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F Scott Fitzgerald Essay, Research Paper

F. Scott Fitzgerald is best known for his novels The Great Gatsby and Tender is the Night, both of which depicted disillusion with the American dream of self improvement, wealth, and success through hard work and perseverance.

Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald was born in St. Paul, Minnesota. Fitzgerald was of mixed Southern and Irish descent. He was given three names after the author of the Star Spangled Banner to whom he was distantly related. In 1913, Fitzgerald entered Princeton University, but he left the University in 1917 because of academic problems. After leaving Princeton, Fitzgerald took up a commission in the United States Army, which was then entering World War 1. While in basic training near Montgomery, Alabama, Francis met high-spirited, eighteen year old Zelda Sayre. The two married in 1920 and Zelda became the model for many of the female characters in his fiction.

Discharged in 1919, Fitzgerald worked briefly in New York for an advertising agency. His first story, Babes in the Wood, appeared in the Smart Set. Fitzgerald s first novel, This Side of Paradise, was originally entitled The Romantic Egoist. He started the novel while in the army, but it was published in 1920. The book met with both commercial and critical success. After the success of his novel, Francis contributed short stories to Scribners Magazine and the Saturday Evening Post. He wrote about cosmopolitan life in New York City during Prohibition. Fitzgerald also wrote on the American Midwest of his childhood. Fitzgerald s early short fiction was collected in Flappers and Philosophery, published in 1920, and Tales of the Jazz Age, published in 1922.

Financial success as well as fame enabled the Fitzgeralds to become integral figures in the Jazz Age culture that he portrayed in his writing. Fitzgerald s partly autobiographical second novel, The Beautiful and the Damned, was also published in 1922. The story tells of a wealthy young couple whose lives are destroyed by their lavish lifestyle. The work was not a big success like his first novel. In 1924, the Fitzgerald s moved to Europe. In France, Francis completed The Great Gatsby, which was published in 1925. Critics believe this to be one of Fitzgerald s greatest works. The story tells of a man named Jay Gatsby, a young American never-do-well from the Midwest. Gatsby becomes a bootlegger (seller of illegal liquor) in order to attain the wealth and extravagant way of life he feels necessary to win the love of Daisy Buchanan a married, upper-class woman who had once rejected him.

From 1924 until 1931, the Fitzgerald s made their home on the French Riviera. Here, the family became increasingly involved in drugs and perpetual parties. Francis started a battle with alcoholism that went on for the rest of his life. Zelda experienced a series of mental breakdowns in the early 1930 s that eventually led to her institutionalization. Tender is the Night is generally regarded as Fitzgerald s dramatization of Zelda s slide into insanity.

Fitzgerald s alcoholism and Zelda s mental breakdown attracted wide publicity in the 1930 s. In 1937, Francis moved to Los Angeles, California, where he worked as a scriptwriter. While in Hollywood, he met Sheilah Graham, a gossip columnist, with whom he lived for the rest of his life. Fitzgerald worked on various screenplays, but completed only one, Three Comrades, published in 1938. He was soon after fired from his job.

In 1939, Fitzgerald began a novel about Hollywood, The Last Tycoon, loosely based on the life of Irving Thalberg. Unfortunately, Fitzgerald didn t finish the book. Francis Scott Fitzgerald died of a heart attack on December 21, 1940. Zelda Sayre died in a hospital fire in 1948.


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