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A Name To Live Up To: A Biography of Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald

Bethany Comegys

A Name To Live Up To: A Biography of Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald

Middletown High School


A Name To Live Up To: A Biography of Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald

F. Scott Fitzgerald overcame misery in his home life and childhood to achieve great

success. He was often times rejected his first attempt at publishing books and would have to

constantly revise his works; this kind of revising style would end up characterizing his writing

for the rest of his career (Willet, 2002.). Fitzgerald’s career followed the pattern of the country, it

boomed in the early 1920s and crashed during the Great Depression (Donaldson, n.d.) F. Scott

Fitzgerald’s work ran the gamut from movie and play scripts to essays to short stories; he is

known as one of the greatest American writers of his time because he was so universal.

Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald was born on September 24, 1896 in St. Paul, Minnesota,

United States to Edward and Mary Fitzgerald (F. Scott Fitzgerald, 1989). As an only child, and

the namesake of the man who wrote the United State’s National Anthem, there was pressure on

Fitzgerald to do great things with his life (F. Scott Fitzgerald, 2000). But he was never the

popular in school and never got remarkable grades because he spent all his free time writing (F.

Scott Fitzgerald, 2000). At age thirteen, his first story was published in his school’s newspaper,

which inspired and motivated him to pursue writing (Willet, 2002.). As a teenager he wrote

scripts for amateur plays and later on composed lyrics for Princeton’s Triangle Club productions

(F. Scott Fitzgerald, 1989). At age twenty-one, he submitted his first publication and was

rejected (Willet, 2002.). He was a lousy student at Princeton University because he spent more

time in the theater than on his school work, he dropped out his senior year rather than flunking

out and then was enrolled into the army (ASAW, 2006). He focused on his writings so he could

make money to impress Zelda Sayre, his future wife (ASAW, 2006). The Fitzgeralds’ lifestyle

involved partying and drinking, it was the Jazz Age. The family lived in Europe for a while but

came back to America for a less hectic life (ASAW, 2006). During this time he worked harder

and eventually wrote hundreds of works, the most well known being The Great Gatsby. This
A Name To Live Up To: A Biography of Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald

book has been described as, “A work that seriously examines the theme of aspiration in an

American setting, defines the classic American novel” (The Board of Trustees of the University

of South Carolina, 2004). “Today, The Great Gatsby, alone, sells nearly 300,000 copies a year”

(ASAW, 2006). Fitzgerald died thinking that he was a failure on December 21, 1940 in

Hollywood, California, United States because of a heart attack at the age of forty-four (F. Scott

Fitzgerald, 1989).

The pattern of the United States of America influenced the author. As Malcolm Cowley,

another American novelist and critic, once said, “He lived in a room of clocks and calendars. The

years ticked away while he noted the songs, the shows, the books, the quarterbacks” (Donaldson,

n.d.) His career was booming in the early 1920s. At this time he was the storyteller of the Jazz

Age. Fitzgerald's early work include: This Side of Paradise (1920), Flappers and

Philosophers (1920), The Beautiful and the Damned (1922), and Tales of the Jazz Age (1922)

(Lombardi, n.d.). His line of business skidded nearly to oblivion during the Depression. “The

changes that came with the Great Depression made F. Scott Fitzgerald seem like ancient history,

along with everything else from the Roaring Twenties (ASAW, 2006)”. He had written about

society and the lives of the people who were wealthy, and now he remained associated with them

while he and his writing fell out of favor with the public(ASAW, 2006). His books, even The

Great Gatsby (1925) didn’t sell well (ASAW, 2006). “In 1929, the Saturday Evening Post paid

him $4,000 per story, but his total royalties on seven books that year were only $31.77” (ASAW,

2006).

There were many influences on F. Scott Fitzgerald’s writing like his upbringing, his wife,

Zelda, and the society around him. Fitzgerald was able to see the world with an artistic drive.
A Name To Live Up To: A Biography of Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald

From his modest background he learned to view the rich differently than others did and learned

the differences between yearning and having it (ENotes.Com, 2009). He experienced the impact

of not having wealth and the distance from those that had it while his father was an unsuccessful

business man (ENotes.Com, 2009). He met his wife Zelda was born into the upper class and their

relationship helped Fitzgerald to see the deep sense of emptiness that can go along with wealth.

Zelda also made him understand the class based difference between “old money” and “new

money”, which shows as a theme in a few of his stories (ENotes.Com,2009). Lastly, he looked to

society to “perceive the obsession with celebrity, the increase of mass consumption and

consumerism, and the desire to be socially acceptable and contrast all of these with the toll it

takes on the human psyche” (ENotes.Com, 2009).

The works of F. Scott Fitzgerald reached many people and he had universal appeal. His

audience ranged from the poor to the rich because he could relate to both groups. Sometimes his

writings criticize the upper class because he was always in the lower class but after marrying an

upper classmen he was showed the darker side of being rich involving loneliness and emptiness

(ENotes.Com, 2009). Fitzgerald’s works had elements of sadness and growing old that

intimidated the youth of America (F. Scott Fitzgerald, 1989). He wrote to criticize and expose

the problems in society. This was universal because there were problems in the upper and lower

classes that neither one were completely aware of (ASAW, 2006).

