F. Scott Fitzgerald was born into a Catholic family in St. Paul, Minnesota, on September 24, 1896. Educated in private prep schools and then at Princeton until 1917, when he enlisted in the army because he feared he wouldn’t graduate , he was a middle-class, Midwestern boy who coveted the wonders of the East. When he married Zelda Sayre, a southern, upper-class daughter of a wealthy Alabama Supreme Court judge , Fitzgerald thought he had it all. The couple lived the high life, moving back and forth between Paris, the Riviera, and New York, but after a while Fitzgerald became an old name and his money dwindled. After Zelda had her first mental breakdown in April 1930, Fitzgerald’s life went spiraling downhill. Trying to become a star in Hollywood, Fitzgerald failed, as he thought he had done in everything else in life. All the fame that he has today has come to him post-mortem, but undeservedly so. Although The Great Gatsby was not a hit when it was first published, it is now recognized as one of the great American novels. F. Scott Fitzgerald “epitomized the mood and manners of the 1920’s” as well as the writers living in the Jazz Age.
Fitgerald’s parents were of contrasting backgrounds. His father’s family was rich in Southern traditions and was from Maryland, while his mother was the daughter of a wealthy Irish immigrant. When Edward, his father, moved to upstate New York, after failing in the wicker business in St. Paul, Scott became home-schooled. However, in 1908, when Scott was twelve, the family moved back to St. Paul and Fitzgerald enrolled in the St. Paul Academy. The family moved again in late 1911 and Scott went to the Newman School in New Jersey, until 1913. After graduating high school, Fitzgerald was accepted to the Princeton class of 1917, but he didn’t graduate, and enlisted in the army instead. While in Europe, Fitzgerald came to terms with the fact that he was going to die in the war, so to leave a living legacy, he wrote a scanty novel entitled, “The Romantic Egotist”. Although the novel was praised for its originality, it was rejected and asked to be resubmitted when revised. This tumultuous way of life and Fitzgerald’s constant movement is a classic example of life in the 1920’s, where everything was alive but nothing was stable. The world was moving on a fast track, and Fitzgerald was going with the flow.
Still in the army after the…
…nd, both Zelda and Frances became hindrances to Fitzgerald’s life, not part of it, and he reverted to alcohol to drown out his sorrows. Many of his novels contained forlorn, lovesick characters that resembled Scott himself. The 1920’s were full of wonderful highs, but also deathly lows in which the rising economy of the first eight years of the decade paralleled the early portion of Fitzgerald’s life, but the crash of 1929 matched his downfall. “Like the Jazz Age, they [Zelda and Scott] were both beautiful and damned, and like it, they destroyed themselves.” Fitzgerald’s life was “an extraordinary portrait of an age, of a marriage, and of a man and a woman who cared too much, who lived too passionately, whose fatal flaw was their incredible capacity for life.”
Bruccoli, Matthew. A Brief Life of F. Scott Fitzgerald. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1992.
Fitzgerald, Zelda. Save Me the Waltz. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1932
Turnbull, Andrew. Scott Fitzgerald: A Biography. London: William Clowes & Sons, 1962
“Fitzgerald, F(rancis) Scott (Key).” Bookshelf 1998. CD-ROM. Microsoft, 1996-7.
“Fitzgerald, F(rancis) Scott (Key).” Encarta 1998. CD-ROM. Microsoft