Z: Week 4 P. 281 - 371

Summary

After years of mental instability, substance abuse, and infidelity, it seems like Scott and Zelda's marriage is finally breaking apart. While Zelda is in and out of mental institutions and Scott struggles to get his newest book written, it seems like the last nails in the coffin are hammered in, especially when Zelda's latest attempt at independence, writing her own novel, is largely hindered by Scott himself. In the lovely and sad conclusion of the novel, find where the jazz age left its most renowned couple.

What I Liked

  • Zelda's Novel: Before reading this novel, I had already done a bit of research on who Zelda was and what she did, and I had heard about her first and only novel, which was largely crippled due to F. Scott Fitzgerald's machinations. It was nice seeing how her writing process was portrayed in the novel, though the eventual failure of her novel was heartbreaking.
  • Separation: I have to say, I loved that Zelda and F. Scott were finally separated. It felt a long time coming. It also brings the novel full circle. In the beginning, Zelda separates from Scott so that he can get his novel done, in a sort of self sacrifice. In the conclusion, Zelda does the same only this time she is saving herself, instead of attempting to help him.
  • A Voice Returns: What drew me into this book so heartily in the beginning was Zelda's voice. She was fiery and independent and she had her own thoughts that were entertaining and fascinating to read. Somewhere in the middle of the novel, it feels like she loses that, as we start to hear less of her inner commentary and more of a simple summary of events. While I know that this makes sense to the story, since Zelda was probably lost to the tide of endless parties, marital struggles, and health issues and thus released control over her life, it doesn't make for a very interesting read. Well, the conclusion of the novel brings a lot of that voice back, and definitely pointed out to me what exactly I had felt was missing in the last two weeks or so of reading.
  • The River: I loved Zelda's explanation of the river on page 362, I think it was a very strong commentary on mental health. It's very long, but I loved it so much I am going to go ahead and write portions of it right here:
"'Do you recall the African river Aunt Julia used to talk about, the one she'd learned of from some tale her granddaddy told?...in the deep, wet, tangled, wild jungle where even the natives won't go is a mystical, dangerous river. The river's got no name because naming it would make it real, and no one wants to believe that river be real. They say you get there only inside a dream- but don't you think of it at bedtime, now, 'cause not everyone who goes there be able to leave! That jungle canopy, it so leafy true daylight can never break in. The riverbank, it be wet muck thick with creatures that eat you alive if you stay still too long. To miss that fate, you gots to go into the black water. But the water be heavy as hot tar; once you in, it bind you and pull you along, bit by bit 'til you come to the end of the land, and then over the water goes in a dark, slow cascade, the highest falls in the history of the world ever. There be demons in that cascading water, and snakes, and wraiths that whisper in your ears. They love you, they say. You should give yourself to them, stay with them, become one of them, they say. 'Isn't it good here?' they say. 'No pain, no trouble.' But also no light and no love and no joy and no ground. You tumble and tumble as you fall, and you try and choose, but your mind be topsy-turvy and maybe you can't think so well, and maybe you can't choose right, and maybe you never wake up. It felt like that...I couldn't choose. I couldn't shut out the wraiths...' Tootsie snorts. 'Scott was useless the whole while.' 'Scott was in the river, too.'" (362).

What I Didn't Like

  • The Afterward: I balled like a little bitty baby. One thing I had never researched was what happened to Zelda at the end of her life. It was truly heartbreaking.
  • 1900s Mental Health Ideas: Wrong. Wrong wrong wrong, on so many levels. It was so frustrating to read about Zelda basically being tortured at the hands of her so-called Doctors.
  • Scott's Great Crime: I don't think I will ever be able to read an F. Scott Fitzgerald novel the same way again. I know in the afterward it discusses Zelda reaching critical acclaim due to her work, but I still feel like Scott's great crime was his systematic and oppressive abuse of Zelda which resulted in her mental instability, which he used as an excuse for his behavior. Zelda could have amounted to so much more, and reading this made me so angry of the injustice done to her by her own husband, the man she loved all her life.

Quote of the Week

"All that summer we bloodied our knuckles, Scott and I did, neither of us giving an inch. I was fighting for my right to exist independently in the world, to realize myself, to steer my own boat if I felt like it. He wanted to control everything," (346).

Discussion Questions

  1. Modern psychiatrists have said that Zelda was probably troubled not with schizophrenia in its current definition, but with bipolar disorder...where do you see evidence of this in the years before her breakdown in early 1930? How much, if any, of her vibrant personality might be tied to the disorder?
  2. Do you think Scott's involvement in Zelda's hospitalization a sign of his caring, or just another form of his abuse and oppression?
  3. How do you think Scott and Zelda's story would have played out in modern times?
Created By
Jessi Young
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Created with images by Jack Duval - "Charleston, SC"

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