Zelda Fitzgerald and flappers

// 14 March 2008

I had no idea that F Scott Fitzgerald of Great Gatsby fame was even married, let alone to novelist, painter and ballet dancer Zelda Fitzgerald.

The online journal BlueStocking has an excellent article on her this issue (sorry, no direct link). As well as information about Zelda’s life, it includes some of her insights into the way that flappers were objectified:

The flapper that was intended to represent a liberating feminine identity ironically became an objectified figure that restricted Zelda’s freedom to realize her self-identity. Not surprisingly, she believed that this objectification would destroy the ideal of the flapper, since the freedom supposedly entailed in its ideal was bounded instead by the limitations of its commercial objectification.

The article also touches on her novel, Save Me the Waltz, thought to be auto-biographical:

In exploring love as a power relationship, Zelda suggests that the feminine voice is silenced once a woman becomes subjugated to a man. For, once Alabama is captured by David and transformed into his object, his vision of her is subverted as she loses her voice and power over him. Thus, the extent to which Alabama’s voice is no longer heard reveals Zelda’s desire to expose the toll exacted by performance ‘in a culture where commodification has shaped feminine identity’.

Definitely going on my reading list.

Photo from discoverblackheritage, shared under a Creative Commons license

Comments From You

Ruthie Samuel // Posted 14 March 2008 at 11:01 am

The character Nicole in ‘Tender is the Night’ is based on Zelda (her husband Dick is based on Fitzgerald). Dick is obsessed with female vulnerability and marries Nicole after meeting her when she’s in the psychiatric hospital where he works, because she’s crazy because her dad sexually abused her.

Part of this might be conscious but i got the impression that Fitzgerald was afraid of strong women and felt very threatened by a world where women’s roles were changing. Nicole’s sister is unmarried and presented as completely cold and inhuman.

sian // Posted 14 March 2008 at 1:21 pm

Zelda Fitzgerald was a conundrum – a beautiful and dazzling woman and a talented artist and writer. her novel is really good, and is always sidellined as of “women’s interest” rather than a novel in its own right.

F Scott repeatedly blamed her mental problems on his inability to geth is own work done, ignoring the fact that he prob couldn’t get stuff done because he was drinking. he criticised zelda for stealing his ideas before he could write them, particularly with tender is the night.

zelda is the prime example of the famous wife whose talent is ignored.

she was a vibrant and passionate woman. my favourite ancedote is when she went and had a bath in the middle of a party because she was bored of the guests.

Pamela Farmer // Posted 22 May 2009 at 5:57 pm

Please go to my website to see famous people past and present that I have done portraits of. I am currently doing one of Zelda Fitzgerald among others, including those of the “Flapper” age, silent movies, and “Golden Age” of Hollywood. Thanks, Pamela Farmer

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