How F. Scott Fitzgerald contributed to Modern American literature and what influenced him.
The Emergence of Modern American Literature
Between 1890 and 1930 there was a significant change in American literature. It went from the traditional roots of stylistic conventions and schools instructing them, to literature full of tension and struggle with questions that are never fully answered. One of the few writers during this time is F. Scott Fitzgerald. His work is not only appropriate for this era, but is essential to this era. Fitzgerald incorporates the Lost Generation, the creation of the jazz age, and the change of the American Dream.
The Lost Generation refers to a group of American writers who moved to Europe after serving in the military duringWorld War I. After serving the war, the idea of a person who acted righteously then good things would happen to the person. However, many young men went to war and either died or returned home physically or mentally wounded. The government claimed that the war was fought for righteousness, but it soon became apparent to the soldiers that this was a lie.America had betrayed them and they didn’t know what to believe; they were lost. F. Scott Fitzgerald was a part of this generation; he had moved to Europe and based a few of his stories on the Lost Generation. In the novel, Tender is the Night,Fitzgerald reports what the war was like. “This land here cost twenty lives a foot that summer…See that little stream–we could walk to it in two minutes. It took the British a month to walk it–a whole empire walking very slowly, dying in front and pushing forward behind. And another empire walked very slowly backward a few inches a day, leaving the dead like a million bloody rugs. No Europeans will ever do that again in this generation.” It attempted to show how outnumbered the Americans were in WWI and how many of them died. War wasn’t as great as the young men who were enrolling in the army thought it to be. It was something that should never happen again. Another example of Fitzgerald writings about the Lost Generation is in The Great Gastby. He explains how people after the war become disillusioned and lose their traditional morals. The unrestrained desire of money and pleasure overtakes all of their morals and that’s the only thing they end up wanting. Just like the people with the “new money” like Gatsby. He threw huge, wild parties with jazz music while the people with the “old money” kept their morals and wore dresses and went horseback riding. Fitzgerald’s novels ties in greatly with the Lost Generation because he really knew how they felt since he was one of them.
Fitzgerald was one of the first people to use the term “Jazz Age.” He instantly coined the term by including it in many of his short stories. He used this term to describe this time period as the “anything goes” era that emerged in America after World War I. This era was shown in many of Fitzgerald novels such as The Great Gastby. In his novel, Fitzgerald describes wild parties filled with uninvited guests and jazz music playing. All of these things were traditionally unethical, but with this new period, anything goes.
“The American Dream is that dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement.” (James Truslow Adams) The American Dream was the freedom of all Americans to pursue their goals through hard work. In the short story Winter Dreams, one can clearly see that F. Scott Fitzgerald believed in the American Dream. In the story, middle class boy wants to become part of the wealthy class. As a result, the main character quits his job, goes to college and then buys a partnership in a laundry business. Later, he takes over the laundry business and monopolizes the laundries. (This monopoly resembles John D. Rockefeller’s monopoly of standard oil or Henry Ford’s monopoly of automobiles at the time.) Thus, the character became rich as a result of hard work, in accordance with the American Dream. However, Fitzgerald soon points out that the American Dream is becoming corrupted. In The Great Gatsby, people didn’t need to work hard to become rich like before. America obtained a new way to gain money. Gatsby utilizes this new way in order to become wealthy quickly and without hard work by selling fake bonds. Another way of earning money quickly was bootlegging. These are only a few of the illegal ways of making money developed during this modern era.
F. Scott Fitzgerald’s works was very appropriate for America between 1890 and 1930. His writings regarding pre-World War I and post-World War I was a reflection of how America was feeling. Such as how the people who served in the army and lost all their morals and became obsessed about earning money and pleasure no matter what it took. Or how the creation of jazz music introduced new feelings and possibilities to America, such as big parties and listening to jazz music. Lastly, Fitzgerald showed the corruption of the American Dream that was quickly spreading through all of America. For example, a person who earned their money through hard work can be easily matched by a person who earned their money through illegal means. Fitzgerald was one of the twentieth century’s greatest writers and produced works that corresponded to this era perfectly.