Scott Fitzgerald and the Theme of Disillusionment
What happened to the Lost Generation?
The Lost Generation describes the people alive during the 1920s, who witnessed firsthand the devastation of World War I. They felt ”disillusionment with what they perceived as the corruption, hypocrisy, and provincialism of postwar American culture”.(Schoenberg) Instead of working tirelessly for a shot at the American Dream, the Lost Generation valued partying and fun. To fit the cultural ideal, you had to be rich enough to host big parties, but carefree and lazy enough to make someone wonder how you even obtained your wealth. That was the Image Fitzgerald projected with his big parties, an Image that is also found in The Rich Boy and The Great Gatsby.
What was the Rich Boy's character flaw?
This Rich Boy is unique in that you have to be an observer to the main character to understand the disillusionment, since in a way it is Fitzgerald expressing his own personal dissatisfaction towards extravagant lifestyle of the Rich. The first passage is “Begin with an individual, and before you know it you find that you have created a type; begin with a type, and you find that you have created--nothing. That is because we are all queer fish...”,(Fitzgerald) Fitzgerald is saying that although we fabricate identities for ourselves, and try to make our lives into a story, we are all fakes since we do this to hide our flaws and unique weirdnesses. Anson, the rich boy of the story is guilty of this, he covers his vulnerabilities by making a false identity that he pretends to be so well that he is unable to distinguish it from himself. Anson was afraid to commit to Paula, and instead of facing that he retreated back behind his mask and pretended to be a player. In his wiser years, Anson becomes disillusioned with hedonistic party culture, and looks nostalgically at his past relationship with Paula.
What made Gatsby crazy about Daisy?
In The Great Gatsby, Gatsby is disillusioned from traditional American culture, as is characteristic of the roaring 20s in general. He seeks to fill the void inside him by chasing Daisy, whom he idealizes, almost like a carrot on a stick. Daisy is not shown to be special in any way, but she is special to Gatsby because he needs something to add meaning to his otherwise meaningless hedonistic life.
The importance of Daisy’s role in Gatsby’s life cannot be understated. Gatsby built his whole life around the dream of being with Daisy, he even got rich so that she would consider him. Even buying a house because it was overlooking hers. People need something to hold onto, and in the empty space left by the old values from before the Lost Generation, he clung to the idea of Daisy.
What does this let us infer about Scott Fitzgerald?
It is always important to look at the author, and when you do you see important similarities Anson and Fitzgerald himself. Fitzgerald made many attempts to fortify a powerful persona to live in. When in college, He tried out for the Princeton football team, which had he been accepted, would have given him social status and an identify. He was rejected. After failing to graduate from Princeton, he joined the military with dreams of becoming a war hero, this to failed and he came home without seeing any battle, and instead tried to become known for being a writer. This obviously stuck, but like the Rich Boy, Fitzgerald’s persona did not age well. Fitzgerald became fairly rich, and was known for being a party animal and a hardcore alcoholic, but he took it to far, even by Lost Generation standards. Like Anson, He had trouble integrating his true self into his social identity. Being a notorious alcoholic is alright if your at a party, but does not bode well for respectable society.
Scott Fitzgerald tried to build his life in a way that fits a story, but ironically he stayed completely authentic where it matters most, but people could not fully appreciate that until after he died. As a writer, he sells his own thoughts, and he owes his fame to how well he communicated the overarching sentiment of the Lost Generation. Although the image he projected during his life as the king of parties was not owned by him, but was the ideal of the Lost Generation culture, his deepest feelings did bleed through in his stories. Paula and Daisy are excellent examples of this. Anson’s feelings for Paula were not part of his social mask, and neither were Gatsby’s feelings for Daisy. Paula and Daisy were based on Ginevra King, Fitzgerald’s girlfriend from his years in princeton. She was the model for the “quintessential Golden Girl”(Landon) found in his stories. The long lasting message from Fitzgerald's stories about the Lost Generation, was that people became disillusioned with traditional American values like hard work and responsibility, created social masks to make themselves into a character they find appealing, but in the end their lives were still based around timeless things, like Fitzgeralds feeling for Ginerva that inspired many of his stories.
This literary criticism is about the time Scott Fitzgerald spent in Montana, and how it influenced him and his stories. It chronically many of the things that Scott Fitzgerald did there, like working on a ranch and playing cards. It puts special emphasis on Ginevra King, one of his girlfriends who inspired the “Golden Girl”(Landon) in Fitzgerald's stories, Daisy being a prime example. Paula from The Rich Boy and Daisy from The Great Gatsby could be considered the golden girls for Anson and Gatsby respectively, in that they hold a special value for both characters as a key motivator for both characters. This essay bridges that gap between Fitzgerald in his characters, it show how Fitzgerald drew from his own life when he created his stories.
Jones, Landon Y. "“Babe in the Woods: F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Unlikely Summer in Montana”." Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism, edited by Lawrence J. Trudeau, vol. 311, Gale, 2015. Literature Resource Center, http://link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/H1420119506/GLS?u=mlin_s_masscomm&sid=GLS&xid=6eac0b79. Accessed 11 Apr. 2018.
"Writers of the Lost Generation." Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism, edited by Thomas J. Schoenberg and Lawrence J. Trudeau, vol. 178, Gale, 2006. Literature Resource Center, http://link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/H1410001729/GLS?u=mlin_s_masscomm&sid=GLS&xid=27847fa2. Accessed 11 Apr. 2018.
“The Rich Boy.” All the Sad Young Men, by F. Scott Fitzgerald and James L. W. West, Cambridge University Press, 2013.
Fitzgerald, F. Scott. “The Great Gatsby.” 9780743273565: The Great Gatsby - AbeBooks - F. Scott Fitzgerald: 0743273567, Scribner, 1 Jan. 1970, www.abebooks.com/9780743273565/Great-Gatsby-F-Scott-Fitzgerald-0743273567/plp.