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Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald

(1896-1940)

Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald, one of the most outstanding

American writers of the lost generation, was born in St. Paul,

Minnesota, in the family of unsuccessful businessman. Yet the

money, inherited from FitzgeraldТs grandfarther, a wealthy gro-

cer, enabled him to attend Princeton, a university for well Ц to

do Americans. The cult of success, popular at Princeton, lies at

the basis of Fitzgerald dual attitude to the rich. Influenced by the

spirit of competition ruling at the University, he tried to join

the most fashionable and respectable studentsТ clubs, enjoying their

carefree, aristocratic, idle atmosphere. He was fascinated by the

independence, privileges and elegance that money gave. Money gave style

and ease and beauty. Poverty was mean, gray and narrow. It is much later

that he found out the falseness of his belief.

Fitzgerald left Princeton without a degree because of illness

and poor grades. However, his literary career started at the University.

He wrote pieces for the УThe TigerФ, the university

magazine, and contributed texts to several campus variety shows.

In 1917, he joined the army as a second lieutenant. All his

life he regretted the fact that he spent his time in service in

American training camps and was never sent to the war in Europe.

His major novels appeared from 1920 to 1934: УThis side of

ParadiseФ (1920) , УThe Beautiful and DamnedФ (1922) , УThe Great

GatsbyФ (1925) and У Tender is the NightФ (1934). FitzgeraldТs best

stories have been collected in four volumes:

У Flappers and Philosophers У (1920), УTales of Jazz AgeФ (1922),

УAll the Sad Young MenФ (1926) and УTaps at ReveilleФ (1925).

The main theme of almost all FitzgeraldТs fiction is the

attraction and the corrupting force of money. Once he said to

Hemingway , УThe very rich are different from you and meФ. And

when Hemingway made a remark , ФYes, they have more money У, he

did not understand the joke. He thought that they were a special

glamorous race and only gradually, moving from one painful

revelation to another, as his work progressed, he found out their

corruption, inhumanity, spiritual emptiness and futility. He found it

out together with his heroes who are largely autobiographical.

Fitzgerald is the first American author to portray the lost

generation, a generation, for whom Уall the battles have been

foughtУ and Уall the gods were deadФ. The young generation has

no ideals to uphold against the corruption of the rich. They are

empty people afraid of poverty and idolizing richness, trying to

fill their spiritual void with all kinds of wild entertainments.

ФThe Great GatsbyФ

FitzgeraldТs best work УThe Great GatsbyФ tells the life

story of Jay Gatsby, the son of poor farmer, who falls in love

with a rich and beautiful girl Daisy Fay who answers his love

while his uniform conceals for a time his poverty. When the war

is over, she marries the rich and elegant Tom Buchanan. Gatsby

devotes his whole life to obtaining money and social position to

make himself worthy of Daisy, though the only road open to him

is bootlegging and dealing in dubious stocks.

When later he meets Daisy again, she is impressed by rumours

of his incredibly large fortune, his mysterious origin, his rich

mansion and his gorgeous and fashionable parties and makes him

believe she would leave Tom. Yet once , driving Jay back from New

ЦYork to Long Island in his car, she runs over and kills Myrtle

Wilson, her husbandТs vulgar mistress. MyrtleТs husband, whom Tom

has persuaded that Gatsby was driving the car, follows Jay and

shoots him. Daisy, having learned about GatsbyТs dubious source of

income, deserts him even before his death, notwithstan-

ding the fact that Gatsby gallantly takes the blame of MyrtleТs

death upon himself.

GatsbyТs fanatic attempt to reach his dreams is contrasted

to the disillusioned drifting life of the cynical members of

upper society who do not know what to do Уthis afternoon, the

day after that and the next thirty years Ф , and whose existence

with wild parties and vulgar merriment is compared to the terrible

grey У valley of ashes Ф with the sordid eyes of an oculistТs

advertising sign watching the gaudy show. Fitzgerald stresses that

GatsbyТs romantic dreams of the vast possibilities for happiness on

У the fresh green breast of the New World Ф no longer correspond

to reality .

The device of the intelligent and sympathetic observer at

the center of the novel allowed the author gradually to expose

the moral corruption behind the false structure of upper of Gatsby

class respectability and splendour, at the same time the stature

of Gatsby gradually growing and achieving almost poetic elevation.

Satire in the portrayal of the empty pleasures of the rich is

combined with lyrical atmosphere enveloping GatsbyТs romantic dream.

Thus, if Dreiser was the scientist dissecting vast cross-

sections of American society with his social observations,

Fitzgerald was the chronicler of its moral atmosphere.

Francis Scott

Key

Fitzgerald

(1896-1940)

Lebedev Slava 11

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