Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Zelda Fitzgerald: feminist or fruitcake?

“In his blue gardens men and girls came and went like moths among the whisperings and the champagne and the stars”

Not many people, literary or otherwise, can deny the lyrical and nuanced beauty of F Scott Fitzgerald’s prose. His words blow us sweet imaginary kisses whilst his characters are diamonds sparkling off the pages. This quotation (one of many) taken from The Great Gatsby captures the ephemeral, dazzling, heady brilliance of his Jazz Age critique. But as Cannes welcomes in yet another Gatsby adaptation to congratulate the enduring resonance of his work, it is only fair that a further spotlight illuminates his wife. Zelda Fitzgerald, the woman who history cast its shadow upon.

'Sometimes', said Scott, 'I don't know whether Zelda and I are real or whether we are characters from one of my own novels.' This confession sparked many critics to consign Daisy Buchannan, a careless and impetuous creature, as a showcase of Zelda’s most unflattering facets. His novels would be a juicy exposé of their fascinatingly tumultuous relationship. Frivolous, fool and narcissist- feminists continually challenged this damaging portrayal of Zelda Fitzgerald. But despite this she has wholly been remembered as the hedonistic and troubled wife of F Scott Fitzgerald.

With the two critical novels Beautiful Fools and Z: A novel of Zelda Fitzgerald ready for publication, history prepares to be rewritten. Zelda was the true embodiment of the Jazz Age spirit- vivacious, witty and extravagant. As a pioneer of early day feminism, she emerged into the public eye at a time when women were becoming increasingly visible, both in dress and public standing. Her reputation as the first flapper forever unites her with this new breed of women. Zelda bounced and bobbed with the best of them, she was liberated, androgynous, tanned and outspoken. Yes, most importantly she had a voice. But as one half of the “ultimate golden couple”, her independence had its bounds. She was both victim and muse, cast cruelly in her husband’s life story. Her fall from the American Dream culminated with the break down of her marriage and mental state. She showed great courage through adversity, but was tragically killed in a fire at her asylum.

Therese Anne Fowler, author of Z, concludes “Zelda remains fascinating because we are attracted to fearlessness, to individuals who live outside the lines. She was a remarkable blend of fragility and strength, and while her story has elements of tragedy, it’s uplifting too”.  Isn’t it time Zelda Fitzgerald is recognised for her true influential self? As a woman who inspired a generation, and as a budding author in her own right.

"A Diamond as Big as the Ritz"-
Tiffany&Co. present The Great Gatsby Collection

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