Source: Unsplash by Anh Tuan To
Born in Montgomery, Alabama, Zelda Fitgerald was a woman of many unrecognised talents. Named as the First American Flapper by her husband, she was the perfect example of the 1920s rebellious woman. Many know her only as the wife of great American writer F. Scott Fitzgerald, but Zelda was a substantial influence of her own. She was an artist; a painter; a talented dancer; and a magnificent writer.
After the success of F. Scott Fitzgerlad with his book titled The Side of Paradise, the couple had an entry point into the elite, high society. As the prominent characteristic of the swinging 20s, the first years of their marriage were filled with extravagant parties and endless sources of alcohol. In the beginning, these parties were just a way to have fun, but as time progressed, the Fitzgeralds were challenged by disloyalty, money struggles, and the jealous nature of F. Scott Fitzgerald.
You see, Zelda was not only a muse, but also the source material for F. Scott. Extracting direct sentences and paragraphs from Zelda’s diaries, as well as basing characters off her, F. Scott Fitzgerlad did not even think about giving the well-deserved credit to his wife. When he was writing The Beautiful and Damned, he asked Zelda to write a review of the book. In her review, Zelda brought her husband’s plagiarism of her own writing to light. Stating; “It seems to me that on one page I recognised a portion of an old diary of mine which mysteriously disappeared shortly after my marriage, and, also, scraps of letters which, though considerably edited, sound to me vaguely familiar. In fact, Mr. Fitzgerald -I believe that is how he spells his name- seems to believe that plagiarism begins at home.”
After these comments regarding her husband’s writing, Zelda Fitgerald began to be offered many requests to author a book of her own, which only enraged F. Scott further. Just the idea of his muse having this kind of opportunity to outshine him did not sit right with the so-called great American Writer.
As their relationship deteriorated, so did Zelda’s mental health. In and out of psychiatric hospitals, she was diagnosed with schizophrenia in the 1930s.
Despite her condition, Zelda did not stop her creative process, publishing Save Me the Waltz in 1932. Even though she was not discouraged by her psychological problems, once again her husband was the reason for her downfall, forcing her to take parts of the book that he wanted to use as material whilst drafting the novel Tender is the Night. Due to this heavy editing process, Zelda’s book was not able to become a success; this disappointment only furthered her unfortunate condition.
Even though she did not get the recognition she truly deserved during her lifetime, she was able to be seen as the genius that she was in the years following her death, through writers sharing her unheard stories. She was a feminist icon who survived an abusive marriage with a man that refused to share their success with her. This piece is thus dedicated to Zelda Fitzgerald; an unrecognised creative genius, who was seen as nothing more than a muse to her husband.