Date of Award

5-2005

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

MA English

Department

English

Committee Member

John Wargacki

Keywords

F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Basil Stories, The Great Gatsby, Novels

Abstract

When people hear the name F. Scott Fitzgerald they quickly think of his masterpiece, The Great Gatsby. Fitzgerald's Gatsby is the great American novel. Why? It withstands time and the changes of contemporary society. This novel moves us, shakes us, and reminds us of our enlightening dreams and the realistic truths behind them. Why do readers connect with and feel empathy for the flawed Jay Gatsby? We, like Gatsby, hope for the green light and all that it holds in store for us. Gatsby is driven by the green light, which represents his hope to change the past. It is this idealistic dream, this flaw that acts as the glue forever connecting Gatsby to his readers. I believe The Great Gatsby is one of the greatest novels ever written. It is a novel that moved me the first time I read it in 10th grade and one which continues to influence me today. It is one of those books I look forward to teaching each year. As I have told my students, like the great William Shakespeare, Fitzgerald generates texts that have everything we would want in a book­ glitz and glitter, love and lust, dreams and truths, murder and beauty. When I first fell in love with The Great Gatsby, I became interested in reading Fitzgerald's other books and stories. However, it was not until graduate school that I became aware of a series known as The Basil and Josephine Stories. Once I began reading these stories, I noticed a pattern among the female characters that was also contained in The Great Gatsby. This pattern aroused so much interest within me that I decided to make it the focus of my thesis. As I began working on my idea, I noticed it was more than a pattern. I had located a distinct female character and personality. Working with Fitzgerald's the Basil stories and The Great Gatsby, my paper traces how Fitzgerald did not develop numerous female personalities within his works, but instead fashioned one distinct female character and personality. While looking at these two works, the following females from the Basil stories will be discussed: Margaret Torrence, Imogene Bissel, Evelyn Beebe, Jobena Dorsey, and Minnie Bibbie, and from The Great Gatsby, Daisy Buchanan. These females will provide support for my argument. In Fitzgerald's personal experiences with women, he cultivated a dynamic female driven by power, money, and excellence (Broccoli 10 ). Fitzgerald's fictional female is resilient, shrewd, indifferent, beautiful, appealing, and dangerous. She is resilient because she has a cause and that cause is to excel in a "man's world." Her shrewd nature is demonstrated in her ability to play a multitude of roles. She is the quintessential actress. While playing a variety of roles, she is always the focus of her cause. Her beauty cannot be denied. Not only is she beautiful, but also charming and appealing. Danger lies around each comer, because she takes many risks to obtain power, money, and excellence. Dualistic in nature, Fitzgerald designs a female who can be read as both aggressive and passive, virgin and vixen, powerful and powerless. Thus, Fitzgerald produced a distinct female character, who is resurrected to play a variety of roles, but also to act as an inspiration or muse helping in the creation of new writing venues. As a reader of Fitzgerald and the 1920s, people may find his portrayal of women avant-garde. What does Fitzgerald's female reveal about his opinions in regards to women? Is Fitzgerald a chauvinist, a feminist, both, or neither? Fitzgerald is not a feminist or a chauvinist, but he is instead a man hurt by women (Broccoli 10). The pain Ginevra King brought upon Fitzgerald influenced him to develop a masculine yet feminine woman driven by power, beauty, intelligence, and danger. Early American novels like Susanna Rowson's Charlotte Temple and later novels like Edith Wharton's The House of Mirth include "dangerous" females, but they died. by the conclusion of the Fields novel. Why doesn't Fitzgerald kill his females? Fitzgerald's females live because he is attracted to their personalities, which are similar to the ones that he encountered in his life (i.e. Ginevra King) (Broccoli 10). According to Mathew Broccoli's F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby: A Literary Reference, Fitzgerald repeatedly incorporated the theme of"a poor young man not being able to marry a girl with money" (10). This theme can be traced in Fitzgerald's relationship with Ginevra King and in his novel, The Great Gatsby. If it was not for the selling of his first novel and the money that he earned from it, Fitzgerald would have lost Zelda Sayre. Broccoli mentions how "Fitzgerald had almost lost Zelda also because of his lack of money, but he finally won her. It was the wound over Ginevra that never healed" (10). Fitzgerald's pain or "wound" was one he lived with each day. It was this pain that influenced him to develop females who were beautiful, yet cruel, indifferent, careless, and cold. Like Jay Gatsby, Fitzgerald hoped to "change the past." He hoped to develop a beautiful, kind, intelligent female; however Fitzgerald's pain fueled the development of characters that reminded him of his past. As a result of this argument, I not only received an opportunity to work with a series of stories that have been largely overlooked in research, but I also received an opportunity to work with a book that is one of my passions. When I embarked on this journey I did not realize how strongly this paper would deepen my admiration for The Great Gatsby, and provide me with an added appreciation for the Basil stories. It also should be noted that my study should act as a mere beginning for further studies into Fitzgerald's females and short fiction.

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