Francis Scott Fitzgerald - The Spokesman of The Jazz Age

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Profesor îndrumător / Prezentat Profesorului: Conf. Univ. dr. Alexandra Mitrea

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Among the most significant writers of the twentieth century, who have struggled with the complex dimensions of the problem of American cultural identity, as well as offered a tolerable solution, is Francis Scott Fitzgerald. He did this so memorably in his works because his own life was so persistent a search for identity. The subject of his best writing was always his own “transmuted biography” It is well documented that Fitzgerald wrote almost exclusively about his own divided nature, the achievements and hopes of the confident, romantic young man who was also fearful of himself and the world. This struggle was further complicated by his relation to American culture; Fitzgerald was constantly tormented by the conflict between the seduction of the American Dream and his belief in the value of the traditional virtues of “honor, courtesy and courage”.

During the years since his death, Fitzgerald has been transformed into a “semi-divine” personality, by an idolizing public that has often praised him, his life style, and his work for everything but literary reasons. In a country hungry for uninhibited heroes, he was the leading exemplar and “spokesman of the Jazz Age”, long before his death initiated his legendary status through his highly public life and highly personal publications.

Fitzgerald came early and at all once into his distinctive mastery. He accomplished, before reaching thirty, work he would not afterwards surpass or even quite match, except fragmentarily. He achieved that limited yet intense originality of style which sooner or later attracted bluff parody, but which no one else can betray into parody as he himself did – style capable of single passages as poignant and memorable as great lyric poetry, startling readers into recognition of things massively felt but not yet distilled into precise awareness.

The 1920s proved the most influential decade of Fitzgerald's development. His second novel, “The Beautiful and Damned”, published in 1922, represented an impressive development over the comparatively immature “This Side of Paradise” (1920). It tells the story of Anthony Patch (a 1920s socialite and presumptive heir to a tycoon's fortune), and the relationship with his wife Gloria. The novel explores the era's generational conflict and provides a portrait of the lives of the era's Eastern elites. As all of his other novels; it is a brilliant character study and also is an early account of the complexities of marriage and intimacy that were further explored in “Tender is the Night”. In the same year, the author proclaimed that “an author ought to write for the youth of his own generation, the critics of the next, and the schoolmasters of ever afterward”. And so he did

Without the shadow of a doubt, “The Great Gatsby” (1925) is Fitzgerald’s singular achievement, and the novel which brought him the “title” of spokesman of the Jazz Age, a term that he invented. In no other work was he so “totally in control of his material, so effective in bringing the fictional elements into brilliant combination” For a long time, the novel was classified as “a book about the Roaring twenties”. Indeed, it is one of those novels that so richly evoke the texture of their time that they become, in the fullness of time, more than literary classics, they become a supplementary or even a substitute form of history.

Fitzgerald's novel was not popular when it was first published, selling fewer than 24,000 copies during his lifetime. Largely forgotten during the Great Depression and World War II, it was republished in the 1950s and quickly found a wide readership. Over the following decades it emerged as a standard text in secondary school and university courses on literature in countries around the world. It is often cited as one of the greatest English-language novels of the 20th century, as well as one of the greatest American literature pieces ever written.

The theme of “The Great Gatsby” is the careless gaiety and moral decadence of the period. The book contains many references to the contemporary scene. The wild extravagance of Gatsby's parties, the shallowness and aimlessness of the guests and the hint of Gatsby's involvement in crime all identify the period and the American setting. Another theme in the book is the failure of the American dream from the point of view that American political ideals conflict with the actual social conditions that exist. For whereas American democracy is based on the idea of equal opportunity among people, the truth is that social prejudice still exists and the divisions among the classes cannot be overcome.

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