Zelda Fitzgerald An American Tragedy

Zelda Sayre age 17

      (July 24, 1900- March 10,1948)
(July 24, 1900- March 10,1948)
Zelda as "The first American Flapper"
Zelda as "The first American Flapper"

How I Found Zelda

Zelda Sayre was born on July 24, 1900, in Montgomery, Alabama and wanted with all her heart to become a famous ballerina that she later became obsessed with, she often became obsessed easily and even as a child was known to have bits of erratic behavior.

She met F. Scott Fitzgerald shortly after high school and they had a whirlwind courtship. It was love at first sight for Scott but not so much for Zelda, she was still seeing other men which made him quite frantic to get a ring on her finger, which he managed to do in 1920. They continued to become quite the celebrity couple, especially after the published novel The Great Gatsby came out. Zelda and Scott were basically leading the life of this great novel, which she named by the way.

This novel basically clenched it for Scott, that he would join the ranks of great writers such as Ernest Hemingway, and actually, Scott and Ernest Hemingway became friends despite the fact that Zelda didn’t like Hemingway in the least, and he made it known that he didn’t care for her either. He contended that her erratic behavior at times, such as trying to emasculate her husband was due to the fact that she was “crazy”. What some called crazy, in the wealthy circles, it is known as eccentric and so that is how she was known.

Young Zelda as a ballerina
Young Zelda as a ballerina

Zelda Sayre

Zeld Sayre was born on July 24, 1900, in Montgomery, Alabama and wanted with all her heart to become a famous ballerina that she later became obsessed with, she often became obsessed easily and even as a child was known to have bits of erratic behavior.

She met F. Scott Fitzgerald shortly after high school and they had a whirlwind courtship. It was love at first sight for Scott but not so much for Zelda, she was still seeing other men which made him quite frantic to get a ring on her finger, which he managed to do in 1920. They continued to become quite the celebrity couple, especially after the published novel The Great Gatsby came out. Zelda and Scott were basically leading the life of this great novel, which she named by the way.

This novel basically clenched it for Scott, that he would join the ranks of great writers such as Ernest Hemingway, and actually, Scott and Ernest Hemingway became friends despite the fact that Zelda didn’t like Hemingway in the least, and he made it known that he didn’t care for her either. He contended that her erratic behavior at times, such as trying to emasculate her husband was due to the fact that she was “crazy”. What some called crazy, in the wealthy circles, it is known as eccentric and so that is how she was known.

Young couple circa 1920
Young couple circa 1920
Portrait of a great writer
Portrait of a great writer

Rocky Marriage

The marriage between Scott and Zelda became even more erratic, because of her behavior (having affairs, throwing herself down stairs for attention) and wasn't  being helped by the fact that Scott was an alcoholic and everyone knew it. They fought so much and with such passion that they would literally beat each other up and tear the house apart and then have great make-up sex, so the sexual aspect of their marriage depended largely on alcohol which was tearing their marriage apart, and it became full of acrimony and resentment.

The constant fighting and discourse left its toll on the couple and Zelda had what was called a nervous breakdown back then. She stayed in a sanitarium to recuperate and did some writing and painting as well. Some say that she was very talented and others have not so flattering opinions of her work. In the meantime F. Scott Fitzgerald took up with another woman in spite of his still marriage to Zelda.

In her biography there is so much more to this story between their romance that it is hard to get into all the details but in my opinion, he loved Zelda very much still, but just couldn’t deal with her personality disorder and her behavior, which sadly turned out that she had schizophrenia. This explained so many things that were wrong with her. Her delusions of grandiose, her accusations of his affairs and her attempts at suicide, whether they were for attention or not.

Scott, Zelda and daughter "Scottie"
Scott, Zelda and daughter "Scottie"

F. Scott Fitzgerald's Death

Sadly while Scott was out with his new girlfriend, who happened to be a movie columnist Sheilah Graham, he was sitting in a chair eating a candy bar when he suddenly without provocation stood up and then collapsed. They tried to rush him to the hospital, but he was already dead from a massive heart attack, he died at the age of 44.

Meanwhile another tragedy struck years later while Zelda was still in the sanitarium, there was a fire that started out in the kitchen of the hospital. Many of the patients died and Zelda was one of the victims. She died when she was only 48 years old.

