F. Scott Fitzgerald was a writer during the Jazz A
ge that focused on the high life of the roaring twenties. Each novel tells a different story about life. One tells about the pleasures of life and the choices people make in their life. Another gives a penetrating criticism of the moral emptiness of wealthy society in the U.S. The last novel tells the story of the general decline of the Americans living in Europe. Fitzgerald novels have deeper moral themes than people seem to understand, they tell stories of moral decline. The main characters in Fitzgeralds novels, This Side of Paradise, The Great Gatsby, and Tender Is the Night, appears to have an innate blindness to the truths of their lives, as well as to those that are around them.
Fitzgeralds heroes in his novels always have a battle with moral judgment, in which Fitzgerald makes them feel godly or immortal to do works men arent supposed to do. This causes them to walk and live a blind life. In Fitzgeralds earliest novel, This Side of Paradise, the moral framework is not fully developed, and the romantic heros sin never reaches proportions sufficient to earn inevitable domination. A young man named Amory Blaine is the main focus of blindness in this novel. In Amorys earlier years of life he lives with his rich, lavish mother. First of all, her own blindness to her influence on her son is her relationship with him. He is an equal to her rather than her son.1 Amory spends most of his time with his mother. She is more his friend/companion than a mother.2, says Fitzgerald. There is also Mrs. Blaines problem with alcohol. She is an alcoholic that suffers from chronic manic depression. Each time she loses control, she leaves Amory somewhere for him to be raised by someone else. On the most lasting breakdown, Amory spends the rest of his childhood and his teenage years growing up in Minnesota. Fitzgerald portrays Amory as his young romantic egotist. He shows how a boy, raised on the knowledge taught by his mother, survives. Fitzgerald uses her blindness as an excuse for Amorys future conditions. As an effect of this alcoholism, Amory becomes a drunkard.
In most of Fitzgeralds works, they seem to read like autobiographies of his life. In This Side of Paradise, alcoholism plays an important role. Fitzgerald went on an epic three-weeks drunk, which provided him with on of the best scenes in This Side of Paradise. As he says about Amorys drunk, …done its business; he was over the first flush of pain.3 Fitzgerald then goes on to finish writing the novel with s better insight on making life better.
As Amory gets older, he begins to get involved with women. This is an area where Fitzgerald, as well as critics, explain Amorys problem. Most of the time with Amory, … he knows he loves the women all, but there is a point where his feelings are uncertain of his heart.4 Amory doesnt know what his heart is truly saying. Arthur Mizener ascribes to the book being immaturely imagined5 when it comes to Fitzgerald depiction of Amorys lovers.He goes on to say that Fitzgeralds characters as lovers they show all the hypnotized egocentricity and intellectual immaturity of college freshmen.6 Rosalind was the main woman that was there for Amory most of his life. She was for him, but he kept her out of his life. Many times did they argue about the way Amory treated Rosalind. Rosalind says:
I cant to Amory be shut up away from the tress and flowers, cooped up in a littlest flat, waiting for you. Youd hate me in a narrow atmosphere. Id make you hate me…I wouldnt be the Rosalind you love… I like the summer and pretty things…7
Amory knows that this is how Rosalind feels. He also knows that she is corrected on how she knows how he would react. Here he is blind to the true love for Rosalind.
Early on Amory has blindness to the consequences of his lifestyle. Amory starts off as a young man that knows what to say, how to apply them, but doesnt use them for goodness. He uses them only for the advantage of getting over others. He tries his best to manipulate his way to the top.A gift of organization and command had always been a characteristic of his heroes though they had used the gift for trivial purposes.8 His life in college was no better, but as R.V.A.S. says, the book if fundamentally honest…9, in explaining how honest Fitzgerald gives a reflection of American undergraduate life. Amory lives his life without thinking what could happen to him or those people that it could effect.
Fitzgeralds novel, The Great Gatsby, is the next book that clearly shows the blindness of the characters. It is filled with falsehoods of Jay Gatsby. Nick Carraway is the central image of the novel, even though Gatsby is the hero. He is a character whom the reader instinctively trusts. Nick serves as the voice of the novel and the voice of the novelist. Sometimes information in the novel is filtered through several peopleNick Carraway and Jordan Baker. 10 As a result of this technique, the reader does not know what is true and what isnt in the novels tale of love and murder.
Nicks slowness in learningthe truth gives an added touch of plausibility to his narration, and makes it very much more dramatic for the reader, who sees him, in the course of the novel, gradually coming to realization of what his experiences may teach him.11 Nicks curiosity for Gatsby leads to a world of false realities, but is only the beginning of the revelation of truth. He begins to get curious about who Gatsby really is. He hears lots of things about Jay Gatsby, but wants to know the truth. After many parties, Fitzgeralds storyteller becomes Gatsby closet friend. The bootlegging gangster and his blind friend transpire through understanding friendships to rekindling love.
