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Did F. Scott Fitzgerald Ever See His Book Become a Huge Success?

F. Scott Fitzgerald was an American writer most known for The Great Gatsby. Despite the success of his works and the esteemed reputation currently surrounding him, Fitzgerald wasn’t always labeled as a great writer. Critics labeled him an irresponsible writer due to his alcoholic and playboy tendencies; through most of his life, his only steady source of income was the short stories he produced for magazines. 

Fitzgerald viewed himself as a failure due to the commercial failure of his works even until his death. It was only years after his death when The Great Gatsby, his most famous work, earned a reputation as one of the greatest American novels. 

The Early Life of F. Scott Fitzgerald

Born on September 24, 1896, in St. Paul, Minnesota, Francis Scott Fitzgerald emerged as Edward Fitzgerald and Mollie McQuillan’s son. F. Scott Fitzgerald showed much potential in the literary field even during his childhood years; by 13 years old, he created a detective story that made its way to St. Paul Academy’s school newspaper.

Before he entered Princeton in the late 1910s, Fitzgerald was a student in the Newman School. During his time in Princeton, Fitzgerald ignored his education for his literary pursuits as he was a writer for both the Princeton Tiger and the Nassau Literary Magazine. Unable to graduate due to his neglect of education, he enlisted in the army.

After Fitzgerald’s discharge in 1919, he officially pursued a writing career. During this time, he rewrote his work, This Side of Paradise, and became a contributor to magazines with mass circulations. The Saturday Evening Post became Fitzgerald’s primary source of income, with many of his short stories gaining the interest of many, such as The Offshore Pirate and Bernice Bobs Her Hair.

Accepted by editor Maxwell Perkins in September 1919, This Side of Paradise‘s release in 1920 made Fitzgerald famous. And although Fitzgerald ambitioned a life of acquiring an esteemed reputation from his literary works, his playboy behavior hindered others from taking him seriously. (Source: University of South Carolina)

Fitzgerald’s Later Years

In the early 1920s, Fitzgerald moved to the Great Neck with his family, and by 1923, he wrote short stories to survive his debt, and not long after, he slowly succumbed to alcoholism. And although he wrote sober, many literary critics began doubting his craft, labeling him an irresponsible writer.

In 1924, Fitzgerald started writing The Great Gatsby in Paris, which he revised in 1925 in Rome. Subsequent to its publication, it received low sales despite the decent income brought by the stage and movie rights. Not long after, Fitzgerald moved to Hollywood, which he visited two times for an unsuccessful career in screenwriting.

Fitzgerald’s highest fee of $4,000 from one of his stories in The Saturday Evening Post wasn’t enough to fulfill his affluence-driven ambition as his novels still didn’t earn much. Fitzgerald and his wife spent more money than they received.

In the mid to late 1930s, Fitzgerald spiraled into a life of alcohol, illness, and debt, making him unable to write commercially successful literary works. Fitzgerald’s inability to save remained adamant even with his contract with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer that earned him a weekly $1,000. In the end, he paid off most of his debts. (Source: University of South Carolina)

Fitzgerald passed away due to a heart attack in December 1940, believing he was a failure due to the lack of commercial success his works gained. It was years after during the 1960s and the 1970s when Fitzgerald gained recognition for The Great Gatsby as one of the greatest American novels. (Source: Biography

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