The couple had one child named Scottie and in 1975, she had their bodies moved to be buried next to each other in the official Fitzgerald plot. Their daughter Scottie wrote after their deaths: "I think (short of documentary evidence to the contrary) that if people are not crazy, they get themselves out of crazy situations, so I have never been able to buy the notion that it was my father's drinking which led her to the sanitarium. Nor do I think she led him to the drinking".

Final resting place
Final resting place

Gravesite

Frances and Zelda are buried in the Saint Mary’s Catholic Cemetery in Rockville, Maryland and the inscription on their tombstone reads:  ”So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past". Which is the last line in The Great Gatsby book.

I’m not sure what attracted me to this couples lives, maybe it was because they had a great love affair, maybe because of the lifestyle of the rich and famous or maybe it was because two very talented people died so young and tragically.

Years after their deaths there have been so many books and movies that have been made in tribute to the Fitzgerald’s such as The Disenchanted, The Far Side of Paradise, Beloved Infidel, written by Sheilah Graham, And a book by Nancy Milford called Zelda: A Biography, which I read for my report. It was a great read and really explained so much more in detail about a woman who had talent in her own right and so inadvertently became part of the woman’s movement of the 1970’s. Zelda is also credited to inspire the name of the video game series: The Legend of Zelda

The Fitzgerald Home
The Fitzgerald Home

Interesting Facts

F. Scott Fitzgerald’s cousin 3 times removed was Francis Scott Key, (August 1, 1779 – January 11, 1843) the man who penned our national anthem, “The Star Spangled Banner”.

F. Scott Fitzgerald was also the first cousin once removed of Mary Surrat, hanged in 1865 for conspiring to assassinate Abraham Lincoln.

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Comments 45 comments

Uninvited Writer profile image

Uninvited Writer 6 years ago from Kitchener, Ontario

Excellent hub. I have always been a fan of that couple; such a tragic story, some self inflicted, some not.


De Greek profile image

De Greek 6 years ago from UK

You always write with such passion, whether it is for your sisters, or for some long gone celebrity :-)


breakfastpop profile image

breakfastpop 6 years ago

Thanks for a wonderful hub. This couple has always fascinated me.


geegee77 profile image

geegee77 6 years ago from The Lone Star State!!

Wow I never knew any of that very interesting hub:) ge


drbj profile image

drbj 6 years ago from south Florida

lj - I devoured every single fascinating word. And I can't always say that. Scott and Zelda were a star-crossed couple.


rose56 profile image

rose56 6 years ago

Very good and passionate writing. Thanks for the hub.


europewalker profile image

europewalker 6 years ago

Great hub! This couple always interests me.


ladyjane1 profile image

ladyjane1 6 years ago from Texas Author

@Uninvited Writer thanks for reading and you are right they were a fascinating couple that just attracted people to them. They must have been something in their heday. glad you enjoyed it Cheers.

@De Greek I write with passion? HA,that is funny coming from you.I guess we have something in common then. Glad you enjoyed it and thanks for reading Cheers.

@breakfastpop no need to thank me it was a pleasure writing about a woman that always fascinated me in a weird way I guess because her whole life was a curiosity. Glad you enjoyed it. Cheers.

@geegee77 thanks for reading. The Fitzgeralds were such a weird and interestng couple and I kind of feel sorry for them that they died so young. But in the book I read there were beautiful love letters to Zelda from Scott that would make anyone fall in love with him that I forgot to mention. Glad you enjoyed. Cheers.

@Drbj what a compliment from you dear lady, thanks so much I appreciate you reading. Cheers.

@rose56 looking beautiful as ever, I just wish I was as passionate as the Italianos lol thanks for reading, glad you liked it. Cheers.

@europewalker I appreciate the compliment and Im glad you enjoyed it. Cheers.


Nellieanna profile image

Nellieanna 6 years ago from TEXAS

Coincidentally, I just had a yen to watch "The Great Gatsby" quite recently. It's a pretty good representation of that era and the underlying violence beneath the opulent "devil-may-care" facade of the Roaring 20s. Quite an era. The Fitzgeralds were a bit extreme examples, probably!

I'm wondering how the book report went over in your 9th grad class, though!! Pretty racy for junior high! LOL


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 6 years ago from United States

LadyJane, This is a beautiful to tribute to the lives of the Fitzgeralds. I have his books and read them all many years ago but I didn't know the personal details about their lives. I very much enjoyed this hub.


