The Influence of Fitzgerald’s life on The Great Gatsby and This Side of Paradise

According to legend

American author Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald personified the Jazz Age in its most authentic state. He was renowned for documenting both the positive and negative elements of the time he lived in. One might question how F. Scott Fitzgerald's life, which was very interesting and colorful, affected two of his works, The Great Gatsby and This Side of Paradise. There are several instances where the events and descriptions in these two outstanding American books paralleled F. Scott Fitzgerald's life.

Fitzgerald's debut book, This Side of Paradise

This Side of Paradise was released in 1920. He became an overnight success at twenty-three years old. The novel was very successful – and a startling and realistic view of Ivy League college life as it was never depicted before. It was enticing to young readers, but shocking to the adults who grew up in the prim and proper Victoria era. Thus, the novel had the reputation for scandal and social realism (Shain). It made the novel a representative of an entire post-World War I “lost” generation (Witkoski).

The main character, Amory Blame

The main character, Amory Blame, is a Princeton University student in the first part of the two-part novel. Amory Blame is described to be a cultural spy, an insider for his generation (Shain). Just like Amory, Fitzgerald also went to Princeton University. The novel is concerned with two aspects of Amory’s development as a person: his intellectual/mental growth, and his physical desires/sexual awakening. It paid special attention to the importance of reading books to develop character, with a total of sixty-four book titles and ninety-eight authors mentioned in the novel (Witkoski). This also says a lot about Fitzgerald’s love for reading and books.

In the final chapter of the book, “The Egotist Becomes a Personage”, Amory Blame says, “Every child…shouldn’t be artificially bolstered up with money…sent to these horrible tutoring schools, dragged through college…Every boy should have an equal start.” This social commentary is something that Fitzgerald firmly believes in. Coming from this level of social strata as well, he understands the pressures that affluent parents place on their sons. This view of the horribly rich is also a reflection of Fitzgerald’s insecurity during his growing up years. Although coming from a well-connected background and living in the Upper Crust side of Minnesota, his father’s relations didn’t have a lot of money, and they relied on his mother’s rich relations so that they can keep up their middle-class lifestyle (Rompalske 104).

Amory further says, “I simply state that I’m a product of a versatile mind in a restless generation – with every reason to throw my mind and pen in with the radicals.” (Fitzgerald 215). It also echoes Fitzgerald’s own restlessness, and many critics say that it is a personal statement of the author, and that this novel is a reflection of the author’s own emotional readiness for life.

Shain writes that the charm of This Side of Paradise lies in the fact that Fitzgerald often claims that he was the one sensitive person there – on the country club porch or in a New York street, reporting the shared ethos of that era.

The Great Gatsby

The Great Gatsby is essentially a love story, set during the Jazz Age. This is Fitzgerald’s third novel, and its fascination for the readers lies in the fact that it utterly surrenders itself to the lure of wealth and glamour, and the riotous frivolity of the Jazz Age (McInerney). The story is narrated through the eyes of Midwesterner Nick Carraway, a character integral to the story, as he is not just the witness but also the moral conscience of the book (McInerney).

Nick Carraway is the personification of F. Scott Fitzgerald

Nick Carraway is the personification of F. Scott Fitzgerald in the novel, being a middle class Midwesterner with an Ivy League education, who is semi-included in the world of the super-rich. He acts as a double agent, a fictional go-between. There were many instances in the novel that he frowns upon the privileged world of inherited wealth of the affluent East coast Americans and disapproves Gatsby’s weekly lavish, over-the-top parties, but also stops to admire the carefree lifestyle and glittering interiors. It reflects Fitzgerald’s Midwestern views, but at the same time, it also shows that he also wished to be invited to the parties. When he looked back on his youth, Fitzgerald recalled being keenly aware that he was always the poorest boy living in the richest neighborhoods and attending the most exclusive private schools (Rompalske 104). Just like Nick Carraway, he had an outsider status, though he was part of the social circle. Fitzgerald also drew inspiration from people within his social circle, so just like Nick Carraway, he takes the position of “suspending judgment” because we was reluctant to criticize these people whom he encounters on a regular basis.

Ultimately though, Jay Gatsby also reflects Fitzgerald’s life and his overwhelming rags to riches story, especially after the publication of his first novel. Like Gatsby, he is a boy who is not a “desirable” husband to affluent American heiresses, but he wins the heart of the girl through pluck and sheer determination. Fitzgerald also was “too poor” and was rejected to be married to rich heiress Zelda Sayre of Montgomery, Alabama. However, after the huge success of his first novel, he eventually wins Zelda’s heart. Just like Jay Gatsby, Fitzgerald was also able to achieve his American dream, and just like Gatsby, it also ended in tragedy, since Fitzgerald died at a young age, his career a failure. Just as Gatsby was infamous for his lavish, over-the-top house parties, Fitzgerald and his wife Zelda also became infamous in New York Society for their carryings-on as the “apostles” of the Jazz Age – drunkenness despite prohibition, the public bitter quarrels, the midnight dips in the Plaza swimming pool, and Zelda’s apparent madness (Frazier 60). Gatsby and Fitzgerald both achieved their American Dream which they relentlessly pursued, and which took a devastating toll on both of their lives.


Ultimately, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s life lived the best kind of life that the era had to offer. He and his wife Zelda personified the glittering, roaring life of the 20s, and just like the Jazz Age, he expired early and tragically, dying at 44 years old of a heart attack. In his two great novels This Side of Paradise and The Great Gatsby, as well as his other, lesser known works, his life is too deeply embedded in his writing that it is sometimes a challenge to distinguish whether it was the character talking or Fitzgerald himself. He was considered a failure in his career when he died, but we all know that his greatest writing would live on into the American psyche.

Works Cited

Fitzgerald, F. Scott. The Great Gatsby. 1925.

Fitzgerald, F. Scott. This Side of Paradise. 1920.

Frazier, George. “Scott Fitzgerald: The Gatsby Legend” The Saturday Evening Post, May

1974. 60 – 62, 141.

McInerney, Jay. “Jay McInerney: why Gatsby is so great.” The Guardian/The Observer,

10 June 2012. Accessed 11 April 2017.

Rompalske, Dorothy. “From Dazzle to Despair: The Short, Brilliant Life of F. Scott

Fitzgerald. Biography Magazine, March 1999.104-120.

Shain, Charles. “This Side of Paradise.” Selection from F.Scott Fitzgerald. Accessed 11 April 2017.

Witkoski, Michael. “This Side of Paradise.” Magill’s Survey of American Literature,

Revised Edition. September 2006, Salem Press. pp.1-2. Accessed 10 April 2017.

Deadline is approaching?

Wait no more. Let us write you an essay from scratch

Receive Paper In 3 Hours
Calculate the Price
275 words
First order 15%
Total Price:
$38.07 $38.07
Calculating ellipsis
Hire an expert
This discount is valid only for orders of new customer and with the total more than 25$
This sample could have been used by your fellow student... Get your own unique essay on any topic and submit it by the deadline.

Find Out the Cost of Your Paper

Get Price