Fitzgerald: The American Balzac - How european literature(Bazlac , Pushkin) affected one of the greatest American writers of all time.

Essay by China-buffetHigh School, 11th grade January 2007

download word file, 4 pages 0.0

At the dawn of the twentieth century some American writers have emerged that created pieces of literature which are today known as masterpieces. F. Scott Fitzgerald stands out as the pioneer of modern American literature who created a world full of complex character. Even though Fitzgerald's masterpiece "The Great Gatsby" presents the American high society and it's secrets , it is obvious that Fitzgerald was affected by the European literature.

The best works of literature came out of european literature in the nineteenth century. Many writers like Balzac, Hugo and Tolstoy concentrated more on the complexity of humans and the lives they lead. Out of all the writers of romanticism and realism Honore de Balzac stands out with his anthology "The Human Comedy". In this vast collection of books Balzac described the life of ordinary people as well as wealthy people from aristocratic families.

According to Arnold Haussner Balzac was "the master of the social novel", and described him as the "founder of the new conception of man" by which "the individual exist only in relation to society (Honoré de Balzac (1799-1850)).

He used his special blend of Parisian coffee to stay awake for 16 hours while he wrote. His works were a success , not just in France but also globally. The most famous book from the collection "Old Goriot" was the climax of his work. The book had many themes which are even today actual and because of that it also affected the United States.

Two main protagonists Old Goriot and Eugene de Rastigac both present the symbols of human complexity and the weaknesses every individual has. Those weaknesses include greed, addiction and lack of emotions which are also present in Fitzgerald's book "The Great Gatsby. As a summary Mauriac says that "Old Goriot" is the "centre-point or nucleus from which branch out the spacious avenues that he (Balzac) has riven through the thickness of his human jungle"(Balzac vii)

Before truly analyzing Fitzgerald as an writer affected by European literature , one must see the connection between Fitzgerald and the Russian writers who represented the finest literary masters. One of them, a poet, named Alexander Pushkin created whole novels written in poems. His most famous work "Eugene Onegin" was the symbol of romanticism and also presented a major influencer war all the writers that lived after Pushkin's death. Onegin as the main character, is a member of an aristocratic family. He falls into a state of lethargy when he realizes that everything is dull , including love. As the main female character Tatyana tries everything to get closer to Onegin who simply ignores her. As the book progresses Onegin changes , realizing that Tatyana is his love. In his final letter to her he admits his loss when he writes "I'm yours, in a predestined fashion, And I surrender to my fate" (Pushkin, 223).

After analyzing the books of European writers , one realizes the connection between the two cultures, European and American, the old and the new. Fitzgerald as one of the inventors of modern American literature, is noticeably influenced by these works. It is also interesting that these European books originated from even older pieces of literature. For example "Old Goriot" originated from Dante's "The Devine Comedy" (Honoré de Balzac (1799-1850) With this information it can be gathered that newer literature is always influenced by older and the same goes for American Literature.

Fitzgerald , who by himself had many of the weaknesses described in his own books, wrote about amazingly complex characters in his book "The Great Gatsby". Under the effect of older writings, Fitzgerald created Jay Gatsby, the mixture between Eugene Onegin, Rastignac and Goriot, and he did not only simply combine these characters but he created a unique one. Gatsby today is a symbol of many things : greed, loss of love, alcohol, wealth and so on. Not only that , but Gatsby is some kind of mirror image of F. Scott Fitzgerald who could have easily seen himself as one of the characters from the European romanticism and realism. Even though he wrote many great books which of course demanded persistence , he was also known from straying off his course.

In 1924, Fitzgerald and his wife Zelda moved to Paris for a short period of time. There, he wanted to gain inspiration for his book "Tender is the night" and interestingly enough he lived only a few block from Balzac's old house. During his time in Paris Fitzgerald started to show inconsistency in his work and he concentrated more on having fun the writing his novel. As him and Zelda soon realized that Paris was a bad influence they left the "City of Lights". Although it is not recorded, Fitzgerald could have experienced disappointment because Paris presented inspiration to him and now he ended up being sucked into the party life just like Balzac's characters. At one time Fitzgerald himself wrote that his experience in Paris was a time "of 1000 parties and no work"(Columbia and Hirsch).

Fitzgerald did make bad habits in Paris , but he also made some very influential friends , most noticeably Hemmingway. As Hemmingway discovered more of Fitzgerald's personality in "A Moveable Feast" he wrote about his talent which was fragile as a "pattern that was made by the dust on a butterfly's wings". As Fitzgerald began to drink he didn't understand "it no more than the butterfly did as he did not know when it was brushed or marred"(Wikipedia)

Fitzgerald, as a leader of modern American literature, was not only influenced by Europe and it's literature but also can be compared with the characters, such as Eugene Onegin, Old Goriot and Rastignac, who represented European literature. Finding inspiration in Europe, Fitzgerald knew about his weaknesses and he wrote his semi-autobiographical master piece The Great Gatsby. Unfortunately, he discovered that Paris could not give him inspiration for his works, because he could not resist his own temptations. In the end, Fitzgerald comes out as a genius who invented the modern American literature, inspired by both European literature and his own vices.

Works Cited:

Alexander , Pushkin. Eugene Onegin.Trans. Charles Johnston.1st. New York: Penguin , 1979.

Balzac , Honore de. Old Goriot.Trans. Ellen Marriage.XV. New York: The Heritage Press, 1926.

"F. Scott Fitzgerald." Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. 13 Dec 2006, 22:24 UTC. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 15 Dec 2006

Honoré de Balzac (1799-1850) - Original name Honoré Balssa . 2003. Tantor. 15 Dec 2006

Columbia, David Patrick and Jeffrey Hirsch. "Paris Jouer et Nuit ." 13 Sep 2006 15 Dec 2006.

Note: If someone noticed any other connections like this as i believe they exist, please contact me.