The Ageing Process Of The Jazz Age English Literature Essay


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The term "Jazz Age" has become standardized within popular culture as connoting glamour, frivolity and youth. A phrase that readers and critics alike "refer [to] fondly," the "Jazz Age" encourages the romanticization and over-simplification of decade in which, like any other, complexities and contradictions abounded. Tying this phrase to writers of the period thereby encourages misreadings which overlook the subtleties and incongruities existent within texts. At the heart of this issue is F. Scott Fitzgerald, who has over time been fashioned into the superlative, emblematic figure of the Jazz Age. The essay will examine the trajectory which has led to this categorization, and proceed to challenge it in an exploration of how Fitzgerald's thematic deployment of age and consumerism provides him with ammunition for social criticism, and forges connections to contemporaries that have previously been neglected.

I. The Ageing Process

The lyrics of "The Living Years" by Mike & the Mechanics state that "Every generation blames the one before." While this 1988 track may not seem relevant to a study of 1920s and 30s American literature, it resonates with Budd Schulberg's observation in a 1941 edition of New Republic dedicated to Fitzgerald, in which he states: "My generation thought of F. Scott Fitzgerald as an age rather than as a writer… when the economic strike of 1929 began to change the sheiks and flappers into unemployed boys or underpaid girls, we consciously and a little belligerently turned our backs." [2] Ruth Prigozy argues that Schulberg's perception is among the first of several that attempts to parallel the fluctuations of American history with Fitzgerald's life, [3] a notion encapsulated in Malcolm Cowley's Exile's Return (1934), which claims that F. Scott Fitzgerald's own trajectory perfectly embodies the boom and bust that defined the twenties and thirties. In its oversimplification, Cowley's penchant for depicting Fitzgerald as an emblematic figure of the ebullience of the nineteen twenties and the decline of the thirties problematizes how we read not just his work but also our perception of the cultural climate of the time. Accounts such as Cowley's too often neglect the continuities between decades, preferring to neatly categorize and contrast with binary oppositions, situating the twenties of "flaming youth … bobbed hair and short skirts and crazy drinking" [4] against the "Depression era" or "red decade" of the thirties. Peter Novick substantiates the redundancy of using popular images to characterize a decade by correlating the growth in cultural historians with the shortening of cultural epochs:

"Where once we had the Age of the Baroque and the Siècle des Lumières we now have characterizations of the culture of decades: "iconoclasm" for the 1920s; "radicalism" for the 1930s. But there was…plenty of traditionalism and complacency in the decades of iconoclasm and radicalism." [5] 

This, in turn, impacts upon interpretations of the literature of the period; synonymising Fitzgerald with the Jazz Age firmly roots him within the connotations of this phrase, and facilitates overlooking his duality, as both representative for and critic of the nineteen twenties. His writing does not exclusively embody the "decadence of the 1920s" [6] but simultaneously distances itself, enabling the emergence of a critical voice. The complexities and contradictions of the twenties and thirties which are addressed in Fitzgerald's texts are thereby suppressed and undermined by the critical reading of Fitzgerald as purely illustrative of the Jazz Age.