Nick takes much pride in his honesty: Everyone suspects himself of at least one of the cardinal virtues, and this is mine: I am one of the few honest people that I have ever known.12 Fitzgerald uses his off-centered heros honesty to make him see through Gatsbys facade. Like any virtue, honesty can be used negatively, …to narrow and limit sympathy.13 Gatsby is dishonest with his friends as well as himself. He tries to win everyone over and failed.
This Great Gatsby becomes blind to the true meanings of his actions towards Daisy Buchanan. Gatsby and Daisy previously had a love affair. It didnt last because Gatsby didnt meet up to Daisys standards at that time. As time went on, Gatsby amassed a fortune, to buy himself a new life. Nick describes Gatsbys love for Daisy: I think he revealed everything in his house according to the measure of response it drew from her well-loved eyes. Essayist Roger Lewis adds an even clearer and simpler explanation to Gatsbys yearning for Daisy, Possession of one does not lead to possession of the other14:
The period when his love becomes most intense, however, is precisely that in which he does not see Daisy. The love born in this period is therefore largely a function of his imagination. The kernel of his experience remains untouched because it is safely embedded in a previous time. The growth of the love is wild and luxuriant.15
This love that he had for her long ago is no longer there. It has become such a war, an adventure that he has lost consciousness between reality and his imaginative feelings for Daisy.
The ultimate blindness is Jay Gatsbys blindness to himself. James Gatz was the average man, but couldnt keep the woman he had. He changed his whole persona to get back the woman he thought would love him if he obtains money, a house, and a better living. Nick says, …and his dreams must have seemed so close that he could hardly grasp it…16 He never succeeds in seeing through the sham of his world or his acquaintances very clearly. Fitzgerald romanticizes the American Dream, wealth.
Fitzgerald perfectly understood the inadequacy of Gatsbys romantic view of wealth. But that is not the point. He represents it in Gatsby as a romantic baptism of desire for a reality that stubbornly remains out of his sight. It is as a savage islander, suddenly touched with Grace, transcended in his prayers and aspirations the grotesque little fetish in which he discovered the object of his longing.17
Tender Is the Night is the final novel in which Fitzgeralds heroes face the blindness in their lives. In this novel Dick Diver, the tragic hero of the novel, tries to conceive and realize a love that is beyond his own prudence or beyond his powers of dominance or self-protection. In that, the very thing that gives him his spiritual status and stature destroys him. Tender Is the Night tells of a love- that is destructive by reason of its very reason of tenderness.18
Dick begins to find a love for the young Rosemary Hoyt. Dick is a married man that encounters a girl, Rosemary Hoyt, that actually did look like something blooming.19 Dick goes through these periods of melancholy. The most important period is his inability to maintain self-discipline. His first mistake of self-discipline was allowing himself to fall in love with Rosemary. Dick cant control it. He knows it marked a turning point in his life–it was out of line with everything that had preceded it–even out of line with the effect he might hope to produce on Rosemary.20 Dicks admission to Rosemary that he loves her flows through Fitzgeralds Paris21 sequence. Matthew Bruccoli says that the effect is to retard the pace of Dicks loss of control…22 Fitzgerald uses Dicks confession of his love for Rosemary as a slow, ticking bomb in the downfall of his life. Dick becomes blind to this love for Rosemary. He doesnt notice what it could cause and what it is already causing to his marriage.
The novel takes the reader to a state of bewilderment. As it seems at the beginning of the novel, Rosemary is the star of the novel. Later on she is the catalytic agent in Dicks life that causes a break down of his marriage to Nicole Warren. Mizener says, …what rosemary sees in Dick diver is his consideration, his grace, his sensitivity to others, and- behind them all- his intense vitality. No wonder Rosemary falls in love with Dick.23 At the beginning Fitzgerald gives his hero this sense of intense vitality to hide the actual decreasing vitality, which is one of his periods of melancholy. Rosemary admires all that he is and wants him for herself. Fitzgerald gives an elaborate expression of Rosemary desires for Dick:
His voice with some faint Irish melody running through it, wooed the world, yet she felt the layer of hardness in him, of self-control and of self-discipline, her own virtues. Oh she chose him, and Nicole, lifting her head saw her choose him, heard the little sigh at the fact that he was already possessed.24
She knows that Dick is for her and no one will get in her way. Her need or desire to have Dick for herself shows how she begins to think irrationally. Rosemary has a competition with his wife for Dick and shes the only one that knows. Her blindness is the wrench in the works of Dick and Nicoles marriage. Fitzgerald portrays their love as the young, innocent girl falling for the distinguished, married man.
