The Fitzgerald Formula: Comparing The Great Gatsby to the Lees of Happiness and the Camel's Back

Only available on StudyMode
  • Download(s): 172
  • Published: September 14, 2009
Read full document
Text Preview
F Scott Fitzgerald is often hailed as one of the greatest writers in the subject of the Jazz Age, a term he is even credited to have coined. He wrote many stories about life in the 1920's, some of which was semi-biographical. Two if his short stories in Six Tales of the Jazz Age and Other Stories that best exemplify his writing technique and mastery of the subject matter are The Camel's Back and the Lees of Happiness. But of course, The Great Gatsby will go down in history as being one of the greatest novels ever written. These stories have many things in common, and are, in fact, written in accordance to Fitzgerald's extremely worn out formula.

Before one can understand the stories of Fitzgerald, one must understand a little about Fitzgerald himself. Fitzgerald was forced into extravagant life by his wife, Zelda. Before she would marry him, she made him prove he could support the lifestyle she wanted them to live. With the success of his first novel, the couple fell into a life of wild parties. Eventually, Fitzgerald succumbs to the effects of alcoholism and dies of a heart attack.

Fitzgerald's 1925 novel The Great Gatsby has many shadows of his own life in the 1920's. Part of his life can be seen in Nick Carraway as well as Jay Gatsby himself. Nick, like Fitzgerald, hails from Minnesota and is intelligent enough to get into an Ivy League school, but instead chooses the military. Jay enlists in the military as well and is stationed in the southern United States. While there, he meets a beautiful young woman and falls in love with her. This is precisely how Fitzgerald met his wife.

Being able to interject his stories with facts and anecdotes from his own life is one of Fitzgerald's greatest strengths. We can see in The Camel's Back a similar kind of autobiographical undertone. Perry Parkhurst, a member of the inner party circuit of Toledo in 1919, spends his days attending "forty-one dinner parties, sixteen dances, six luncheons … twelve teas, four stag dinners, two weddings and thirteen bridge parties" (Fitzgerald, 35). We can presume from what we know about Fitzgerald and his wife that they spent their lives attending functions like this. Another important mirror in The Camel's Back is Perry's incessant statement "I'm sick of parties" (Fitzgerald, 37) yet he goes anyway. Betty Medill, Perry's love interest seems to thoroughly enjoy parties though. This is a mirror because we know from histories that Zelda pushed her husband to write in order to support the lifestyle she wanted them to live; a life in the public eye and swanky party life. Because of this pushing, Zelda is said to have had a hand in Fitzgerald's loss of everything (talent, self control and life) by encouraging his reckless lifestyle: distracting him from his real work of writing.

But with all this in mind, one is left to wonder where The Lees of Happiness fits in, and even where the slightest smidgen of Fitzgerald's life is within its words. Fitzgerald has said that this is his least favourite story in the collection, perhaps because he was aware of how different it was from his others, and therefore from his life. Perhaps this story is Fitzgerald's commentary on his life: he married a beautiful but pushy woman and soon after began his fall from grace. This story could also contain a secret inner desire of Fitzgerald: on page 125 Fitzgerald writes that Jeffery Curtain "sweeping back is arm furiously, caught her a glancing blow" (Fitzgerald, 125). Maybe this is Fitzgerald's way of saying that he wanted to punish his wife (physically or figuratively) for causing his downfall.

Another interesting commentary on The Lees of Happiness that may or may not have a glimpse of how Fitzgerald saw his life with Zelda lays within the title itself. The word 'lee' has several different meanings, which are all nautical in a sense:1.Downwind from a point of reference2.The side away from the direction from which the wind blows3.An area sheltered from the...
tracking img