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Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald Summary & Study Guide

Therese Anne Fowler
This Study Guide consists of approximately 62 pages of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of Z.
This section contains 995 words
(approx. 3 pages at 400 words per page)
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Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald Summary & Study Guide Description

Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

This detailed literature summary also contains Quotes and a Free Quiz on Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Anne Fowler.

The following version of this book was used to create this guide: Fowler, Therese Anne. Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald. St. Martin’s Press, 2013.

Part I of the novel takes place in 1918, in Montgomery, Alabama. The first person narrator, Zelda Sayre, is a 17-year-old girl who enjoys ballet, boys, and mischief. One day she meets a soldier and aspiring author named Scott Fitzgerald, and the two immediately hit it off. After Scott throws her a lavish party for her 18th birthday, they begin dating. Zelda’s father warns her that Scott is careless with his money and drinks too much, but Zelda ignores him.

Scott is eventually stationed in Paris, but quickly comes back to Montgomery once World War I ends. Scott proposes to Zelda, who despite her father’s warnings, accepts the proposal. Time passes and Scott still has not set a wedding date. The two temporarily break things off, until Scott gets his novel published. The couple finally sets their wedding date. That spring, Zelda tells her friends and family goodbye and leaves for New York City.

In Part II, Zelda and Scott get married and begin living lavishly. Scott’s popularity grows, and the couple attend an endless stream of parties. Often getting drunk and acting out in public, the couple grab the attention of the press. It is not long until their excessive drinking and newfound fame lead Scott to cheating on Zelda with other women.

With the honeymoon phase coming to an end, the couple often argue. However, once Scott publishes another novel, the two have a baby girl named Scottie. Zelda starts writing to help make money, but the stories are published under Scott’s name so they will sell well.

After moving to a few different places, the couple finally settles down in Paris, France. Scott locks himself away to finish his novel, and after being neglected for months, Zelda falls in love with a man named Édouard Jozan. She asks Scott for a divorce, but he convinces her to stay.

Zelda and Scott decide to try to have a son, but Zelda finds out she has an ovarian cyst and has to have the ovary removed. No longer sure if she can get pregnant again, Zelda devotes her time to painting while Scott finally finishes writing The Great Gatsby. However, he is devastated when the novel makes low sales.

In Part III, Zelda enjoys life in Paris, painting and attending ballet performances, while Scott spirals into a depression. That is, until Scott meets Ernest Hemingway, who quickly becomes his best friend. Zelda immediately dislikes Hemingway, which only worsens when Hemingway aggressively flirts with her. Hemingway and Scott only grow closer and closer. Hemingway then begins cheating on his wife with a woman named Pauline.

Zelda and Scott temporarily move to Antibes, even though Zelda desperately wants to go back to Paris. She hates being around Hemingway so much, as she starts to suspect he has romantic feelings for Scott. Hemingway divorces his wife and publishes his novel. Scott, jealous and depressed, decides he and Zelda must move back to the United States so he can focus on his writing.

In Part IV, Zelda and Scott briefly move to Hollywood, where Scott has an affair with a young actress. Eventually Scott ends the affair and tries to stay sober. They move back to Paris, where Zelda spends all her time practicing ballet and causes Scott to resent her.

Zelda suspects that Scott is having an affair with Hemingway, but when she confronts him about it, it leads to an explosive argument. Zelda decides to drown herself in her dancing, and eventually gets an invitation to attend a prestigious ballet company. Unfortunately, Scott makes her reject the offer so she can focus on her duties as a wife and mother.

One day, Zelda begins hallucinating and collapses, and is later diagnosed with schizophrenia. She spends over a year in a mental health ward, and is banned from dancing ever again. After she is released, she and Scott move back to Montgomery.

Zelda writes her own novel, but when it receives bad reviews, she becomes depressed. Zelda receives news that her brother Tony has killed himself, and she fears she will one day do the same. When she and Scott move to Baltimore, Scott sees a doctor for his alcoholism while Zelda studies the human brain. Nonetheless, Scott cannot stay sober, and soon Zelda also becomes an alcoholic.

Zelda’s life becomes a blur, until one day she wakes up in a hospital once again. Zelda spends her time painting and even holds a public exhibition of her art. However, she has an identity crisis when her work is simply labeled as “Work of a Wife” (357), and she spirals into yet another depression.

Scott goes broke while Zelda is thrust into electroshock and insulin therapy. When Zelda sees how severe of an alcoholic Scott has become, she opts to leave the hospital and move in with her mother, so Scott can save money.

The last chapter of the novel takes place on December 21st, 1940, wherein Zelda and Scott have been separated for some time. Zelda’s mother tells her that Scott has died of a heart attack. Zelda delivers the news to Scottie, who is away at school. Heartbroken, Zelda does not attend the funeral.

The novel ends with an Afterword, which details the last moments of Zelda’s life. She gets Scott’s last novel edited and published, and watches his name go down in literary history. Hemingway slanders hers and Scott’s name, and ends up committing suicide. Zelda devotes the last years of her life to writing and painting, successfully publishing yet another novel.

In 1948, Zelda dies in a fire while being treated at a hospital, and is buried next to Scott. The narrator explains that today, doctors believe Zelda was misdiagnosed with schizophrenia, and that she actually suffered from bipolar disorder.

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