Wayne Brown profile image

Wayne Brown 6 years ago from Texas

So goes the story of F Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald...wow, what a disaster in the making. As I read it I was reminded of the movie "War Of The Roses" and imagined their life following along such a scenario until it ultimately found both of them dead. Interesting hub and good writing as usual LJ! WB


Lee B profile image

Lee B 6 years ago from New Mexico

I love reading anything about Scott and Zelda. It all started with the Nancy Milford biography of Zelda which I also read, I think, in 9th grade for a book report!!!! Strangely enough, I really DON'T like reading Fitzgerald's work--just about his and Zelda's lives.


Rod Marsden profile image

Rod Marsden 6 years ago from Wollongong, NSW, Australia

LadyJane1, it seems to me that every generation seems to think that it is the generation that discovered sex, drugs and alcohol. This isn't true, it is never true, but each generation tends to think that way.

My generation was the Vietnam War generation. We didn't want to go fight overseas just because we were told to do so. We wanted good reasons to do so and we were not given them. Make love not war made more sense. In a way we were mirroring the young people of the 1920s. In their youth they had known hardship in having uncles, even fathers go off to WW1 and return either damaged for life or not return at all. In the 1970s we were crazy for peace and the 20 somethings in the 1920s were understandably crazy about peace.

In the novel The Great Gatsby the main character Gatsby had fought in WW1 and, after the war, had been in a hurry to make his fortune and somehow win the girl of his dreams, Daisy. Prohibition in the USA which resulted in the illegal but highly profitable trade in the production of alcohol either brewed illegally or brought in from Canada illegally helped him on his way.

If anything the Prohibition era reminded people in the end that unregulated alcohol can do all sorts of damage including, if it is poorly produced, sending you blind or straight to the morgue. In the end it was best to have no straight out prohibition and go back to making sure that what was drunk was fit to be drunk.

Drugs were around in the 19th Century. Laudanum was popular back then as a pain killer until it was discovered to be highly addictive. It consisted of alcohol and opium. There were also opium dens where you could smoke the stuff. Cocaine was known to Western style countries in the late 19th Century but came to prominence in the 20th Century. Alcohol abuse in London in the 19th Century was rife and the same can be said for Sydney, Australia. As for sex, well, it has been around since Adam and Eve.

What made the 1920s really something was the desperate need to make living count for something. After four bloody years of conflict that involved much of the world in one way or another people wanted to really cut loose and live. Ghosts had to be laid to rest in 1919 everywhere but everyone wanted the 1920s to be a new age. It was the Jazz age.

I have read about F. Scott and Zelda. It seems to me she was fragile in terms of personality and her parents tried to protect her by insisting that when she married it would be to someone who could definitely look after her financially. She had other suitors besides F. Scott. It is my understanding that he had to get that first novel out and it had to be a winner if he was to win her. Well, the book was completed, it went out there and it was a winner. Unfortunately Zelda, as far as I know didn't team up with him on it. If it had been a collaboration with both his name and her name on it then they might have started married life in partnership mode. Unfortunately this was not to be.

I believe Zelda wanted to write and on her own but he scuttled her efforts even going so far as to warn publishers not to even look at her material. She took up ballet really late as a creative outlet but, though he didn't try to scuttle her, he wasn't very supportive.

I have come across stories before of how Zelda contributed here and there to F. Scott's work getting absolutely no credit. Certainly The Great Gatsby and even Tender is the Night have biographical elements.

As for the kind of writer F. Scott Fitzgerald happened to be, well, he was excellent with prose but not so good with dialogue. In his short story collection The Diamond as Big as the Ritz and other Stories he tries to write comedy in one story involving a Mr.In and a Mr.Out but it doesn't really work.

Yours is a thought provoking hub.


ladyjane1 profile image

ladyjane1 6 years ago from Texas Author

"I believe Zelda wanted to write and on her own but he scuttled her efforts even going so far as to warn publishers not to even look at her material. She took up ballet really late as a creative outlet but, though he didn't try to scuttle her, he wasn't very supportive".

