelda had a
nervous breakdown and was later diagnosed
with schizophrenia. For the next few years
she was in and out of clinics in Switzerland.
 Meanwhile, Fitzgerald used his wife's mental
breakdowns and their overall dysfunctional
relationship in his writings.
F. Scott the script writer
 Finances become very difficult for them.
 1931 - Although he claimed to detest it,
Fitzgerald moved to California to write scripts
for MGM.
 1938 - Fitzgerald’s contract with MGM was
not renewed, however, several other film
companies hired him to do freelance work.
But Fitzgerald's alcoholism continually
interfered with his life and work, requiring
hospitalization at times.
Toward the end…
 1940 - Still struggling with her illness, Zelda
moved back to America and went to live with
her mother.
 In November Fitzgerald suffers a heart attack
and a month later, on 21 December 1940, he
died of a second heart attack in Hollywood,
 1948 - Zelda died in a fire at the Highland
Hospital in Asheville, North Carolina.
His Works
 This Side of
Paradise (1920)
 The Beautiful and
the Damned (1922)
 The Great Gatsby
 Tender is the Night
 The Last Tycoon
(1941 & unfinished)
 He also published
numerous short
stories and short
story collections
including: “The
Curious Case of
Benjamin Button”
The Great Gatsby
 It is the crowning achievement of
Fitzgerald’s career.
 "There's no such thing...as a flawless
novel. But if there is, this is it.”
 Charles Jackson, author
 1920s aka The Jazz Age
 This era lasted from the end of WWI to
the Stock Market Crash in 1929
General Characteristics of the
Jazz Age
 Financial prosperity &
moral uncertainty
 “First Youth Rebellion”
= youth questioned all
morals and lived only
for the moment
 $$ is easily available =
“boom” period
 Travel = a way of life. A
wandering, aimless
lifestyle was the norm
 Raging fads = dance
contests, goldfish
swallowing and flagpole
 Parties were important.
The wilder, the better
 Prohibition of alcohol
was in effect, but the
sale & consumption of
liquor was openly
The 18th Amendment
 “No person shall on or after the date
when the 18th Amendment to the
Constitution of the United States goes
into effect, manufacture, sell, barter,
transport, import, export, deliver,
furnish, or process any intoxicating
liquor except as authorized by this
 title ii, section 3, National Prohibition Act
Plot basics
 Plot = a story within a story
 Narrator = 3rd person, limited = Nick
Carraway tells his version of Jay
Gatsby’s life
 Nick is unsettled by the Buchanans'
seemingly purposeless lives and hates
Gatsby’s values. However, he comes to
see something heroic in Gatsby’s vision.
 This conflict in Nick reflects America's
own loss of innocence in the face of the
crass materialism of the 1920s.
 Nick is Daisy’s second cousin
once removed
 The child of one's first cousin is
one's first cousin once
removed because the one
generation separation
represents one removal.
 See next slide for info
Major Topics to Examine
The American Dream
American morality in the 1920’s
Emptiness created by materialism
Society and class