Fitzgerald's position as author has similarly been reduced from complexity to uniformity by a trend which Kirk Curnutt identifies as the "infant phenomenon" [7] . Alfred Kazin has observed that, confusing Fitzgerald's depiction of youth in his texts with a characterization of the author, critics have enveloped Fitzgerald in the eternally childlike guise of "disappointed…child" [8] . Curnutt notes the illogicality of this trend by referencing a host of other revered writers (e.g. Keats, Dickens and Dos Passos), who achieved success at the same age as Fitzgerald but have not been branded in this way. This critical inclination became prominent during the nineteen thirties, exampled in Edmund Wilson's depiction of Fitzgerald as "a rather childlike fellow." [9] This is suggestive of the deliberate fracturing of the twenties and thirties as oppositional periods in the writing of the later decade; classifications of Fitzgerald as a youth enclosed within the Jazz Age anticipate Schulberg's turning his back on the author, and validate Peter Conn's argument that writers of the thirties frequently "revive[d] the past to criticize American values." [10] Critical appraisal of Fitzgerald in the thirties thereby facilitated the cementation of the author to the Jazz Age image which has since impacted upon the popularity of Fitzgerald in subsequent decades. Prigozy documents the changing critical receptions towards Fitzgerald: his relative insignificance within the public arena during the thirties and forties (leading to unsympathetic and in some cases inaccurate obituaries [11] ), a resurgence in his popularity during the 1950s, which witnessed the publication of the first biography (Arthur Mizener's The Far Side of Paradise, 1951) and the continuing growth in popularity in subsequent decades. Broadly speaking, the fluctuations in critical responses validate the extent to which Fitzgerald has been encased within a Jazz Age categorization; most notably, the first Fitzgerald revival occurred during the "post-war period of expansion" [12] , in which the emergent liberationist ethos found desirable parallels in the Jazz Age ideology. Furthermore, in the nineties the established trajectory of Fitzgerald's success and decline was fashioned into "a morality tale directed at the excesses of the 1980s, which…resembled those of the 1920s." [13] The representation of youth which is at the centre of Fitzgerald's texts has been deflected onto its author; the distinction between his protagonists' obsession with ageing and Fitzgerald's position as spectator and critic has dissolved. The allure of the "fetishization of youth" [14] , thereby side-tracks, and consequently limits critics in their analyses of Fitzgerald's texts.

II. Act Your Age

Matthew J. Bruccoli's caution that "the…youth legend surrounding Fitzgerald detracts from what's important… and what's important is little black marks on pieces of paper," [15] is complicated when Fitzgerald's "little black marks" corroborate, rather than dissolve, the legend. The "problematic appeal" of synonymising Fitzgerald with the Jazz Age is intensified by Fitzgerald's promotion of this association in his allegedly autobiographical essays collected in The Crack-Up (1945). In the essays Fitzgerald undermines the complexities of the twenties by encasing the decade in hyperbolic sound bites, as "a whole race going hedonistic" in "the most expensive orgy in history." [16] Robert Bendiner perceives the limitations of such a narrow historical assessment, writing: "It has always seemed to me fatuous to fix a single label on a whole decade, as though…the twenties stood for hot jazz." [17] A contemporary of Fitzgerald's validates Bendiner's analysis by noting the diversity among youth in the decade stating that "all my friends are working and working hard." [18] The synopsis of the Penguin 1974 edition of The Crack-Up unintentionally captures the paradoxical nature of the text in its coexistence as self proclaimed autobiography and romanticization: "Fitzgerald took the Jazz Age for his own and wove its extravagances into a glittering myth." While this judgment signifies the complexities of the text, too often critics have treated it as purely as a work of autobiography. In The Crisis of Fitzgerald's Crack-Up Scott Donaldson observes how the collection was "celebrated [for] its honesty" [19] by critics such as Lionel Trilling and Glenaway Westcott and insightfully perceives that in actuality it "tells its truths only between the lines." [20] While Donaldson's argument examines the way we should read The Crack-Up, the reliance on biographical material in his judgment that Fitzgerald "left too much only hinted at," [21] is limiting; it is more pertinent to examine how and why the material within the text is presented in a particular way, rather than search for what's absent. The reasoning behind Fitzgerald's epitomizing of the twenties within restrictive singular phrases asserts itself in an examination of the emergent "culture of celebrity" during the early twentieth century. The rapid urbanization and technological advancements occurring in the late nineteenth century and escalating in the subsequent decades enabled a much broader communications media to develop; at the close of the nineteenth century magazines and newspapers began to reach national audiences, shortly followed by radio broadcasts. Timothy W. Galow shrewdly correlates these developments with changes in the perceived role and position of the author within American culture, observing how "national media outlets provided authors with new channels for constructing public personae and…allowed writers to communicate rapidly with audiences all around the country." [22] His argument elucidates the motivation behind Fitzgerald's construction of a public persona who fulfils the role of spokesperson for the Jazz Age; attempting to manipulate his reading audience with the allure of the rhetoric of nostalgia, The Crack-Up essays can be read as a lucrative form of self promotion, which capitalise on the success of Frederick Lewis Allen's Only Yesterday: An Informal History of the 1920s (1931). The popularity of the latter text, which sold more than a million copies, encapsulates the complex relationship between past and present that existed in the thirties. While Fitzgerald's characterization of himself as the spokesperson for his "Lost City" and Malcolm Cowley's 1934 assessment suggest the conspicuous assertion of a rupture between the decades, the texts also illuminate the insistent presence and resurfacing of the past in literature of the thirties.

