The main peculiarity of Fitzgerald’s creative work lies in the fact that the American writer was the representative of the Jazz Age, the short period in American history that began shortly after the end of the First World War and culminated in the onset of the great depression of the thirties. The very name of this period is borrowed from the collection of short stories by Fitzgerald “Tales of the Century of Jazz”, which one American critic described as “as irritating as it is interesting, stupid and profound at the same time, instructive and absurd”.
The concept of “age of jazz” became a symbol characterizing the mass enthusiasm for the carnival style of life, which was stimulated by the unmistakable premonition of the early end of the post-war era of riots against bourgeois utilitarianism and enslaving the person with petrified norms of pragmatic morality. “Jazz,” A. Zverev explains, “was perceived as an art in which the most remarkable feature of the era – its dynamism and at the same time hidden behind its chaotic activity psychological insidiousness – was expressed. Recalling the “age of jazz”, Thomas Wolfe wrote in the Web and the Rock (1939) that “his only stable feature was the charge of change … a continuous and increasingly tense movement.”
The feeling has vanished that life rests on firm foundations. People “began to think that they just need to adjust to the rhythm of the century, live in harmony with this rhythm,” without worrying about what will happen tomorrow “. The age of jazz is the middle of the twenties, a time of terrible poverty and untold wealth, an era of “new Americans”, Chicago gangsters and dry law, ending with “black Thursday” in 1929, when the collapse of the price of securities in the temple of American business – New York Stock Exchange on Wall Street – was buried beneath the deceptive prosperity of the “merry twenties.”
And the American dream is “justice for all”, a society of equal opportunities, not constrained by class prejudices. It was for Fitzgerald that the reputation of the forerunner of the “Jazz Age”, the creator of his deceptive tales, his groundless and sometimes dangerous illusions, was fixed. Gertrude Stein wrote about Fitzgerald’s first book that she “created a new generation” – the one that Stein called “lost”. Features of this generation were inactivity, hedonism, admiration for success, ingratiation with the rich. According to the “legend”, in Fitzgerald itself all these qualities were embodied more fully.
His first novel “On This Side of Paradise” essentially opens a new stage in American literature – the 1920s. Characterizing this stage, A. Zverev writes: “On pages of many books, down to Hemingway’s Fiesta and Faulkner’s first novels, then the echoes of the outbreak of social fermentation were revealed and expressed a specific for that time sense of the disintegration of the former world order, as if exploded by war. Not yet becoming clear with the early heroes of Fitzgerald, this sense of emptiness is already intolerable for them, and the search for some at least purely external forms of “saturation” of a suddenly empty life begins. They talked about the “troubled generation”.