Hello Rod and this statement is definitely in the biography I read about Zelda. She had wanted to become a ballerina but her husband wasn't very supportive of it and she practised tirelessly for hours to become great and was even accepted into a famous company but by that time she turned it down for personal reasons, I guess her husband probably denied that to her. She did have asperations of writing and painting and I believe she did have some talent. On one occasion she accused her husband of plagerising some of her work for his books and she did it publicly as well. Who knows what really happened between the two, but alcohol did F.Scott in and he was so young and he probably still had so much great things ahead of him in the literary world. Too bad. I only read a couple of his works, I wasn't that much of a fan of his. I enjoyed Zelda's points of view much more, especially in that era. It was just sad that they both died so young. Thanks for reading and leaving such a detailed and thought provoking comment. Cheers.


ladyjane1 profile image

ladyjane1 6 years ago from Texas Author

Nellieanna thanks for stopping by. I enjoyed the movie The Great Gatsby as well it is kind of a timeless movie. As for the raceiness of this book hmm perhaps you are right but it was in the library so I guess it was considered acceptable. I left out all the racy stuff as I probably didn't quite get that part until much later lol. Cheers.

@Pamela99 thanks for reading. I was the total opposite of you. I had never really didn't get interested in F.Scott until I read Zelda then I couldn't get enough of their lives. Thanks for reading. Cheers.

@Hello Wayne nice to see you. I never thought about War of the Roses although that is a great movie but I see what you mean. Ironically when I was reading about the Fitzgeralds and all the drinking that went on, I was reminded of that old movie, Days of Wine and Roses. Hmmm I wonder if there is any connection between these two films. Thanks for reading Cheers.

@Lee B that's interesting that you say that because it is my sentiments almost exactly. Thanks for reading. Cheers.


Nell Rose profile image

Nell Rose 6 years ago from England

Hi, I love to read about fascinating people from either centuries ago, or in this case just a few years. this was really interesting, I had heard of her and him of course, but knew absolutely nothing about them, apart from the writing. thanks this was really interesting. nell


ladyjane1 profile image

ladyjane1 6 years ago from Texas Author

Hello Nell thanks for reading and Im glad that you found it interesting. Scott and Zelda were a striking couple and very interesting to learn about. Nice to see you, cheers.


ladyjane1 profile image

ladyjane1 6 years ago from Texas Author

Hello Nell thanks for reading and Im glad that you found it interesting. Scott and Zelda were a striking couple and very interesting to learn about. Nice to see you, cheers.


loriamoore 6 years ago

Interesting couple.


ladyjane1 profile image

ladyjane1 6 years ago from Texas Author

thanks loriamoore you are right they are interesting to say the least. Cheers.


Teresa McGurk profile image

Teresa McGurk 6 years ago from The Other Bangor

A couple of the stories for the Saturday Evening Post were Zelda's, but they decided to publish them under Scott's name, as it would ensure that they would get read.

There's a great one-woman play about Zelda called The Last Flapper; if you ever get a chance to see it, do: it's sad and funny and haunting. Good hub!


Mike Lickteig profile image

Mike Lickteig 6 years ago from Lawrence KS USA

Celebrity seems to lead to unusual behavior, and it sounds as if F. Scott and Zelda were not the exception. It may not always look that way, but I think folks like these two loved life and each other, and lived it not only to the fullest, but to excess. Sometimes it will seem as if two people are meant for each other and their life paths interconnect even when they wish to be done with each other--Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, for example (or Sonny and Cher in an odd way...). I think F. Scott and Zelda might have been in this category of lovers.

Thanks for sharing this, it was quite interesting.

Mike


ladyjane1 profile image

ladyjane1 6 years ago from Texas Author

@Teresa thanks for reading and I have heard of this play and would love to see it. It seems like I cannot get enough of this woman. THanks for the info and for stopping by. Cheers.

@Mike good to see you and I agree with you wholeheartedly, crazy, tumultuous romances definitely describes the couples that you mentioned. I also think that when you love someone so much that there is also the element of the fine line between love and hate and its almost as if they hate each other as much as they love each other and then throw in money and fame and voila... Thanks for reading.Cheers.


GPAGE profile image

GPAGE 6 years ago from California

ladyjane.....we are made of the same thread! This is amazing! Thank you for such an intriguing hub. I am really interested in reading her biography. I too have an attraction to this. I wonder where I can take it?......hmmmm. Really love her character. Really love the tragedy. Interesting! Best, G


ladyjane1 profile image

ladyjane1 6 years ago from Texas Author

GPAGE thanks for reading...the same thread indeed! Im glad that you enjoyed it. Im sure that you would love the biography about Zelda, she was an amazing person and so full of turmoil and pain because of her mental illness. Both of their lives really are quite intriguing. If you read it, I hope you enjoy it. Thanks for visiting. Cheers.


urs_dipak profile image

urs_dipak 6 years ago from Kolkata, West Bengal, India

Good one


KoffeeKlatch Gals profile image

KoffeeKlatch Gals 6 years ago from Sunny Florida

I have always been fascinated by Zelda and Scott Fitzgerald, they were an interesting couple. Thanks for the great information.


ladyjane1 profile image

ladyjane1 6 years ago from Texas Author

urs_dipak thanks for visiitng and glad you enjoyed it. Cheers.

