Abstract

This essay evaluates the reproductive discourse in Fitzgerald’s work by examining the depiction of birth control and abortion in two of his short stories, “Salute to Lucie and Elsie” (unpublished) and “Benediction” (1920), and two of his novels, The Beautiful and Damned and Tender Is the Night. While Fitzgerald’s deployment of reproductive narratives was certainly a reflection of the political dialogues and social and cultural values of his era, these narratives were also connected to the tensions and contradictions that existed in his own life as a writer struggling to define himself in a chaotic new world. However, Fitzgerald’s treatment of procreation in his works also transcends the personal, reflecting his larger criticism of American society as a modernist and a member of the Lost Generation. For Fitzgerald, the sterility and disillusionment of post-World War I America, with its shift away from family and community toward individual, self-centered values, is paralleled in the sterile and disillusioned lives of his characters. Furthermore, his portrayal of the excessive New Woman as mentally disturbed, psychologically unbalanced, and “feebleminded” or “chill-minded,” to use language that he once regrettably applied to his own wife, Zelda Sayre, thus perhaps rendering this character type eugenically unfit to reproduce, also suggests why she rarely ever does in Fitzgerald’s works.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1755-6333
Print ISSN
1543-3951
Pages
pp. 184-201
Launched on MUSE
2015-12-16
Open Access
No
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