Most essays on women in her-
story are concerned with early feminists and some, very few, with successful women writers. But what a-
bout women who were "failures?"
One of these recently "discovered"
women is Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald.
For years Zelda was known only
in fragmentary form. She was the
clever but spoiled Southern Belle
from Montgomery, Alabama, whom F.
Scott Fitzgerald married. She was,
along with Fitzgerald, the epitome
of the Jazz Age—dashing, wealthy,
forever young. She was the crazy
woman who died in an insane asylum
fire. But Zelda was, above all
else, Nicole Diver, a character
created by her husband in his novel,
Tender Is The Night.
With the publication of Nancy
Milford's biography of her(Zelda,
Harper and Row: New York, 1970), we
can finally get a complete view of
this complex and fascinating woman.
Zelda was never satisfied with
her stereotyped role. She wanted to
be "someone" with something to say.
However, she never developed the
creative discipline necessary to
turn her intelligent insights into
finished works of art. The life
she and Scott led, Scott's position
as an established writer with whom
she was in competition, her need for
constant reassurance and Scott's
inability to provide it, all worked
Torn between the desire for
autonomy and her devotion to Scott,
Zelda suffered the first in a series
of mental breakdowns that ended in
From the beginning of their
marriage, Zelda had written short
stories and reviews, some of which
were published under Scott's name.
Her first novel, Save Me The Waltz,
was completed in the sanitarium.
When. Scott saw the manuscript he became enraged. He jealously resented
her stepping on his territory even
though he unmercifully drew upon her
letters to him from the sanitarium
for Tender Is The Night. He also
used her diary and letters for This
Side of Paradise,
The Beautiful And The Damned, and her personality and their experiences for The Great Gatsby.
Zelda was pleased with her work
still uncertain of her ability,
wrote Scott from the sanitarium,
am proud of my novel, but I can
hardly restrain myself enough to get
it written. You will like it—It
is distinctly Ecole Fitzgerald,
though more ecstatic than yours—
Perhaps too much so. Being unable
to invent a device to avoid the re-
iterant "said" I have emphasized it
a la Ernest(Hemingway)to my sorrow.
He is a very determined writer, but
I shall also die with my boots on.'"
From inside the nightmare,
Zelda cculd still look out with understanding and compassion. From
another letter to Scott,"'Dearest—
I suppose I will spend the rest of
my life torn between the desire to
master life and a feeling that it
is, au fond, a. contemptuous enemy.
...There's a woman here who wanders
tentatively about the halls like a
ghost in a poor detective story.
It is impossible to feel sorry for
crazy people since their realities
do not coincide with our normal conceptions of tragedy etc. And yet,
a woman's brother came to pay a visit. I thought how awful and poignant—that boney casket full of nothing that the man had ever loved
and he was saying that he wanted her
to come home again. It made me feel
very sorry. I presume he was addressing his past...'"(p.215)
(continued p. 5 )