An autobiographical portrayal of F. Scott Fitzgerald as Jay Gatsby, in The Great Gatsby
Frances Scott Key Fitzgerald, born September 24, 1896 in St. Paul, Minnesota, is seen today as one of the true great American novelists. Although he lived a life filled with alcoholism, despair, and lost-love, he managed to create the ultimate love story and seemed to pinpoint the ¡§American Dream¡¨ in his classic novel, The Great Gatsby. In the novel, Jay Gatsby is the epitome of the ¡§self-made man,¡¨ in which he dictates his entire life to climbing the social ladder in order to gain wealth, to ultimately win the love of a woman: something that proves to be unattainable. As it turns out, Gatsby¡¦s excessive extravagance and love of money, mixed with his obsession for a woman¡¦s love, is actually the autobiographical portrayal of Fitzgerald.
While attending Princeton University, Fitzgerald struggled immensely with his grades and spent most of his time catering to his ¡§social¡¨ needs. He became quite involved with the Princeton Triangle Club, an undergraduate club which wrote and produced a lively musical comedy each fall, and performed it during the Christmas vacation in a dozen major cities across the country. Fitzgerald was also elected to ¡§Cottage,¡¨ which was one of the big four clubs at Princeton. ¡§Its lavish weekend parties in impressive surroundings, which attracted girls from New York, Philadelphia and beyond, may well have provided the first grain of inspiration for Fitzgerald¡¦s portrayal of Jay Gatsby¡¦s fabulous parties on Long Island¡¨ (Meyers, 27).
Although Fitzgerald was a ¡§social butterfly¡¨ while at Princeton, he never had any girlfriends. However, at a Christmas dance in St. Paul, MN during his sophomore year, he met Ginevra King, a sophisticated sixteen-year-old who was visiting her roommate, and immediately fell in love with her. Although Scott loved Ginevra to the point of infatuation, she was too self-absorbed to notice. Their one-sided romance persisted for the next two years. Fitzgerald would send hundreds of letters, but Ginevra, who thought them to be clever but unimportant, destroyed them in 1917. The following year, Ginevra sent Scott a letter that announced her marriage to a naval ensign. Just before Fitzgerald was to meet with Ginevra after a twenty-year absence, he proclaimed to his daughter, with mixed feelings of regret and nostalgia: ¡§She was the first girl I ever loved and have faithfully avoided seeing her up to this moment to keep the illusion perfect, because she ended up by throwing me over with the most supreme boredom and indifference¡¨ (Meyers, 30). Although heartbroken at the time, Fitzgerald answered Yeats¡¦ crucial question-- ¡§Does the imagination dwell the most / Upon a woman lost or a woman won?¡¨ -- by using his lost love as imaginative inspiration. For in his 1925 masterpiece, The Great Gatsby, he recreated the elusive, unattainable Ginevra as the beautiful and elegant Daisy Fay Buchanan.
Throughout the novel, Fitzgerald described Daisy as an almost disembodied voice which, Gatsby realized at the end, was ¡§full of money.¡¨ Fitzgerald wrote, ¡§her face was sad and lovely with bright things in it, bright eyes and a bright passionate mouth, but there was an excitement in her voice that men who had cared for her found difficult to forget¡¨ (Fitzgerald, 14). It should be noted that, ¡§Gatsby¡¦s ability, like Fitzgerald¡¦s, ¡¥to keep that illusion perfect¡¦ sustains his self-deceptive and ultimately self-destructive quest, with the help of his own fabulous money, to win Daisy back from her husband¡¨ (Meyers, 30).
Although Ginevra King was Fitzgerald¡¦s first true love, she certainly was not his last. In July 1918, while stationed in Montgomery, Alabama with the military, Scott met a gracious, soft-voiced girl named Zelda Sayre at a country club dance. Scott...