By Bridie Chapman, PhD
F. Scott Fitzgerald’s status as a major American writer was established in the mid-twentieth century and it has been reaffirmed recently. For example, his most famous novel, The Great Gatsby, was adapted for a Hollywood film for the second time in 2013, and Gatsby is regularly taught in undergraduate English courses across the United States. However, the popular and scholarly appeal of his works has often obscured the ways in which his ethnic background shapes his fiction. This paper examines Fitzgerald’s early fiction to trace his transition from Irish American youth to major American writer, and to think about the ways in which Fitzgerald’s writings were shaped by the sense of exile that permeated nineteenth- and early twentieth century Irish American culture more broadly. Modern American fiction is associated with a sense of alienation produced in response to World War I; the primary aim of this paper is to consider the ways in which the expression of these themes in Fitzgerald’s work might not only be a response to the Great War, but also be related to his Irish American ethnicity and drawn from the Irish American literature of the period.