F. Scott Fitzgerald Biography

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Tender is the Night Author/Context

Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald was born in St. Paul, Minnesota, on September 24, 1896. His father, Edward, was from Maryland, with an allegiance to the Old South and its values. Fitzgerald's mother, Mary (Mollie) McQuillan, was the daughter of an Irish immigrant who became wealthy as a wholesale grocer in St. Paul. Both were Catholics.

Fitzgerald attended the St. Paul Academy; his first writing to appear in print was a detective story in the school newspaper when he was thirteen. He went to Princeton University, but quit in 1917.

In June 1918 Fitzgerald was assigned to Camp Sheridan, near Montgomery, Alabama. There, he fell in love with a celebrated belle, eighteen-year-old Zelda Sayre, the youngest daughter of an Alabama Supreme Court judge. The romance intensified Fitzgerald's hopes for the success of his novel, but after revision, Scribners rejected it for a second time. The war ended just before he was to be sent overseas. After his discharge, in 1919, he went to New York City to seek his fortune as he wished to marry. However, Zelda was unwilling to wait while Fitzgerald succeeded in the advertisement business and unwilling to live on his small salary and so broke their engagement.

In the fall of 1919 Fitzgerald started his career as a writer of stories for the mass-circulation magazines. Fitzgerald stopped doing this, as he wanted to work on his novels to write moneymaking popular fiction for the rest of his life. The publication of This Side of Paradise on March 26, 1920, made the twenty-four-year-old Fitzgerald famous almost overnight, and a week later, in New York, he married Zelda. They had an extravagant life as young celebrities. Fitzgerald tried to earn a solid literary reputation but his playboy image impeded the proper assessment of his work.

In 1932, Zelda had her first mental breakdown rapidly, and while a patient at John Hopkin's, she wrote Save Me the Waltz. Her autobiographical novel generated considerable bitterness between the Fitzgeralds, for he regarded it as pre-empting the material that he was using in his novel-in-progress. When it was published in 1934, his novel, Tender Is the Night, although the most ambitious of his works, was a commercial failure and led to his own breakdown. It was an almost autobiographical novel about Fitzgerald's life with Zelda, and described the deterioration of Dr. Dick Diver after falling in love with a mental patient.

After the failure of his novels, he wrote screenplays in Hollywood for a few years. With Zelda now confined to a mental hospital in North Carolina, he became involved with another woman, Sheila Graham. He died in her apartment of a heart attack, believing himself a failure.


Fitzgerald, F. Scott. Tender Is the Night. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1995.

A Brief Life of F. Scott Fitzgerald. 14 June 2002.

F. Scott Fitzgerald Biography and Links to Etext at Owl-Eyes. 14 June 2002.

Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald--Biography at Generation Terrorists. 14 June 2002.

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