It is also worth noting that the emergent "culture of celebrity" provided not only a means for Fitzgerald to craft a public persona for himself, but also facilitated the ease with which his character could be manipulated and distorted. This notion complements Galow's analysis of the oscillating critical contemporary responses to This Side of Paradise (1920) and The Beautiful and Damned (1922), with reviewers of the latter reaching a consensus on Fitzgerald's "inherent laziness." [23] Galow's attribution of this peculiar uniformity amongst critics to the prominence of Fitzgerald's "media-generated persona," [24] reflects that while manipulating the public sphere, Fitzgerald was also at the mercy of it. John Peale Bishop's observation that Anthony Patch acts as "a figure through whom Mr. Fitzgerald may write of himself," [25] allows us to push Galow's argument further; the emergent "culture of celebrity" which promoted the author as the face of his text also assisted in obscuring the distinction between writer and character. This association further undermines Fitzgerald's position as both emblematic and critical of the twenties. This slipperiness between author and character is remedied by an examination of how age representation functions in Fitzgerald's texts, which illuminates his ambivalence towards the decade. Acknowledging his duality as representative figure and critic also revitalizes an appraisal of his work by revealing connections with contemporaries such as Nathanael West and John Dos Passos that have often been neglected.

III. Coming of Age

Curnutt asserts that "whereas the journey of life once symbolized a pilgrim's progress from innocence to experience, getting old during the Jazz Age came to resemble obsolescence - an unsolicited invitation to irrelevance." [26] Curnutt's quote reflects how Fitzgerald's work is simultaneously tied to the age in which it was written, and distinct from it. His texts capture the intoxicating appeal of youth, while acknowledging that endless youth is an illusion, suggesting that characters should confront the ageing process. The ending of This Side of Paradise (1920) captures the tension existent in the protagonist anticipating his maturation while mourning his lost youth. A comparative reading of this text and John Dos Passos' Manhattan Transfer (1925) illuminates how both invoke only to frustrate the "pilgrim's progress" mode, or the Bildungsroman, which is defined as "a novel in which the chief character, after a number of false starts or wrong choices….follow[s] the right path and…develop[s] into a mature and well-balanced man." [27] Protagonists Amory Blaine and Jimmy Herf both experience "false starts" and make "wrong choices", but while they gain revelatory insight at the closing of the texts, their maturation is not fulfilled. The authors leave their characters on a precipice, with Curnutt's description of Amory as "uprooted from the past, but uncertain of the future," [28] extending to illustrate the open ended quality of both texts. Michael Gold's assessment of the ending of Manhattan Transfer develops this idea by identifying the concluding tone as one of "bewilderment…the protagonist…seeks escape… Dos Passos does not know how to help him." [29] This idea resonates with a contemporary review which recognised Fitzgerald as a youth writing about youth, not "looking back to [youth's] problems with a wistful patronage," but "still in the thick of the fight." [30] The appeal of the text thereby arises from Fitzgerald's understanding of his age group. Yet this appraisal is also patronizing in its suggestion that the text is left open-ended due to Fitzgerald's personal ignorance of the territory his protagonist is moving towards. Juxtaposed against this is Gold's assertion which implies that the tone of bewilderment is intentional, arising from the ambivalence with which New York is viewed throughout the text, as both a city of opportunity and entrapment. That Dos Passos' ending is viewed as social commentary while Fitzgerald's is taken as a sign of his naivety illustrates the superfluous distinction made between the two authors. This distinction has been intensified by the categorization of Dos Passos as explicitly experimental. Influenced by the European art scene, "the Paris of futurism, expressionism in literature," Dos Passos wanted to create a novel "full of popular songs, political aspirations, and prejudices… crack pot notions, clippings out of the daily newspapers," [31] which for Sinclair Lewis represented "a break with the homogenous novelistic tradition". [32] Lewis' generalization undermines the diversity of and experimentation in works of literature emerging at this time and also limits comparisons that can be made between Manhattan Transfer and works preceding it, such as D.H. Lawrence's The Rainbow (1915), a panoramic treatment of three generations of a single family. Lewis' assertion further undermines possible parallels between Dos Passos and Fitzgerald; This Side of Paradise resonates with Dos Passos' aforementioned quote regarding the variety of registers at work in Manhattan Transfer. While the novel is narrated chronologically, Fitzgerald's experimental use of form, including dramatic script [33] i, listing (40) and "snapshots" or bursts of short passages (22-23) gives it a fragmentary feel which unites the form of the text to its concluding tone of bewilderment. Fitzgerald recycled this tone eleven years later in the last of his Josephine stories, "Emotional Bankruptcy", in which his protagonist suddenly becomes numb to the romantic ideal she has based her life upon. Fitzgerald provides Josephine with a closing exclamatory statement: "'Oh, what have I done to myself?" [34] which invokes self appraisal without granting a clear answer. This demonstrates how the revelatory insight bestowed upon Amory, which prompts an awareness of how little he does know, is not simply a signifier of Fitzgerald's own inexperience, but symptomatic of a pattern that was to reassert itself in his subsequent work.

