Date Thesis Awarded

5-2015

Document Type

Honors Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelors of Arts (BA)

Department

English

Advisor

Henry Hart

Committee Member

Walter Wenska

Committee Member

Melanie Dawson

Committee Member

Todd Thrash

Abstract

F. Scott Fitzgerald’s marriage to Zelda Sayre, in 1920, united two exceptionally talented and creative individuals, both suffering from mental illnesses. Zelda’s psychotic breakdown in 1930 had a traumatic effect on Fitzgerald, but it also caused him to refocus and finish his novel Tender Is the Night (1934). Her breakdown also inspired him to examine his own breakdowns and write his essay “The Crack-Up” (1936). This essay about his mental breakdown follows in the confessional literary tradition. Along with Fitzgerald’s note-books, letters, and other essays, “The Crack-Up” functions as a primary source from which to gain insight into Fitzgerald’s alcoholism and mood disorder. Tender Is the Night is also confessional and functions as a masked memoir. In the novel, Dick Diver resembles Fitzgerald with his own drinking problem and fluctuating moods. Moreover, Nicole Diver’s mental illness resembles Zelda’s (although Nicole’s schizophrenia is misdiagnosed). Ultimately, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s personal life profoundly influenced his literature. He suffered psychological wounds, and he wrote in order to make sense of those wounds and to try to heal them. Yet, his writing goes beyond catharsis in the way it documents the human condition.

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