Beyond the Roaring Twenties: Unveiling the Enduring Legacy of F. Scott Fitzgerald in the Classroom

F. Scott Fitzgerald, one of the greatest American writers of the 20th century, has left an indelible mark on literature with his timeless works such as “The Great Gatsby” and “Tender Is the Night.” As educators, understanding the importance of teaching students about Fitzgerald’s life, works, and themes is crucial to deepening their appreciation for literature.

Unraveling Fitzgerald’s Life

Fitzgerald’s tumultuous life is marked with personal struggles, artistic triumphs, and endless determination. To give students a more comprehensive understanding of his works, teachers should familiarize them with significant moments in Fitzgerald’s life.

1. Early Life: Born in St. Paul, Minnesota in 1896, Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald was named after his distant cousin who wrote “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Introduce students to his early years spent in private schools and how his experiences there shaped his relationships and later work.

2. College Life and Meeting Zelda: While attending Princeton University, Fitzgerald fell in love with Ginevra King and later met Zelda Sayre, who would eventually become his wife. Discuss how these women played pivotal roles in Fitzgerald’s life; influencing not only his personal life but also the portrayal of female characters in his works.

3. The Jazz Age: Known as the “chronicler of the Jazz Age,” Fitzgerald captured the essence of this decadent era. Teach students about Prohibition, flappers, and speakeasies that dominated the scene during the 1920s.Incorporate visual aids such as photos, paintings or films from this era to enhance understanding.

Examining His Works

To engage students while exploring Fitzgerald’s writing style and technique, consider using classroom activities that incorporate analysis and discussion:

1. The Great Gatsby: This classic novel showcases Fitzgerald’s lavish prose, capturing the glamor and disillusionment of the 1920s. Encourage students to explore the themes of the American Dream, social class, and obsession by having them analyze key passages or participate in group discussions.

2. Short Stories: Analyze his short stories such as “Bernice Bobs Her Hair” or “The Diamond as Big as the Ritz” to understand Fitzgerald’s versatility and imagination. Encourage students to compare how his writing style and themes evolved throughout his career.

3. Tender Is the Night: Considered by many a parallel account of Fitzgerald’s life, this novel showcases insight into his personal experiences during the rise and fall of his success. Discuss how characters in this novel embody aspects of Fitzgerald and Zelda’s own lives.

Discussing Recurring Themes

Fitzgerald’s works often contain recurring themes that teachers can highlight for students, such as:

1. The Illusion of Success: Many of his characters believe wealth will bring them happiness and success. However, these goals often result in disappointment, betrayal, and emptiness. Discuss how this theme reflects not only on characters in his novels but also on Fitzgerald’s own life.

2. Decay of Morality: Desperation for wealth often leads characters to compromise their morals with disastrous consequences. Have students discuss instances in which characters chose material gain over personal integrity.

3. Love & Obsession: Teach students about the powerful motives that drive characters in Fitzgerald’s works, including love and obsession. Explore how these emotions impact moral decisions made by his characters and their respective fates.

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