Fitzgerald's Works: Reality or Fiction?

In several of Fitzgerald's works, it is quite obvious that he is not merely describing the character which he has created but rather he is describing himself. Fitzgerald is so deeply embedded in his writing that at times, it is difficult for the reader to distinguish between fact and fiction. Since he creates characters and situations that literally mirror his own life, the reader constantly asks himself if the characters are F. Scott and Zelda or mere personas who have many of the same attributes and characteristics as they do. His tendency to fabricate characters who parallel his own life can be seen in works such as "Winter Dreams," "Babylon Revisited," "An Alcoholic Case" and Tender Is the Night . All of the characters in these pieces of writing emulate Fitzgerald. But the one that best exemplifies the way in which reality and fiction is most jaded is Tender Is the Night . The circumstances in his life give a good account of why he wrote in the manner in which he did in his final novel. First, at this point in time, Zelda's condition was deteriorating so rapidly that she had to be hospitalized in a sanitarium on Lake Geneva. Moreover, his own illness, alcoholism, was a constant struggle for him. Therefore, Tender Is the Night is not merely a novel about romance and heartbreak but rather a product of Fitzgerald's own experience and heartache. In Ernest Hemingway's A Moveable Feast, he talks extensively about Fitzgerald and Zelda and the effect Fitzgerald's personal life had on his writing. In essence, his book places the facts about Fitzgerald into context and makes the period come alive so that the reader may envision the circumstances under which Fitzgerald was writing.

"Winter Dreams"

"The helpless part of trying to do anything about it was that she did it all herself. She was not a girl who could be won in the kinetic sense-she was proof against cleverness, she was proof against charm; if any of these assailed her too strongly she would immediately resolve the affair to a physical basis, and under the magic of her physical splendor the strong as well as the brilliant played her game and not their own. She was entertained only by the gratification of her desires and by the direct exercise of her own charm. Perhaps from so much youthful love, so many youthful lovers, she had come, in self- defense, to nourish herself wholly from within."

This passage is just one illustration of how Judy Jones' and Dexter Green's relationship emulates Zelda's and F. Scott's. Like Zelda, Judy is the golden girl and the unattainable prize. She is the one who is in control and, ultimately, has the power to hurt Dexter just like Zelda had the capacity to hurt F. Scott.

"Babylon Revisited"

"...He passed a lighted door from which issued music, and stopped with the sense of familiarity; it was Bricktop's, where he had parted with so many hours and so much money."

This quote gives insight into the way in which Charlie Wales has regained control of his life after he has had time away from Paris and from what it represents, the memory of his wife Helen and the past. Charlie's and Helen's marriage clearly parallels Fitzgerald's and Zelda's. Both couples lead a very extravagant lifestyle: they spent a lot of money and partied all the time.

"I heard you lost a lot in the crash."
"I did," and he added grimly, "but I lost everything I wanted in the boom."
"Selling short."
"Something like that."

This dialogue between Charlie and Paul is significant because it shows how Charlie has matured and has come to the realization that he has lost Helen and Honoria as a result of the flamboyant and chaotic life they lead just like F. Scott and Zelda.

"An Alcoholic Case"

"Suddenly she knew he wasn't looking for that. He was looking at the corner where he had thrown the bottle the night before. She stared at his handsome face, weak and defiant-afraid to turn even half-way because she knew that death was in that corner where he was looking. She knew death-she had heard it, smelt its unmistakable odor, but she had never seen it before it entered into anyone, and she knew this man saw it in the corner of his bathroom; that it was standing there looking at him while he spit from a feeble cough and rubbed the result into the braid of his trousers. It shone there...crackling for a moment as evidence of the last gesture he ever made."

In this passage Fitzgerald writes about himself through a woman's perspective, so the distinction between fact and fiction is much clearer in this work than in Tender Is the Night. Even though the reader is aware of the similarities between the alcoholic and Fitzgerald, this work is much less sentimental. "An Alcoholic Case" is a good illustration of Fitzgerald's perception of himself and of his ability to recognize the facts because despite the fact that he is closely intertwined with the character, he still remains detached.

Tender Is the Night

"...Nicole was a force-not necessarily well disposed or predictable like her mother-an incalculable force." (p.59)

This quote proves that there is essentially no distinction between fiction and reality. Nicole is Zelda and Tender Is the Night is an articulation of Fitzgerald's and Zelda's problems as well as a testimony of his love for her. Even though Nicole is an emotional drain and a constant obstacle to true happiness, Dick still loves her exactly like Fitzgerald loved Zelda.

A Moveable Feast

"...If he could write a book as fine as The Great Gatsby, I was sure that he could write a better one. I did not know Zelda yet, and so I did not know the terrible odds that were against him. But we were to find them out soon enough." (p.176)

In this passage Hemingway is clearly alluding to Tender Is the Night, and, more specifically, to Zelda's descendtion into madness which would inevitably lead to Fitzgerald's own downfall. Therefore, Hemingway's observations serve as another source of verification of why the distinction between fiction and reality is so jaded in Tender Is the Night.