Francis Scott Fitzgerald’s life is an example of both sides of the American Dream, the joys of young love, wealth and success, and the tragedies associated with success and failure. Named for another famous American, a distant cousin who authored the Star Spangled Banner, Fitzgerald was born in St. Paul Minnesota on September 24, 1896. The son of a wicker furniture salesman (Edward Fitzgerald) and an Irish immigrant with a lot of money (Mary McQuillan), Fitzgerald grew up in a Catholic and upper middle class environment. Fitzgerald started writing at an early age.
His high school newspaper published his detective stories, encouraging him to pursue writing more than academics. He dropped out of Princeton University to join the army and continued to pursue his obsession. At 21 years of age, he submitted his first novel for publication and Charles Scribner’s Sons rejected it, but with words of encouragement. Beginning a pattern of constant revising that would characterize his writing style for the rest of his career. The U. S. army, stationed him near Montgomery, Alabama in 1918, where he met and fell in love with Zelda Sayre.
Three years into marriage, after the birth of their first and only child, Scottie, Fitzgerald completed his best-known work: “The Great Gatsby. ” The extravagant living made possible by such success, however, took its toll. Constantly living at various times in several different cities in Italy, France, Switzerland, and eight of the United States, the Fitzgeralds tried hard to escape from or do something about Scott’s alcoholism and Zelda’s mental illness. Zelda suffered several breakdowns in both her physical and mental health, and sought treatment in and out of clinics from 1930 until her death.
Things were looking up for Fitzgerald near the end of his life – he won a contract in 1937 to write for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer in Hollywood and fell in love with Sheilah Graham, a movie columnist. He had started writing again – scripts, short-stories, and the first draft of a new novel about Hollywood when he suffered a heart attack and died in 1940 at the age of fourty-four. Most commonly recognized only a drunk, who loved the excesses of the Jazz Age, Fitzgerald’s work did not earn the credibility and recognition it holds today until years after his death.