So, you have all heard of F. Scott Fitzgerald, right? Well, if you haven’t, then you have certainly heard of The Great Gatsby. A sad tale of love lost, it has remained one of the enduring tales of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, having become the subject of numerous films and other forms of entertainment, and the subject of the study of literature at many schools worldwide.
It is no doubt then that you have to have heard of F. Scott Fitzgerald or his infamous work. But how many people know of his wife? Zelda Fitzgerald. How many people know anything about her? How many people even know that she exists?
Sadly, like many women behind great men, she remains just that – behind the ‘great’ F. Scott Fitzgerald. And like many before her, and many after, she is as great, if not greater, than the man overshadowing her.
So, more about Zelda Fitzgerald
Her tale is a tragic one. As tragic as her husband’s masterpiece. A novelist, ballerina and painter, she was great in her own right.
But, to paint the picture of her marriage, one needs to go back to the beginning. An encounter that was strangely reminiscent of the meeting of Jay Gatsby and Daisy Buchanan, the meeting of Zelda and Francis inspired the male Fitzgerald in his writing of that scene. He was also ‘inspired’ by many of Zelda’s own writings in her diaries, taking them verbatim to use in his stories.
But for all the romance one expected of this young rendezvous, one that would create the most renowned Jazz couple in history – Francis and Zelda being prolific socialites, and Francis calling his wife ‘the first American flapper’ – Zelda’s life would forever be marred by her famous spouse.
Yearning for escapes, and suffering from schizophrenia, she struggled in her pursuit of literary creativity – her husband increasingly infuriated with her very presence. Eventually confined to a psychiatric facility, she and Francis became increasingly estranged. To paint the picture of their loss of love, when the male Fitzgerald learnt of the female Fitzgerald’s novel, Save Me the Waltz, he was further infuriated. He found disdain in her use of their marital history as material, not only for its portrayal of him, but because he had intended to write an autobiography himself. He no doubt saw his wife’s success as his loss. He thus forced her to remove many parts of the novel – parts that he would go on to use in his autobiography.
Sadly, her novel did not reach success. This was not aided by her husband’s berating of it. He called her plagiaristic, a third rate writer. This would only add to her struggle to emerge from her husband’s shadow. Something which she would never come to do. Something which she has still not come to do.
By her husband’s death, they were separated. She was confined to a facility. She would come to die in a fire in one of this facilities. And would history remember her name? It would not. Her name would only touch those who sought it out.
And thus, she became one of the many women drowning in the shadow of their husband. It sounds uncannily similar to the tale of Daisy Buchanan. Strangely, many of the stories written by the Fitzgeralds mirror their own lives. But, in The Great Gastby, Daisy abandoned her love. Sadly, Zelda’s lover abandoned her. And thus, history abandoned her too.