Bitesize has changed! We're updating subjects as fast as we can. Visit our new site to find Bitesize guides and clips - and tell us what you think!

Home > English > The Great Gatsby > Background

English

Background

Back

F. Scott Fitzgerald

A black and white photograph of F. Scott Fitzgerald

F. Scott Fitzgerald was born in 1896 in St Paul, Minnesota, one of the states in the Midwest of the USA.

Echoes of his personal experiences can be found in the characters of both Nick and Gatsby.

Although his father was poor, having failed in business, his mother's family financed Fitzgerald's education at Princeton in New Jersey, one of the so-called 'Ivy League' of elite universities.

In 1915, he fell in love with Ginevra King, a girl from a very wealthy Chicago family. However, her father, who was a successful businessman, disapproved because of Fitzgerald's poverty. She ended the relationship and instead married one of the richest men in Chicago. This left Fitzgerald with a sense of social inferiority and an ambivalent attitude to the rich. On the one hand he resented their exclusivity, selfishness and arrogance, but on the other, he secretly coveted their glamorous life style.

Like his characters Nick and Gatsby, Fitzgerald served in the American army from 1917 until his discharge in 1919, and it was at this time he met Zelda Sayre. They formed an engagement which she broke off, partly due to disapproval from her family, but when Fitzgerald started making money as a writer the relationship was resumed and they married. The character of Daisy, therefore, contains aspects of both Ginevra and Zelda.

Zelda's family disapproved of Fitzgerald as much because of his heavy drinking as because of his lack of money, and he eventually became an alcoholic. Zelda and he went to live in Europe, and became notorious for their free-spending, self-indulgent, heavy-drinking lifestyle. This seems ironic, when such hedonistic behaviour is presented very negatively in The Great Gatsby.

Back

Play

circle containing tick and circle containing the word

Hazard Perception

Metaphors, similes, personification... test yourself on these and many more English terms with this hazardous game!

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.