This pattern reflects how Fitzgerald's texts are in dialogue with contemporary cultural notions of ageing; the paradoxical revelation/bewilderment theme resonates with the late nineteenth - early twentieth century understanding of adolescence as a discrete, transitional and troubled period in between infancy and adulthood. This is evidenced by the changing ways child labour laws were regarded at the turn of the century; in 1892 the movement proposing a minimum working age of fifteen for factory employment gained support from the Democratic Party, reflecting an increased national sensitivity towards the age related developmental needs of youth. 1904 witnessed the publications of G. Stanley Hall's seminal study Adolescence and a Bureau of the Census Study, "Bulletin 13: A Discussion of Age Statistics". While the former illuminated and empathized with the turbulence of teenage years, the latter reflected how age consciousness and age categorization were steadily becoming regimented within American institutions. The emergence of new social sciences such as psychology helped standardize age classifications that were to feed into the media, contributing to the broad communication and perception of youth as synonymous with vitality and autonomy. The roots of this connection are exemplified in the work of William James, who coined the term "stream of consciousness" and endorsed "living for the moment" in Principles of Psychology (1890). This undermines the identification which historians often locate at the commencement of the 1920s - subsequent to the horrors experienced in the war - of a rupture with previous decades in the embracing of "full living" [35] . Frederick Lewis Allen encapsulates this, stating that "a whole generation had been infected by the eat-drink-and-be-merry-for-tomorrow-we-die spirit of war." [36] While war experiences undeniably intensified the desire for "living for the moment", it is the saturation of gradual scientific notions on age categorization into the mass media that facilitated the Jazz Age "fetishization of youth". This correlates with Howard P. Chudacoff's observation that "popular American writers had described stages of life before the twentieth century but seldom with the age specifity and awareness of distinct separateness that had become common by the 1910s and 1920s." [37] Fitzgerald's texts conform to this in their frequent invocations of age milestones. Towards the end of The Great Gatsby (1925), Nick Carraway suddenly realises it is his thirtieth birthday and contemplates "the portentous, menacing road of a new decade…the promise of a decade of loneliness, a thinning list of single men to know, a thinning brief case of enthusiasm, thinning hair." [38] Standing alone this passage embodies Curnutt's representation of ageing in the Jazz Age as "an unsolicited invitation to irrelevance", with the anaphora of "thinning" giving the extract a mundane, list like tone. Crucially, however, Fitzgerald does not end the text on this note; its conclusion instead informs a criticism of materialism in the stark juxtaposition Fitzgerald creates between the popularity of Gatsby's "gleaming, dazzling parties" (140) and the insignificance of his funeral. The fruitfulness of references that synonymise ageing with obsolescence and the frequency with which characters mourn their lost youth should not be disregarded, but, while often held up as the pre-eminent literary emblem of the Jazz Age, The Great Gatsby does ultimately criticize preserving the illusion of youth by embodying the "pilgrim's progress from innocence to experience" in the maturation of Nick Carraway. Meeting Tom Buchanan at the close of the text, he feels "as though I were talking to a child," (140). The concluding contrast made between Nick and the Buchanans, who "smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness or whatever it was that kept them together," (139) reverberates with Dos Passos' comparison of Jimmy Herf with Ellen Thatcher, the two protagonists in Manhattan Transfer he follows from childhood. It is Ellen's cold pragmatism which facilitates her survival in New York, a quality that Nick and Jimmy lack, and which the Buchanans epitomize. At the close of the novel, Ellen arrives to meet George Baldwin for dinner shortly after having witnessed a girl on fire, when "there shoots through her a sudden pang of something forgotten…What did I forget in the taxi cab? But already she is advancing smiling towards two gray men in black with white shirtfronts getting to their feet, smiling, holding out their hands." [39] Ellen enacts the "vast carelessness" that characterizes the Buchanans, reflecting how these authors transform the appealing frivolity associated with the Jazz Age into egotism and thoughtlessness. This narcissism is intensified by the overt materialism of these characters; their vanity rendering them victims of a "culture of abundance" [40] . Their willingness as consumers to buy into the "packageable messages of success" [41] which subvert the complexities of life functions as a way for Fitzgerald and Dos Passos to form social critique; their texts ultimately undermine the possibility of a quick fix.