Dick Divers third period of melancholy is to make the world better for everyone, especially Nicole. He is a psychiatrist and Nicole is the patient. He knows that she has a mental problem. This reveals the defect of uncontrollable generosity in Dicks character. He wanted, Fitzgerald says, to be good, he wanted to kind, he wanted to be brave and wise…; and he wanted to be loved, too..25 He had an extraordinary virtuosity with people… the power of arousing a fascinated and uncritical love.26 This was a power of unselfishness, a power that he could use to give Nicole back her self. He felt as if he could do such an act, and was therefore blinded by his godly attitude.
In this novel, again, there is a mirror image of the authors life. Fitzgeralds wife, Zelda, was the same as Dicks Nicole; both women were mentally handicapped. His concern for Zelda was matched by his fears for himself. Dick Diver is what Fitzgerald was afraid of becoming. Dicks response to Nicoles predicament, the very heart of the novel, derives from Fitzgeralds feelings about his own wife. Indeed, the psychoanalytic branch of criticism would make the relationship between the Divers and the Fitzgeralds still more intimate by reading the novel as a wish of fulfillment. On this interpretation, Mrs. Fitzgeralds impossible recovery is achieved through Nicole; Fitzgerald is seen to be punishing himself for his complicity in his wifes breakdown by means of Dicks ignoble end….so he based Tender Is the Night on his wifes breakdown and his fears for himself.27 Fitzgerald uses this novel to give an alternate truth to the future for Zelda and himself.
F. Scott Fitzgeralds heroes and the subordinate characters have an innate blindness to the truths to their lives, as well as to those that are around them. This proves to be true in his three novels, This Side of Paradise, The Great Gatsby, and Tender Is the Night. In This Side of Paradise, he shows how Amory Blaine, the mirror image of himself, goes through his life surrounded in darkness. Fitzgerald explains how the nonchalant ways of a mother trickle down to create a son who becomes blind to women in his life and is ignorant to the possible results of his lifestyle. In The Great Gatsby Fitzgerald echoes the paradox implicit in the doctrine of original sin, the concept of man inevitably trapped by the difference between what he would desperately like to be and what he is. He expresses the true meaning of how happiness cant be bought. Fitzgeralds Tender Is the Night tells of the blindness of three people, Rosemary Hoyt, Dick and Nicole Diver. He shows the moral decline of a man who falls in love with a young girl, Rosemary, while trying to heal and make the world a better place for his wife, Nicole. F. Scott Fitzgerald affirms in his novels that his characters always have blinders on to the real world, the realities.
1F. Scott Fitzgerald, This Side of Paradise (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1920), p. 21
2Ibid., p. 21
3Ibid., p. 115
4Ibid., p. 117
5Alfred Kazin, F. Scott Fitzgerald: The Man and His Work (Cleveland: World Publishing Co.,
1951), p. 29
6Ibid., p. 29
7Arthur Mizenger, The Far Side of Paradise (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1951), p. 88
8Ibid., p. 72
9Kazin, p. 48-49
10Harold Bloom, Modern Critical Interpretations (New York: Chelsea House, 1986), p. 41
11Ibid., p. 35
12Ibid., p. 37
13Ibid., p. 38
14Matthew Bruccoli, New Essays on The Great Gatsby (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985), p. 41
15Ibid., p. 49
16F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby (New York: Scribner, 1925), p. 89
17Bloom, p. 13
18Ibid., p. 5
19F. Scott Fitzgerald, Tender Is the Night (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1933), p. 47
21Matthew Bruccoli, The Composite of Tender Is the Night (University of Pittsburgh Press, 1963), p.201
22Ibid., p. 201
23Bloom, p. 103
24Fitzgerald, Tender Is the Night, p.23
25Ibid., p. 190
26Ibid., p. 191
Bloom, Harold. Modern Critical Interpretations: F. Scott Fitzgeralds The Great Gatsby.
New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 1986
Modern Critical Views: Fitzgerald. New York: Chelsea House
Bruccoli, Matthew J. The Composite of Tender Is the Night. Pittsburgh: University of
Pittsburgh Press, 1963
New Essays on the Great Gatsby. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985
Coale, Samuel Chase. F. Scott Fitzgerald. World Book Encyclopedia. 1995. vol. 7, p. 190
Fitzgerald, F. Scott. The Great Gatsby. New York: Scribner Publishers, 1925
Tender Is the Night. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1933
This Side of Paradise. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1920
Kazin, Alfred. F. Scott Fitzgerald: The Man and His Work. Cleveland: World Publishing Co.,
Mayfield, Sara. Exiles From Paradise: Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald. New York: DelacortePress, 1971
Mizenger, Arthur. The Far Side of Paradise. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1951
Ryan, Bryan, ed. F. Scott Fitzgerald. Major 20th-Century Writers. Detroit: Gale ResearchInc., 1994. vol. 2: E-K, pp. 1012-1018