The Myth Of The American Dream—Francis Scott Fitzgerald

1349 words - 5 pages

The Myth of the American Dream—Francis Scott FitzgeraldF. Scott Fitzgerald’s life and work can be explained through the words of French Writer André Maurois when he wrote, “the need to express oneself in writing springs from maladjustment to life, or from an inner conflict, which the adolescent, or grown man, cannot resolve in action” (Bruccoli 1 Preface). In addition, C.K. Doreski quotes Kenneth Burke as he describes Fitzgerald as, “…the perfect example of your theory of social analogy. In all his work the hero represents the rising middle class, the heroine represents inherited money, they kiss as if he were embracing a pile of stock certificates…” (Doreski 97). Fitzgerald was a product of World War I, the “Roaring Twenties” and the Great Depression, periods characterized by major political, social and cultural events in America and the world. His own personal social background and life reflects the history of the time he lived through. The themes found in his work describe the way he felt about what was happening to him, to the people around him, and how they affected him personally. One dominant theme in his work is his feeling about the reality of the American Dream, a myth in Fitzgerald’s mind, and the clash between what life really was and the vision people had about it. This theme is best expressed in The Great Gatsby, written in 1925, and considered as one of his best novels. In it Fitzgerald “examines the results of the Jazz Age generation's adherence to false material values” as well as the social and class conflicts associated with the American dream.
Fitzgerald was born in September 1896, in St. Paul, Minnesota, to a Catholic family. His father, Edward Fitzgerald, was from Maryland and came from an old aristocratic family attached to the Old South values and traditions. His mother’s background, was quite different and in Fitzgerald's own words, "straight 1850 potato-famine Irish" (Napierkowski 1). Although, his maternal grandfather, an Irish immigrant, founded a wholesale grocer business that became very successful. In comparison, his own father’s furniture business failed, and Edward Fitzgerald became a salesman for Procter & Gamble in New York State. Therefore, Scott Fitzgerald experienced the reality of the American dream very early through contrasts in his own family. Furthermore, Procter & Gamble fired Edward Fitzgerald in 1908; the family had to move back to St. Paul where they managed to live comfortably thanks to his mother’s inheritance.
Fitzgerald was admitted to Princeton University. However, he did not do well and was unable to graduate. Instead, he enlisted in the Army in 1917 and thought he would be sent to Europe to fight in the WWI trenches where he would die. He was sent to Camp Sheridan, Alabama, where he fell in love with a southern belle from Alabama, Zelda Sayre. By the time he was ready for combat, the war ended. In 1919, in spite of a couple of rejections from the first novel he wrote, The Romantic Egotist, he...

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