IV. The Quick Fix

The work of Nathanael West similarly resonates with the "problematic appeal" of the Jazz Age categorization by exposing the redundancy of disregarding complexities in favour of simple solutions. In Miss Lonelyhearts (1933), West satirizes mass media outlets, such as the advertising and newspaper industries by assuming - and interrogating- their registers. In his plans for the novel, West revealed an inclination towards a comic book style of narration. [42] His chapter headings conform to the condensed syntax commonly adopted in comic books, of subject+verb, or subject+preposition+object, such as "Miss Lonelyhearts Returns" and "Miss Lonelyhearts in the Country". The concealment of the protagonist's Christian name - a revealing alteration from his first draft - is symptomatic of the anonymity ascribed to super heroes in comic strips. But where the latter implies power and masculinity, West's naming ironically reveals the feminization of his male protagonist. This gestures towards the social critique at the heart of the text; Miss Lonelyhearts manipulates the form of the comic strip and the newspaper problem page to reveal the illogicality of the quick fixes these columns promote. At the outset of the novel the protagonist perceives that "the letters were no longer funny" [43] and as it progresses he realises that the majority of letters are "inarticulate expressions of genuine suffering" (94). Rita Barnard's notion that "a critique of the times must take its cue form the commercial language of the times," [44] underlies the text, and is illuminated in a comparison of West's invocation of a religious register with the publications of advertising guru Bruce Barton. Barton promoted Jesus as the pre-eminent symbol of health and vigour in texts such as A Young Man's Jesus (1914) and The Man Nobody Knows (1925). In the latter he characterizes Jesus as "a young man glowing with physical strength…if there were a world's championship in town, we might look for Him there," [45] remoulding him into an exemplary symbol of the qualities his adverts promoted as attainable. West's utilisation of a religious register exposes the reductiveness of Barton's argument. The text begins with the editor Shrike's printed prayer to Miss Lonelyhearts: "Soul of Miss L, glorify me. Body of Miss L, nourish me…" (59) implying the cultural idolization of the advertiser by constructing the power relations between advertiser/consumer or agony aunt/reader as God/apostle. That Miss Lonelyhearts is "still working on his leader" despite "the deadline [being] …less than a quarter of an hour away" (59) destabilises this veneration for the agony aunt, who, when juxtaposed against Shrike's prayer, is exposed as wholly human. Yet Miss Lonelyhearts retains a connection to Christ in the text, recounting that, as a boy "something had stirred in him when he shouted the name of Christ, something secret and enormously powerful." (67) In the last chapter Miss Lonelyhearts experiences a religious revelation, perceiving that "his identification with God was complete," (125) and believing Doyle's arrival to signify his ability to "perform a miracle…it was a sign." (126) In the text's final irony, just moments after believing he has the power and transcendental love to help his readers he is shot dead by a gun "wrapped in a newspaper." (126) West's overt symbolism here is indicative of the black humour that underlies the text, which is similarly exercised in A Cool Million (1934). Subtitled "the dismantling of Lemuel Pitkin" West's portrayal of Lemuel's deterioration at the hands of conniving and opportunistic characters is intensified by physical amputation, losing not just his integrity but also his teeth, an eye, a thumb and a leg. Paralleling Miss Lonelyhearts, the text's ending is laced with irony. It is masqueraded in ostentation as Lemuel - who throughout the novel is characterized by naivety and defencelessness - is commercialized through memorialisation into an exemplar of political valour in the "Lemuel Pitkin Song" (237). The irony is intensified as he is carved into a figure comparable to Barton's Jesus; the inaccurate portrayal of Lemuel further challenging the legitimacy of Barton's claims. Disdain for the advertising industry is similarly captured in a 1929 publication by Fitzgerald, printed in the Princeton Alumni Weekly and entitled "Ten Years in the Advertising Business" [ii] . Fitzgerald's protagonist, like Miss Lonelyhearts, has become disillusioned with the industry from working within it. As in West's text, the advertising/news guru is situated in opposition to the employee, and stunts, rather than cultivates the protagonist's creativity. The "little dots", if taken as a reference to the ellipsis in the passage, symbolize the passing of time, revealing the monotony of the work, and how, to their employer, the employees become interchangeable; Mr Cakebook's indifference is manifested in his ignorance of the protagonist's ten year marriage. While the starkness of Fitzgerald's criticism in this passage is perhaps atypical of his work, its very existence confirms the variety which is quashed by the Jazz Age categorization.

