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Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald


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        In The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald emphasizes the theme of moral corruption in the upper class. The story is set during the 1920s, a period of ethical and social decay in the height of materialism. After experiencing the First World War, a disillusioned generation of Americans seeks blindly after wealth and splendor. Fitzgerald portrays them as a lost of group of insatiable aristocracy who fail to grasp the difference between happiness and pleasure. In an attempt to compensate for the lack of happiness, they mistakenly begin an endless pursuit for hollow pleasure. This theme of moral degeneration is most evident through the author's portray of the corruption of the American Dream.
         The theme of moral decay is also manifested in Fitzgerald’s other works such as Tender is the Night. In this novel, the protagonist, Dick Diver, is at first presented as a character with great promise. However, he eventually enters upon a path of moral decline after his imprudent marriage to Nicole Warren. His newfound wealth leads to habits of excessive drinking and infidelity. In the end his self-indulgence becomes his ultimate downfall. In many Fitzgerald’s compositions, similar characters are also used to develop the theme of moral degeneration.
         Most of Fitzgerald’s works center around the lives of young people. In his short story, Bernice Bobs Her Hair, for example, he portrays the inevitable identity search that every youngster must encounter in the process of maturation. Hence, it is a story about personal individuality and also the individuality of America as a nation after World War I. As a writer, Fitzgerald aimed to capture the essence of his generation. Part of the Lost Generation, he portrayed the Jazz Age accurately as a period of identity disillusion, modernization, and ultimately the emergence of a strong desire to regain individuality.
        In Fitzgerald’s first novel, This Side of Paradise, the main character Amory struggles between conformity and self-realization. At the beginning of the story, Amory is portrayed as a college student who strives to be well liked and is obsessed with conventions. However, at the end of the novel, after losing wealth and love, he discovers the emptiness of conformity, and is forced to look deeper within himself for his true identity.
        The theme of love appears in almost every Fitzgerald novel. His delicate treatment of this subject is often complex and dual. The entire plot of The Great Gatsby is driven by Jay Gatsby’s love for Daisy Buchanan. Although at first, Jay seems to be fixated by wealth and opulence, in reality, his main incentive in obtaining status and fortune was his love for Daisy. However, the element of lust and infidelity exist simultaneously, which calls into question the true nature and value of love. In fact, after Gatsby died as an indirect result of their love, Daisy does not even attend his funeral.
        As a leading literary figure of the pessimistic Lost Generation, it is to be expected that Fitzgerald incorporate the themes of mutability and loss into many of his works. Most of his major compositions involve a protagonist having or achieving wealth at some point of his life but eventually loses it to fate in the end. In some novels this is for the better, for it leads to a profound self-grasping, in others for the worst, as the novel comes to a bitter ending. While novels such as This Side of Paradise concludes on a positive outlook, novels such as The Great Gatsby and Tender is the Night, reflects the cynicism of the 1920s.
        The Jazz Age, also known as the Roaring Twenties, was a period where the American economy soared. Hence, poverty was viewed with disgust. This view is no doubt reflected in the works of Fitzgerald. He focused the novel The Great Gatsby entirely on the lives of the wealthy. Those of the lower social class are depicted with the same status as those of objects. This theme also relates to the first theme of moral decay. It seems that Fitzgerald created in his characters a correlation between their social class and moral corruption.

Period 6 English World Literature Author