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Who Was F. Scott Fitzgerald?

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  • Written By: Kathy Hawkins
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  • Last Modified Date: 01 September 2016
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F. Scott Fitzgerald is an American writer who epitomized the decadence and tragedy of the so-called Jazz Age of the 1920s in his works. Born in 1896, Fitzgerald was part of the "Lost Generation" that grew up to the turmoil of World War I, along with other writers like Ernest Hemingway, who was a friend and rival.

Francis Scott Fitzgerald, commonly known as "Scott," was born in St. Paul, Minnesota, to a relatively wealthy Irish Catholic family. He was related to the "Star Spangled Banner" composer, Francis Scott Key; in fact, Key served as a namesake for Fitzgerald. In his youth, Fitzgerald attended three years at Princeton University, where his grades were mediocre. He dropped out to join the army, but World War I ended soon after his enlistment, so he never served in combat.

While at his military training camp, Camp Sheridan, F. Scott Fitzgerald met a young woman who would serve a profound influence on his life and work — Zelda Sayre. Fitzgerald instantly fell in love with Sayre, an Alabama socialite. They soon became engaged, but Sayre broke off the engagement because she didn't believe that he would have the funds to support her lifestyle.

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However, when F. Scott Fitzgerald's first novel, This Side of Paradise, was accepted by Scribner's publishing house, Zelda agreed to marry Fitzgerald, and they were wed in 1920. Their only child, a girl named Scottie, was born the following year.

Though F. Scott Fitzgerald did not write as many novels as many of his contemporaries, his works are widely renowned for their graceful and elegant portrayal of the Jazz Age era. He also makes frequent allusions to mental illness which were inspired by his wife, Zelda, who suffered from schizophrenia and was hospitalized in 1932.

F. Scott Fitzgerald's most famous, and arguably best, novel is The Great Gatsby, the story of a self-made man, Jay Gatsby, who pines away for a lost love, Daisy Buchanan. Though Gatsby has built his fortune and reinvented himself for the sake of impressing Daisy, all his efforts are ultimately futile. The novel is a beautiful narrative of hope and disillusion.

"The Great Gatsby" and many of F. Scott Fitzgerald's other books are often taught in schools today, and are widely hailed as classic works of American literature. Unfortunately, during Fitzgerald's lifetime, his work was widely ignored, and was secondary to his and his wife's reputations for partygoers and alcoholics.

Scott and Zelda lived extravagantly, and the minor commercial success of his novels could not pay for all their indulgences; during the second half of the 1930s, Fitzgerald supported himself by writing movies for MGM Studios, which he thought was beneath him. By this point, Zelda had been hospitalized, and Scott was living with a new partner, journalist Sheila Graham.

F. Scott Fitzgerald died of a heart attack in 1940, at the young age of 44. His death, many believe, was brought on by his frequent drinking — Fitzgerald had been an alcoholic since his time at Princeton. He left behind an unfinished manuscript called "The Last Tycoon," which was published posthumously. Zelda Fitzgerald spent the rest of her life in a mental institution, and died in a fire in 1948.

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