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BIO Classroom

BIO Classroom

Bio of the Month F Scott Fitzgerald

BIOGRAPHY®: F. SCOTT FITZGERALD

The lyrical prose of F. Scott Fitzgerald, perfected in the novels Tender is the Night, This Side of Paradise, and The Great Gatsby, captures the tumultuous mood of the 1920s and 1930s. Fitzgerald's is the voice of the “Lost Generation” – those Americans who came of age during World War I. The charactersand plots he created mirrored the glamorous lifestyle he led in the madcap excess of the Roaring Twenties. He and his wife, Zelda, enjoyed a hedonistic expatriate life as they split their time between New York, Paris and the French Riviera. The two of them became symbols of the Jazz Age – a term coined by Fitzgerald himself to convey a lifestyle of fast cars, lavish parties, flappers and booze. But the good times didn't last. By 40, Fitzgerald was a washed-up alcoholic. His books were no longer in print and his glamorous wife was locked away in an insane asylum. It was a sad end for this talented, tormented man who never knew what a lasting impact he would make on American literature. The A&E® BIOGRAPHY F. Scott Fitzgerald: The Great American Dreamer features interviews with family members and friends, as well as leading contemporary authors such as Garrison Keillor, Tobias Wolff, Joseph Heller and Jane Smiley, all of whom thoughtfully examine Fitzgerald's literary legacy.

CURRICULUM LINKS

F. Scott Fitzgerald: The Great American Dreamer would be useful for middle school and high school classes on American History, Literature, Drama, and American Culture. This documentary fulfills several national standards as outlined by the National Council for History Education including: 1) Human interaction with the environment; 2) Values, beliefs, political ideas, and institutions; and 3) Patterns of social and political interaction.

VOCABULARY

Using a dictionary (www.merriamwebster.com) or an encyclopedia, students may want to define or explain the significance of the following terms from this program:
  • Armistice
  • Asylum
  • Aura
  • Debutante
  • Destitute
  • Exasperate
  • Expatriates
  • Indulgence
  • Inebriated
  • Laborious
  • Maxim
  • Schizophrenic

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

  1. How did the failures of F. Scott Fitzgerald's father affect F. Scott's life and attitudes?
  2. Why are the 1920s known as the Roaring Twenties? What made this decade so different from the decades that led up to it or those that followed?
  3. How did the Jazz Age, a moniker Fitzgerald coined, provide a climate favorable to his work?
  4. Although he attended the finest schools, Fitzgerald came from a modest background. How did he use his budding literary talents to gain social acceptance during his schooldays?
  5. Zelda Fitzgerald was the quintessential “southern belle” during her youth. What is a “southern belle”? How does it reflect cultural differences between the northern and southern regions of the United States in the late 19th and early 20th centuries?
  6. How was Fitzgerald a spokesperson for his generation? Can you compare him with any celebrity today who is a spokesperson for his/her generation?
  7. Although Ernest Hemingway and Fitzgerald were friends, why was there a jealous tension between them? Had they collaborated, how could they have used their jealousy to create a great work?
  8. The Roaring Twenties gave way to the Great Depression of the 1930s. How did F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald's lives mirror the historical timeline of their era?
  9. How did Fitzgerald draw on his own life experiences to create his characters and plot lines?
  10. How did alcoholism play a role in the destruction of Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald's lives?

TEXTUAL ANALYSIS

  1. The following are the famous concluding lines of Fitzgerald’s novel, The Great Gatsby: “Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter – tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther. . . And then one fine morning – So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.” These lines not only display Fitzgerald’s supreme command of the written word, but they also convey a popular sentiment of the 1920s and 1930s and can be analyzed even by those who haven’t read the book. What do you make of this passage? How does it relate to what you saw in the program?
  2. “My generation of radicals and breakers-down never found anything to take the place of the old virtues of work and courage and the old graces of courtesy and politeness.” What do you make of this quote? What were some of the defining characteristics of Fitzgerald’s generation? What major events influenced this generation? Why were they labeled the Lost Generation?
  3. Look at the following quote, taken from one of Fitzgerald’s notebooks: “Show me a hero and I will write you a tragedy.” What do you think this quote means? How can this maxim be applied to Fitzgerald’s own life? In what ways was Fitzgerald’s life successful? In what ways was it tragic?

EXTENDED ACTIVITIES

  1. The early 20th century was a tumultuous time period in Western history. Create a timeline that compares the events of the 1920s and 1930s to Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald’s lives. You may want to differentiate between political, economic and social events.
  2. Fitzgerald is known for creating some of the most complex and realistic characters in his fiction. Read a work of F. Scott Fitzgerald and write an essay that explores how his characters are a reflection of the people and events in his own life.
  3. Research clothing styles of the 1920s and 1930s, then design your own outfits for the two decades. How do the clothing styles reflect the different moods and circumstances of these two decades?

REFERENCES

Websites

Additional information on the life and works of F. Scott Fitzgerald and other literary figures:
http://www.bartelby.com
The New York Times Web page with links to book reviews and articles written about Fitzgerald:
http://www.nytimes.com/books/00/12/24/specials/fitzgerald.html
Useful quotations, timelines, and bibliography all concerning Fitzgerald:
http://www.sc.edu/fitzgerald/

Books

Bruccoli, Matthew Joseph and Scottie Fitzgerald Smith. Some Sort of Epic Grandeur: The Life of F. Scott Fitzgerald. (University of South Carolina, 2002)
Fitzgerald, F. Scott. Tender is the Night. (Scribner, 1995.)
Fitzgerald, F. Scott. The Great Gatsby. (Scribner, 1995.)
Fitzgerald, F. Scott. This Side of Paradise. (Scribner, 1998.)
Kyvig, David E. Daily Life in the United States, 1920-1940: How Americans Lived During the Roaring Twenties and the Great Depression. (Ivan R. Dee Publishing, 2004.)
Marguiles, Philip, ed. The Roaring Twenties (Turning Points in World History). (Greenhaven Press, 2004.)
Tredell, Nicolas. F. Scott Fitzgerald: The Great Gatsby. (Columbia University, 1999.)

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