V. The Distorting Mirror

Regarding "10 Years in the Advertising Business" as an anomaly in Fitzgerald's work requires elucidation. Barnard's belief that West recognizes that a social commentary must take its cue from the commercial language of the time does reverberate with Fitzgerald's novels, but in contrast to West's heavy irony, Fitzgerald's transference of a commercial language into his characters' dialogue is far subtler, and is consequently not often recognized as a form of critique. Using the epistemology of Carraway - the flower whose seeds are traditionally believed to "relieve gassy indigestion or colic" [46] as verification, Godden characterizes Nick as a "great deodorizer", arguing that "whenever the contradictions within his subject become too disquieting, he turns social aspiration into 'dream', sexual politics into 'romance' and translates class conflict as 'tragedy'." [47] This form of substitution echoes the glossing over or romanticising of complexities that can be observed in 1920s and 30s advertising, and on a broader level is reflective of the way in which complex critical ideas are refined into simple, digestible, but problematic categorizations. In 1934 James Rorty condemned the "opium of advertising," [48] stressing the fatuousness of the attraction to products purely because they are enshrined in simple catch phrases. In Save Me the Waltz (1932) Zelda Fitzgerald's heroine Alabama Knight attests to the reality of this attraction by acknowledging that "we grew up founding our dreams on the infinite promises of advertising." [49] However, Nick Carraway's technique of substitution or glossing over complexities should not be taken as indicative of Fitzgerald's endorsement of these promises. While Godden accurately acknowledges the ubiquity of "dream" in the text, it should be acknowledged that its connotations are darker and increasingly haunting as the text progresses. At the end of the text Nick observes that Gatsby's

"dream must have seemed so close that he could hardly fail to grasp it. He did not know that it was already behind him," (141)

Godden's argument that "dream" signifies "social aspiration" is sustained here, but Nick's position as the "great deodorizer" is challenged by his confirmation of Gatsby's failure; using this substitutionary commercial language at this point exposes - rather than conceals- its ineffectiveness and inaccuracy. Yet Fitzgerald does also suggest that commercial language has contaminated the speech of the characters he wishes to fault. While not wholly accurate in its depiction of Nick Carraway, Godden's argument that Fitzgerald implements a substitutionary language which smoothes over the complexities of life is substantiated here. Gatsby's characterization of Daisy's voice as "full of money" (94) and Nick's subsequent comparison of it to a "jingle" (94) illuminates its connection with the commercial language of advertisements. West similarly shows how language is contaminated by "the refracting lens of consumerism" [50] as the ubiquity of commercial language permeates Miss Lonelyheart's thoughts and speech, with each letter "stamped from the dough of suffering with a heart-shaped cookie knife." (59)

