F. Scott Fitzgerald

(1896 - 1940), American

F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote some of the most important novels of the 20th century. These included ‘The Great Gatsby‘ which defined the Jazz Age in the United States. F. Scott Fitzgerald is remembered as the most important writer of the American Jazz Age. His novels touch on the contemporary moment and deal with themes of wealth and morality. Fitzgerald’s stories and books are read in schools around the world and have been adapted into numerous films.

Life Facts

  • F. Scott Fitzgerald was born September 24, 1896, in St. Paul, Minnesota in the United States.
  • He met his future wife, Zelda, in Alabama. 
  • The family moved to France in 1924 where he started writing The Great Gatsby.
  • In the 1930s, Fitzgerald’s popularity had decreased and he was suffering financially.
  • Fitzgerald died of a heart attack when he was forty-four. 

Interesting Facts

  • The term “Jazz Age,” which is attributed to Fitzgerald, is used today to define that period in American culture.
  • The Great Gatsby was not an instant success. 
  • He worked on two films as a scriptwriter, for which he was uncredited.
  • Fitzgerald suffered from alcoholism. 
  • His wife, Zelda, died in 1948 in a fire at the mental hospital where she was institutionalized.

Famous Books by F. Scott Fitzgerald

The Great Gatsby depicts the narrator’s interactions with Jay Gatsby, a mysterious millionaire. Gatsby tries to return to the past and reclaim an old relationship but ends up bringing about a great deal of tragedy, including his own death.  Tender is the Night is Fitzgerald’s final novel. It was published in four issues in 1934. It contains many autobiographical elements concerned with the author’s marriage to Zelda.  This Side of Paradise is Fitzgerald’s first novel. It follows American youths after World War I. The protagonist is Amory Blaine and deals with themes of morality. The Beautiful and the Damned tells the story of a socialite and heir to a huge fortune. It follows his marriage and the couple’s troubles. There are a few mirrored experiences in this novel and Fitzgerald’s own life.  Short Stories – Fitzgerald struggled to publish his short stories during his lifetime, but they are well-loved among different readers today. They include: “Head and Shoulders,” “Bernice Bobs Her Hair,” and “The Offshore Pirate.” 

Early Life

F. Scott Fitzgerald was born September 24, 1896, in Saint Paul, Minnesota, in the United States. He came from an upper-middle-class family and his parents were Edward and Mary Fitzgerald. He had two sisters who died shortly before his birth. He spent his early life in Buffalo, where his father worked for Procter & Gamble. Fitzgerald had an interest in literature from his early youth and also showed a higher than average intelligence. The young Fitzgerald attended St. Paul Academy from 1908 to 1911. It was during this period, when he was only thirteen, that he published his first story. He later attended a prep school in Hackensack, New Jersey, and played for the football team.  Fitzgerald eventually enrolled in Princeton University, where he met several other important literary figures, wrote for the Princeton Triangle Club, and was involved in several groups. During this time, he met Ginevra King, a young woman who was later described as the inspiration for characters like Isabelle Borgé and Daisy. Fitzgerald was infatuated with the young woman for a period of time. Between this love affair and his interest in writing, his academics suffered, and he was put on academic probation. He dropped out and joined the army and hastily tried to published a novel, concerned he’d die in combat before doing so. It was rejected.  He was commissioned as a second lieutenant and sent to Alabama in 1918. There, he met his future wife, Zelda Sayre. They stayed in contact after he relocated to New York and got engaged.

Literary Career

During this period, his career was not going well, having been rejected more than 120 times from newspapers to which he was trying to sell stories. Fitzgerald and Zelda’s engagement broke off due to his limited prospects. Finally, his first novel, This Side of Paradise, was published in 1920. It provided him with the income he needed to marry Zelda. The two were married on April 3, 1920. She became pregnant the next year and gave birth to their only daughter, Frances Scott Fitzgerald.
Chapters from The Beautiful and Damned were serialized in the next few years and were eventually republished as a book that sold quite well. It was followed by Tales of the Jazz Age, a collection of eleven short stories. The term “Jazz Age,” which is attributed to Fitzgerald, is used today to define that period in American culture. Fitzgerald’s celebrity grew, as did his literary reputation. Both husband and wife drank considerably, and they often attended public parties.  The family moved to France in 1924, where he started writing The Great Gatsby. It had been planned for more than a year and was initially titled Trimalchio. Unfortunately, when it was published, critics did not receive it with the praise he hoped. It took several decades for the novel to be understood for the masterpiece it is. Fitzgerald’s personal life was struggling at this point as well, with Zelda asking for a divorce and eventually recanting after Fitzgerald locked her in the house.  Fitzgerald also met and became friends with many of the members of the Lost Generation, including Ernest Hemingway, who was unknown at that time. Fitzgerald was working on his novel, The Boy Who Killed His Mother, at this time. Hemingway later painted a negative portrait of Zelda as someone who was constantly getting her husband to drink, distracting him from his work. Hemingway expressed the fear that Fitzgerald’s personal life was going to get in the way of his writing. Fitzgerald’s relationship with Zelda continued to worsen, with the latter attempting suicide. 

Decline in Popularity

In the 1930s, Fitzgerald’s popularity had decreased, and he was suffering financially. His lifestyle and his wife’s medical bills had drained most of his savings. He was also suffering from the effects of alcoholism. This included angina and coronary artery disease. He was hospitalized nine times over a short period. Zelda was institutionalized after being diagnosed with schizophrenia in 1930, and their marriage completely deteriorated.  Fitzgerald and Zelda, while living in the United States again, both worked on new writing projects. The latter wrote a fictional version of the couple’s lives in Europe titled Save Me the Waltz. Her husband was working on the story of Dick Diver, a work that’s read today as semi-autobiographical.  In the late 30s, Fitzgerald entered into a deal with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and moved to Hollywood. He spent two years in California and attempted to quit drinking alcohol. He had a heart attack and moved in with a woman he was having an affair with, Sheila Graham. He worked on two films for which he was uncredited. He worked on his final novel and lost his contract with MGM for not writing what they asked for. This pushed him back to drinking, having around 40 beers a day, according to Howard Markel’s account of his life. 

Death and Legacy

F. Scott Fitzgerald died of a heart attack the day after attending the premiere of This Thing Called Love. He was forty-four years old. His funeral was attended by thirty people, including his child and editor. He was buried at Rockville Union Cemetery. Zelda died in 1948 in a fire at the mental hospital where she was institutionalized. Both bodies were eventually reinterred in Saint Marry’s in Maryland. Today, visitors can read a quote from The Great Gatsby on Fitzgerald’s tombstone. It reads:

So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.

After his death, his final novel remained unfinished. It was later completed, based on Fitzgerald’s notes, by Edmund Wilson. The Great Gatsby rose in popularity through the following decades. In the 1940s, new copies were being printed. By the 1960s, it was solicited as one of the most important books in American history. Fitzgerald’s life and other literary works were also reevaluated. His works are continually in print and have been adapted into films numerous times. A university even purchased the unused pages he wrote for MGM. Today, he is considered to be one of the most influential writers of the 20th century. 

Influence from other Writers

F. Scott Fitzgerald was notably influenced by writers such as John Keats, Edith Wharton, and Sherwood Anderson.

Literature by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Explore literature by F. Scott Fitzgerald below, created by the team at Book Analysis.