Babylon Revisited: And Other Stories | Study Guide

F. Scott Fitzgerald

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F. Scott Fitzgerald | Biography


Early Life

Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald was born on September 24, 1896, in Saint Paul, Minnesota. His father was an unsuccessful businessman, so the family lived on Fitzgerald's mother's sizable inheritance. His mother's wealth provided opportunities for young Fitzgerald to mingle with the social elite in his hometown, but the family wasn't quite rich enough to be welcomed into the highest class of the social hierarchy.

Rise to Prominence

Fitzgerald departed his hometown for a top-notch education at Princeton but left without graduating to join the army. When Fitzgerald was 22 he fell in love with socialite Zelda Sayre, a judge's daughter. Although Zelda claimed to love Fitzgerald, she refused to marry him until he was rich. When Fitzgerald published his first novel, This Side of Paradise (1920), Zelda deemed him appropriate to marry. This Side of Paradise, published when Fitzgerald was only 24, famously investigated the influence of World War I (1914–18) on his generation.

The Cost of Fame

As Fitzgerald's writing career blossomed, he and his wife enjoyed their celebrity with lavish parties, heavy drinking, and extensive travels. This life, however, was not as glamorous as it seemed. Fitzgerald achieved his literary fame at a young age, and as a result he suffered from the excesses of his era—alcoholism and financial troubles. Zelda suffered from mental illness. By the 1930s Fitzgerald was an alcoholic, and Zelda had been committed to a sanitarium after a serious mental breakdown. Fitzgerald's last completed novel, Tender Is the Night (1934), was criticized and failed to sell well. He attempted to reinvent his career and became a moderately successful screenwriter. On December 21, 1940, he died suddenly of a heart attack in California before he could complete his final novel, The Last Tycoon (published posthumously as The Love of the Last Tycoon in 1941).

Literary Legacy

By the time of Fitzgerald's death at age 44, the author was largely forgotten. However, after the United States entered World War II (1939–45), a group called the Council on Books in Wartime decided to improve the morale of the armed services by providing them novels to read. The Great Gatsby was one of the titles chosen, and its inclusion radically affected the novel's popularity and sales. Since Fitzgerald's death, critics have also come to view Tender Is the Night as one of the finest novels of the 20th century, a great example of modernism—a literary movement that rejected old forms and experimented with new forms—and a tribute to the Jazz Age of the 1920s, which saw the popularization of jazz music.

During his comparatively brief career, Fitzgerald wrote over 100 short stories, many of which touched on the leading themes of his novels or incorporated some of his own experiences in real life. Twenty years after the author's death, 10 of these tales were collected and published under the title Babylon Revisited and Other Stories.

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