Fitzgerald, Gatsby, and the Modernists - St. John Vianney ...
Fitzgerald, Gatsby, and the Modernists The Voice of a Generation F. Scott Fitzgerald Fitzgerald was born in St. Paul, MN (1896) and grew up in a comfortable home. His father never really succeeded in business, but his mothers family was wealthy, and F. Scott and his family lived off of this inheritance. He wanted to move East for the status enhancement, and his parents enrolled him in a Catholic prep school in New Jersey and then eventually he
attended Princeton University. He concentrated on his writing more than his studies and he dropped out of school in 1917 and joined the Army, anxious for the Romance of World War I. He never left the United States and never saw any action. F. Scott Fitzgerald & Zelda Sayre While stationed in Alabama, he met and fell in love with Zelda Sayre. He was enamored with her social status and carefree lifestyle (the life of a flappergirl). They had a short engagement, but she broke it off because
Fitzgerald hadnt yet reached his financial success. His first novel was eventually published, This Side of Paradise. It was an instant hit and Fitzgerald and Zelda married within weeks after its release. Fitzgerald and Zelda and the Jazz Age The Fitzgeralds lived a riotous life in New York City, spending some time in the Eggs of Great Neck, Long Island. They had a daughter, Frances Scott, in St. Paul, and settled down for only a brief while.
They eventually made their way to France, and other parts of Europe, where their reputation as THE social couple was solidified. F. Scott Fitzgerald himself coined the term Jazz Age They met and socialized with many of the most famous American expatriates in Europe and became the leading voices of the Lost Generationa term coined by Gertrude Stein about authors and artists such as Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway. The Fitzgeralds F. Scott had up and down literary/financial success. He supplemented his income by writing continuing to write short stories for the Saturday Evening Post.
As Fitzgeralds literary success went, so went the couples relationship. F. Scott and Zelda both turned often to alcohol, and the author became an alcoholic; Zelda began experiencing many mental issuesboth afflictions would later be their undoing. The End of an Era
The Fitzgeralds lived off of his early successhe never achieved the success he had hoped. And although his later works, like The Great Gatsby, didnt outsell his first attempts, he still lived off of royalties, his constant writing of short stories, and script writing in Hollywood. In fact many of his stories followed similar story lines and could even be considered partially autobiographical. The Fitzgeralds though became further estranged as Zelda tried her skills at ballet and writing and found she resented F. Scotts renown, and he somewhat attempted to curtail her efforts. By the mid-1930s, the couple, although married, had drifted far apart emotionally. Zelda would be committed to mental institutions for long stretches. F. Scott had horrible bouts with alcoholism, depression, and frustration and openly engaged in at two affairs.
Their previous lifestyle was gone, as was the excesses of the Jazz Age--lost in the Great Depression. Fitzgerald spent his last frustrating years in LA. Fitzgerald died in 1940; Zelda died in a hospital fire in 1948. Fitzgeralds last novel The Last Tycoon was left unfinished. His legacy though grew throughout the 1950s and 1960s. Modernism 1910s-1945 Fitzgeralds works fit the mold of Modernist literature. The literature of the time was usually defined by a sense of loss, of irony, and social critique. Modernist heroes were defined by a sense of disillusionment, and they were often adrift. They were morally righteous but often had to use whatever means necessary to get by. They displayed grace under pressure, never quite succumbing to social pressures but also never
overcoming them, and often never achieved their ultimate goals. Wasteland Imagery Defined by T.S. Eliots poem, The Wasteland, the literature of the Modernists contained the idea that underneath a beautiful, serene, righteous exterior often hid lies, deceit, ugliness and disillusionment. Morals became ambiguous, values cloudy, and the actions and distinction between right and wrong vaguemimicking the wider culture. The more common term is Modernist Imagery. The Great Gatsby is full of these images, the most notable is the Valley of Ashes which lies between the opulence of the Eggs and decadence of Manhattan and that with the lavishness of wealth comes the selfindulgence of its characters.
Babylon Revisted Charlie was trying to regain a sense of calm and normalcy in his life, represented by Honoria, his daughter something he had almost never experienced while married to Helen. Their life paralleled the Fitzgeralds life in Paris--parties, excess, and overindulgence. Lorraine and Duncan represent the past life that Charlie cannot escape. Marion and Lincoln represent the reality in Charlies life; he is unable to overcome his past to convince them that he has reformed. He of course remains disillusioned at the end, sitting in a bar, wondering why he cannot achieve his one goal. The economic landscape is after the Stock Market crash and Charlie is trying to regain wealth he lostthe entire of Europe reflects this as well.
Winter Dreams Dexter sees Judy as the representation of what wealth can bring someonea carelessness and ease of lifethat only the truly wealthysomeone who has known nothing but wealth can attain. Judy Jones is that representation. Judy has a stable of suitors, whom she uses as she pleases. It is a quality that Dexter seems to appreciate. He chooses to end his engagement to Irene, and lose his social status, for one last brief relationship with Judy. Dexter is left disillusioned as Judys luster has faded as she is the one who is being used and who has become domesticated. The Great Gatsby For the narrator Nick, Gatsby represents all that is
good and bad about modern culture. Gatsby is motivated solely by love and the desire to attain what he perceives as perfection. It becomes his obsession. As a result of this obsession, Gatsby succumbs to the vices of the modern world, using people, creating a very superficial world, and resorting to illegal, immoral activities to achieve his goals. That Gatsby dies without ever realizing his dream could never be fulfilled, regardless of his desire, and that Daisy would forever be beyond his reach, is at the heart of the Modernist idea of disillusionment. It is what preyed upon Gatsby, what foul dust floated in the wake of his dream
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