@koffeklatch Gals you are welcome to the information and I am not surprises since the Fitzgerald's were a fasincating and interesting couple. Thanks for visiting. Cheers.


noorin profile image

noorin 6 years ago from Canada

Great hub, i luv the wording. It seems like u were very intellectual for a 9th grader =) Rated it up and will be following ya. =)


ladyjane1 profile image

ladyjane1 6 years ago from Texas Author

noorin thank you for that compliment and I will be following you as well. I think I did better in this hub than I did on my report, although I think I got a good grade for just following a different drummer. And I think I was just curiouser than the average 9th grader. Thanks for reading, cheers.


MaryRenee 6 years ago

LadyJane: Wow! What a great read!I remember seeing a photo of Zelda years back, and not knowing who she was. I didn't know she was the wife of Scott! I understand it all know. She was a beautiful woman, this is such a lovely tribute. Bravo, LadyJane! :)


ladyjane1 profile image

ladyjane1 6 years ago from Texas Author

MaryRenee thanks for reading my hub and Im glad you enjoyed it. And you are right Zelda was a beautiful woman and she had such a great name. Cheers.


Micky Dee profile image

Micky Dee 6 years ago

Great write She died at the sanitarium in Asheville, NC. I used to have a bike shop just blocks from where the sanitarium was. I would see the Historical Marker concerning her and wondered often. Thank you Ma'am!


ladyjane1 profile image

ladyjane1 6 years ago from Texas Author

Micky Dee thanks for reading and sharing your experience about zelda it is very cool. Cheers.


Whidbeywriter profile image

Whidbeywriter 6 years ago from Oak Harbor on Whidbey Island, Washington

Absolutely captivating.....I never knew any of this, of course I wasn't a history buff like you. This was a great story and with passion as always. It was so sad they both died so young. Great hub sis - love ya.


ladyjane1 profile image

ladyjane1 6 years ago from Texas Author

whidbeywriter hello glad you enjoyed the hub. The story of Zelda and Scott has always fascinated me as well. Take care. Cheers.


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 6 years ago from Chicago

Thank you for this interesting story. I enjoyed reading it. Well done!


ladyjane1 profile image

ladyjane1 6 years ago from Texas Author

James thanks for taking the time to read this. Scott and Zelda have really always fascinated me, glad you enjoyed it. Cheers.


Morgan F profile image

Morgan F 6 years ago from USA

Really interesting hub, I share your love for the turn of the century era and the celebrities thereof. I knew next to nothing about F. Scott Fritxgerald and his wife, so this was a really great and informative hub.


ladyjane1 profile image

ladyjane1 6 years ago from Texas Author

Morgan thanks for reading I appreciate the comments. Im glad you enjoyed this hub. And the Fitzgeralds were very interesting people its just too bad that their lives ended so tragically and so young. THanks for stopping by cheers.


freshlaundry71 profile image

freshlaundry71 5 years ago

Like all great loves they are usually infused with a fire that cannot be quenched ....some people when put together are like dynamite...spectacular and bright..they light up the sky and they light up the night...and hopefully they dont light each other on fire!! Great hub!!!


ladyjane1 profile image

ladyjane1 5 years ago from Texas Author

freshlaundry71 wow you have a way with words don't you? And you are right sometimes certain people are not meant to be together.....sigh thanks for reading cheers.


Alexander Brenner profile image

Alexander Brenner 4 years ago from Laguna Hills, California

Wonderful Hub. I wonder if you have seen Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris. They portrayed Zelda as enthusiastic, loveable, but often distraught, and insecure. A great portrayal I thought.


btrbell profile image

btrbell 3 years ago from Mesa, AZ

An interesting read, especially in light of the movie remake coming out now! Thank you for sharing this fascinating story about 2 very interesting people! up+


ladyjane1 profile image

ladyjane1 3 years ago from Texas Author

thanks for your nice comments and yes cant wait to see the movie!!

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