F. Scott Fitzgerald’s main works include books, short stories, essays, and plays but he

also wrote articles, parodies, poems, book reviews, and public letters. His most famous works are

books: This Side of Paradise (1920), The Great Gatsby (1925), and Tender Is the Night (1941)

(The Board of Trustees of the University of South Carolina, 2004). Novels like the Great Gatsby
A Name To Live Up To: A Biography of Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald

and Tender is the Night were made into movies (The Board of Trustees of the University of

South Carolina, 2004). The Great Gatsby is probably his most popular work. It is argued to be

‘the great American novel’ and shows the aspiration in America (The Board of Trustees of the

University of South Carolina, 2004). Fitzgerald wrote about America and what he saw in his

daily life. Also, he often used his own life, experiences, interactions, and observations to create

character, themes, settings, and plot in his books (The Board of Trustees of the University of

South Carolina, 2004). He wrote about the 1920s which was a time of partying he wrote as an

observer to the partying while actually experiencing it (F. Scott Fitzgerald, 2000). He wrote

about the Jazz Age, the changing morals, and the problems with people in each economic class

(The Board of Trustees of the University of South Carolina, 2004).

Fitzgerald was part of Modernism, an American literary period in between the two World

Wars (Lorcher, 2009). “Modernism is marked by a strong and intentional break with tradition.

This break includes a strong reaction against established religious, political, and social views and

modernists do not subscribe to absolute truth” (Lorcher, 2009). Modernism is similar to realism

and their literary work has loosely defined characteristics (Lorcher, 2009). Modernism is shown

most in Fitzgerald’s, Great Gatsby but is present in many of his other works. He used modernism

techniques to portray America the way he saw it and showed the American dream (Lorcher,

2009).

When Fitzgerald died, he died believing that he was a failure (The Board of Trustees of

the University of South Carolina, 2004). When Fitzgerald died his work was not very popular

and they stayed that way until the 1950s (The Board of Trustees of the University of South

Carolina, 2004). There was a “Fitzgerald revival” and a number of his works were published,
A Name To Live Up To: A Biography of Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald

books like The Last Tycoon and The Crack Up were published in the 1940s. Critics have

“universally praised Fitzgerald’s mastery of style and technique that renders even his most trivial

efforts entertaining and well-executed” (ENotes.com, 2009) “Numerous critical studies on

Fitzgerald’s short fiction has been published that explore his stories from socioeconomically,

feminist, psychoanalytical, and autobiographical perspectives (ENotes.com, 2009)”.”Recent

critical studies have examined the relationship between his novels and short stories, asserting that

although earlier critics dismissed his short fiction as inferior efforts intended to capitalize on the

successes of his novels, the stories are valuable for their insight into Fitzgerald's characteristic,

thematic concerns and deserve a well-considered place in Fitzgerald's fictional oeuvre”

ENotes.com, 2009). “He is regarded as a profound and sensitive artist, as well as the unmatched

voice of the Jazz Age ENotes.com, 2009).

F. Scott Fitzgerald is important in American literature because he is one of the most

influential writers who used universally realistic themes and was a spokesperson for the Jazz

Age. The Jazz Age was America’s wealth, excess, and abandon, from the end of World War One

to the Great Depression in 1929 when the stock market crashed, this was a term he coined

himself (ENotes.com, 2009). In his novels Fitzgerald observes Americans’ search for the

American dream with money and happiness (The Board of Trustees of the University of South

Carolina, 2004). He used his own observations and experiences for his stories and “Show the

consequences of his generation’s adherence to false values” (ENotes.com). After marrying he

was exposed to two different ways of life which allowed him to relate to all people through his

writings. He is considered the epitome of his generation (The Board of Trustees of the University

of South Carolina, 2004). Francis Scott Fitzgerald lived up to his name.


A Name To Live Up To: A Biography of Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald

References
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Retrieved from http://amsaw.org/amsaw-ithappenedinhistory-092403-fitzgerald.html

Donaldson, S. (n.d.) F. Scott Fitzgerald biography. Retrieved from


http://people.brandeis.edu/~teuber/fitzgeraldbio.html

ENotes.Com. (2009). F. Scott Fitzgerald. Retrieved from http://www.enotes.com/authors/f-scott-


fitzgerald

F. Scott Fitzgerald. (1989). In Concise Dictionary of American Literary Biography (Vol. 3).
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Lombardi, E (n.d.) F. Scott Fitzgerald: Novels and Stories 1920-1922. Retrieved from
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Lorcher, T (2009). Modernism in Literature. In Bright Hub. Retrieved from


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The Board of Trustees of the University of South Carolina (2004). In F Scott Fitzgerald
Centenary. Retrieved from http://www.sc.edu/fitzgerald/

Willet, E. (2002) Biographies. In PBS American Storytellers. Retrieved from


http://www.pbs.org/kteh/amstorytellers/bios.html

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