Characters

Catherine Drinker Bowen once said, “Writers seldom choose…characters who are never in trouble, never unhappy or ill, [and] never make mistakes.”  F. Scott Fitzgerald followed this advice.  Characters in his novels often were Fitzgerald’s way of commenting on society.  He has certain molds for characters that are similar in his books.  Fitzgerald utilizes three basic categories: the lead male who is filled with angst, the lead female, and the supporting cast who are always just slightly in the shadows.  Just like Catherine Drinker Bowen said, he develops his characters by exposing their struggles to the reader. 

 In three of Fitzgerald’s books, The Great Gatsby, This Side of Paradise, and The Love of the Last Tycoon, he creates a lead male character that is faced with a major obstacle and relationship problems.  For Jay Gatsby, in The Great Gatsby, the root of his problems starts with the unfortunate end to a childhood relationship.  Gatsby falls in love with a woman named Daisy and they spend a romantic few weeks together.  However, similar to other male characters of Fitzgerald, Gatsby must go off and fight in World War I, and Daisy promises to wait for him.  When Gatsby returns, he is dismayed to find that she has run off and married Tom Buchanan.  As a result, Gatsby joins the mafia to build wealth and buy a spectacular house in West Egg so that he could throw lavish parties in hopes that Daisy would admit that she “never loved [Tom]” and that “she loves [Gatsby]” (131).  Similar to Jay Gatsby is Amory Blaine in This Side of Paradise, who’s central struggle is his attempt to discover who he really is.  Throughout the book, he goes to Princeton and finds that conforming to the general population is something that does not interest him.  He also fights in World War I and has many love interests.  However, no one wins his heart like Rosalind Connage.  Amory falls passionately in love with her and “all life [is] transmitted into terms of their love, all experience, all desires, all ambitions, were nullified” (202).  Just like Daisy chooses to marry Tom Buchanan instead of Gatsby because he promises her an extravagant lifestyle, Rosalind decides to marry Dawson Ryder because he has money, and because “he’s a good man and a strong one” (210).  Losing Rosalind breaks Amory’s heart and his is never the same afterwards.  He falls into a deep depression and drinks heavily to forget his pain.  Monroe Stahr, a Hollywood producer, has a similar problem in This Side of Paradise.  Stahr is a self-proclaimed workaholic and is described as “one of the hardest working and most efficient men in the entire West” (123).  He too, like Amory, is a “man any girl would go for” (15).  After noticing a strange woman in the studio one night, he sets off on a wild search to find the girl that had the same “face of his dead wife, identical even to the expression” (26).  He finds the woman, whose name is Kathleen Moore, and they begin an intense romantic relationship.  However, Stahr finds a letter in his car after one of their dates.  He reads that she is “to be married soon and that she can’t see him” anymore (98).  This devastates Monroe and he throws himself back into his work.  All three of these leading men in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s work are developed in their pursuit of finding the perfect woman and how they react when they lose them.

stahr-and-moore

Monroe Stahr and Kathleen Moore in the film version of The Love of the Last Tycoon

Fitzgerald can’t just have the lead men who are in pursuit of love; he must also include the lead woman who plays a significant role in the development of other characters.  For Jay Gatsby in The Great Gatsby, his leading lady is named Daisy Buchanan, a woman who is beautiful and charming, but also fickle, bored, sardonic, and shallow.  Daisy is proficient in love and affection, although she can’t sustain loyalty and care.  She is completely indifferent to her young daughter.  She loves Gatsby but goes back on her promise to wait for him and marries Tom instead because he is wealthy and promises her a luxurious lifestyle.  Just like Daisy breaks Gatsby’s heart, Rosalind Connage breaks Amory Blaine’s heart in This Side of Paradise.  She tells her sister, “you don’t know what a trial it is to be like me” (188); however, Rosalind is everything her sister wants to be.  She is a prima donna, yet Amory still loves her.  Both Amory and Rosalind have many love interests throughout their lives.  Amory has Isabelle, and Rosalind strings along Gillespie.  When Rosalind and Amory meet, he knows that he loves her, “from the moment [he] saw [her]” (201).  However, their relationship was destined to be a failure.  Alec, Rosalind’s brother and one of Amory’s good friends, foreshadows their relationship: “She won’t marry him, but a girl doesn’t have to marry a man to break his heart” (199).  Kathleen Moore, like Rosalind, breaks Monroe Stahr’s heart without marrying him.  Monroe becomes infatuated with her after seeing her in the studio.  He describes her as “a beautiful doll.  Minna [his former wife] had never been a beautiful doll” (115).  She loves the attention that Monroe Stahr gives her and doesn’t tell him the truth about herself until her fiancée returns.  All of the leading ladies in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s works are gorgeous, fall in love with one man, but run away and marry another.  This creates confusion and exposes the dark sides of the men that they love. 

However, the leading men and women of his novels wouldn’t get anywhere without the help of their friends.  F. Scott Fitzgerald created many supporting characters that are always lurking just inside the shadows.  Nick Carraway is one of the main supporting characters in Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby.  He is described as tolerant, open minded, quiet, and a good listener which makes him a confidant for the other characters secrets.  He moves to West Egg to try and break into the elite social circle made up of people with family money.  He starts a small relationship with Jordan Baker, who is F. Scott Fitzgerald’s example of the “new woman” of the 1920s.  She is boyish, cynical, self-centered, and a competitive golfer.  to Nick’s disbelief, she once cheated to win a golf tournament.  There is not a distinct supporting character in This Side of Paradise, but Amory has many friends that appear in the book.  There are his college roommates: Tom Park D’Invilliers, Dick Humbird, and Burne and Kerry Holiday — all of whom help Amory discover who he is.  Amory idolizes all of the qualities of Dick Humbird, talks about literature with Tom Park D’Invilliers, and contemplates conventionalism with Burne Holiday.  Eleanor Ramilly also helps Amory find himself.  Amory and Eleanor have a passionate love affair one summer, but they end their relationship after a dispute about the existence of God.  Unlike This Side of Paradise, The Love of the Last Tycoon has only one small supporting character.  Cecelia Brady is a daughter of a producer who is friends with Monroe Stahr.  The name Brady is well known, and she is used to getting what she wants.  She travels to Hollywood to “make him love [her]” (18).  However, it isn’t until the end and after his fling with Kathleen that they get married.

F. Scott Fitzgerald creates characters each with their own idiosyncrasies, but often he creates similar characters in other novels of his.  He has three specific categories: the leading male who gets dumped by his true love, a gorgeous leading lady who causes trouble, and a supporting cast who help the main characters discover themselves.  Fitzgerald’s characters are often his commentary on society, and as Richard Bach stated “fictional characters are sometimes more real than people with bodies and heartbeats.”                            

 

 

         

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