Comparable to Godden's argument of substitution, Roland Marchand notes that when looking at advertisements, consumers did not want to see an accurate reflection of their lives, but a "zerrspiegel" or a "distorting mirror that would enhance certain images," fuelling a desire for "life as it ought to be." [51] Jib Fowles observes how this notion manifested itself in the class images used in advertisements, in which illustrations of the upper-middle and upper classes dominated. [iii] A desirable, distorting mirror thereby necessitated a distorted, unrepresentative image of class in America. This distortion resonates with Fitzgerald's texts and indicates one of the most significant reasons why his work is often neglected as co existing as representative and critical of the Jazz Age: his texts exist within a world of almost exclusively upper class characters. In contrast to Manhattan Transfer, which depicts the lives of characters from all areas of the social spectrum, Fitzgerald's work is concerned with a very select and wealthy constituency. Dos Passos' text is more easily perceived as social commentary due to the contrasts it makes between characters of different classes; most of the prosperous and wealthy characters are given a moral taint, such as Ellen's vanity and George Baldwin's infidelity. Due to the narrow class representation in Fitzgerald's texts, the distinctions he makes between characters are less easily discernible. In The Beautiful and Damned Anthony and Gloria Patch are juxtaposed against Adam Patch, who "charged into Wall St. and…gathered himself some seventy five million dollars," [52] and repeatedly instructs his grandson to "do something…accomplish something," (18) instead of simply drifting and waiting for his inheritance. While Fitzgerald's descriptions of Adam Patch do resonate with Curnutt's synonymising of ageing with obsolescence, as seventy five years have "tyrannously demanded his teeth, one by one, suspended his small eyes in dark-bluish sacks…it had split his intense normality into credulity and suspicion," (18) and while Anthony belittles him and relishes his mistakes, other characters in the text acknowledge his success and regard him with admiration. Anthony unreservedly subscribes to the view that ageing is "an unsolicited invitation to irrelevance," responding to Geraldine's concern for his health at forty by stating that he "sincerely trusts [he] won't live that long." (75) Yet Fitzgerald's characterization of Adam Patch as cold but rational in disinheriting his grandson challenges the Jazz Age endorsement of wildness and irresponsibility that Fitzgerald is supposedly the emblem of. For Fitzgerald, wealth co-exists as a means of opportunity and waste, with Adam Patch embodying the former, and Anthony the latter. At the end of the text, Anthony's mental decline fuels a disturbing regression into childhood, as he peruses his stamp collection and, after hearing the confirmation of the inheritance he's been anticipating for the entirety of the text, tells Dick and Gloria to "get out - now, both of you. Or else I'll tell my grandfather." (362) The closing passage of the text, rather than anticipating Anthony's maturation, exposes his naivety. While his overarching desire has been fulfilled, the text ends on a haunting irresolution. In contrast to Amory and Josephine, Anthony's inheritance permits him to disregard self examination and embrace spending and escapism. Yet each of his statements are undone by preceding occurrences in the text: his assertion that "he had known he was justified in his way of life - and he had stuck it out staunchly" (364) is undermined both by his characteristic aimlessness and his mental decline. Similarly, his belief that "the very friends who had been most unkind had come to respect him" (364) exposes their superficiality and opportunism rather than their dependability.

The ending of The Beautiful and Damned is particularly jarring in Fitzgerald's refusal to bestow insight upon his protagonist. The distinction between author and character that John Peale Bishop's review obscured is unambiguous, as Fitzgerald's criticism of Anthony is illuminated and intensified by his protagonist's blindness. As this essay has demonstrated, an examination of the endings of Fitzgerald's texts verifies the redundancy of characterizing him as nothing more than an emblem of the Jazz Age; his texts challenge, rather than accept the connotations of this phrase. His work depicts, but simultaneously undermines the "fetishization of youth," as his characters either recognize the damaging effects of living irresponsibly (Nick, Amory, Josephine) or embrace escapism, revealing their narcissism and carelessness in the process (the Buchanans and the Patches). That the Jazz Age has come to represent a form of escapism in popular culture further stresses Fitzgerald's detachment from it, and facilitates comparisons of his work with authors who don't simply embody, but also critique the era, such as Dos Passos and West. By challenging the notion of a "quick fix" these authors do not simply undermine the connotations of the Jazz Age but unknowingly elucidate why the appeal of the Jazz Age categorization - to readers and critics - is problematic; it distorts the subtleties and complexities that underlie both Fitzgerald's texts and the period in which they were written in.

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