An Era Understood Through Fitzgerald’s Characters

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An Era Understood Through Fitzgerald’s Characters
Blaina Tallent Best
April 26, 2012
ENGL 3120

Best 1
An Era Understood Through Fitzgerald’s Characters
“Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us.… Tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther.… And one fine morning—” (Fitzgerald 180). In this quote from The Great Gatsby, Nick attempts to describe the nature of Gatsby’s hope and draws the parallel to all of our hopes and dreams that we have as Americans. F. Scott Fitzgerald, an American novelist and short-story writer, was an amazing author who used his work, just like in the quote above, to write about the Roaring Twenties and the hopes of Americans during that time. His earlier works show an idealistic feeling for the potentials of life at college and in “The East,” he attained the sobriquet of “the spokesman of the Jazz Age.” His third novel, The Great Gatsby, is one of the most powerful portrayals of American life and the pursuit of the great American dream during the 1920s. Throughout this paper, Fitzgerald’s excellent job in conveying the lifestyle and pursuit of the American dream through his characters, in both The Great Gatsby and “Winter Dreams”, will be reflected upon. Fitzgerald’s life influences on his works, why he is regarded as a historian of the 1920s and how Fitzgerald uses his characters to reveal the Roaring Twenties era, will all be explored. Fitzgerald, during his youth, showed a talent for dramas, first writing original plays for amateur fabrication. While at Princeton, he composed stanzas for the university's well-known Triangle Club productions. Before he had the opportunity to graduate, he volunteered during World War I for the army. Due to his enlistment, he spent the weekends writing the original drafts of his first novel. The work was a success and accepted in 1919 by Charles Scribner’s Sons for publication. The popularity of the novel and the financial accomplishment that accompanied this novel assisted Fitzgerald in marrying Zelda Sayre. Zelda served a vital role in Best 2

the writer's life, both in an uncontrolled way and a motivating one. For the most part, she shared his excessive existence and inventive interests (Prigozy 1). For an extended time, Fitzgerald resided with his wife in Long Island and while they were there, the setting for The Great Gatsby was influenced. Exactly like in his novel, he entertained in a fashion comparable to his characters, serving the best and most expensive liquors and including wonderful entertainment for his guests. He validated the antics of the foolish, careless rich, and carried this approach with him wherever he went. Egocentric, drunk, and unconventional, Fitzgerald and his wife pursued and received attention of all kinds. The big party finally came to an abrupt end with the hospitalization of Zelda for schizophrenia and, unpredictably, with the Great Depression of 1929, which triggered Fitzgerald's personal depression (Tompkins). Both The Great Gatsby and “Winter Dreams” reveal the age in which Fitzgerald lived through his characters. So much so, that he is regarded as a historian in the era. After World War I, American society went through a period of intense change. Traditional principles in God, country, and civilization were traumatized as Americans confronted the anguish of a war of that degree. During the 1920s, many Americans acknowledged that an old order had been substituted by a new, open society, one that embraced new fashions of clothing, behavior, and even the arts. Fitzgerald coined the name ‘‘Jazz Age’’ to describe this decade, which along with the ‘‘Roaring Twenties’’ came to express the Cultural Revolution that was then taking place at the time (Anderson 4). During the war, women were able to enjoy economic independence by taking over the jobs that the men left vacant because they were fighting overseas. After the war ended, they Best 3

continued to pursue...
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