Two of the greatest American novels — The Great Gatsby (1925) and The Sun Also Rises (1926) — were published in consecutive years by two close friends living an expatriate life in postwar Paris. In that bitter, disillusioned period they created strikingly similar characters, scenes and ideas. Both novels represented a breakthrough in style and subject for the young writers, and both concern the hero’s doomed pursuit of a woman. Fitzgerald’s Gatsby is murdered as a result of his infatuation with Daisy; Hemingway’s Jake Barnes, impotent yet in love with the promiscuous Brett Ashley, ends up in a physical and emotional impasse.
Read together, the two novels illuminate each other and reveal, despite their personal and artistic differences, their tragic view of life. The fate of these fictional heroes suggests the bleak self-projection of their authors. Fitzgerald, like Gatsby, was a romantic who loved not wisely but too well; Hemingway, equally romantic, could not sustain his love for one woman but was inspired by the pursuit of love. Throughout his life Fitzgerald sought Hemingway’s approval, but instead received harsh criticism. Though their friendship foundered early on, each remained an important influence on the other. Both lives ended badly and much too soon.
Fitzgerald, three years older than Hemingway, had gone to Princeton. But in college he concentrated on writing musicals for the Triangle Club, failed his courses and never graduated. In his early twenties he achieved instant success with This Side of Paradise (1920) and The Beautiful and the Damned (1922), but these popular novels and his lucrative stories for the Saturday Evening Post were, as he knew, superficial. He first met Hemingway in Paris in April 1925, two weeks after Gatsby was published and at the high point of his career. Hemingway envied Fitzgerald’s literary fame, material success and luxurious way of life, a vivid contrast to his own obscurity and rather pinched existence. But they had very different personalities: Hemingway was absolutely sure of himself while Fitzgerald, despite his impressive achievements, was full of self-doubt.
Fitzgerald introduced Hemingway to Scribner’s and helped him toward recognition, and Hemingway became both his artistic rival and heroic ideal. He had masculine strength, capacity for drink, athletic prowess and experience in battle which Fitzgerald, with his “non-combatant’s shell-shock,” sadly lacked. Six inches taller and forty pounds heavier than Fitzgerald, he was a literary version of the bloodied football heroes Fitzgerald had worshiped at Princeton. Many of their expatriate friends — including John Dos Passos, Archibald MacLeish and Gerald Murphy — had gone to Harvard or Yale. Hemingway — like Conrad, Kipling and Orwell — had not been to college and was educated by violent experience in the real world. Hemingway was admired for his strengths, Fitzgerald was loved despite his weaknesses.
The two authors had parallel but contrasting lives. Fitzgerald was born into a midwestern Irish-Catholic family in St. Paul, Minnesota, in 1896. His father, who “came from tired old stock with very little left of vitality and mental energy,” was a small, ineffectual man, a failure as a furniture-store owner and a soap salesman. Fitzgerald’s mother, whom he disliked, was strong and domineering. He had a delicate, almost feminine beauty, was of middle height, physically frail and unathletic. A dispensable 2nd-lieutenant, he had stateside war service on a general’s staff.
After his literary success, he married the gorgeous and wild Zelda Sayre in 1920 and moved to Paris to work on Gatsby, set in Long Island and Manhattan. Their daughter Scottie was born in 1921. His style was romantic, lyrical and lush — he was an alcoholic who frequently humiliated himself when drunk, and he adored his fellow expatriate Gerald Murphy, the wealthy, amateur painter, a model for Dick Diver in Tender Is the Night (1934).
Hemingway was born into a midwestern Protestant family in Oak Park, a wealthy suburb of Chicago, in 1899. His father, a doctor and great outdoorsman, was dominated by his wife, whom Hemingway hated and blamed for his father’s suicide in 1928. After high school, Hemingway worked as a reporter in Kansas City and approached fiction through journalism. Handsome and physically powerful, he was a good skier, boxer, hunter and fisherman. In 1918, while still a teenager, he served as a Red Cross volunteer on the Italian front, where he was badly wounded by shrapnel in his legs yet managed to rescue a fallen comrade.
Three years later he married Hadley Richardson, a good sport, jolly hiker and notable contrast to the stunning Zelda. Hemingway moved to Paris in 1922, worked as a foreign correspondent for the Toronto Star, and covered international conferences and wars as far away as Constantinople. He also began to publish with highbrow magazines and little presses. The Sun Also Rises, set in Paris and Spain, has a terse, compressed and laconic style, and an attractive but damaged and drunken heroine. He was a heavy drinker who could hold his liquor, and where Fitzgerald had idolised Gerald Murphy, Hemingway found him idle and superficial.
Generous, helpful and dreamy, cautious and averse to risks, Fitzgerald led a glamorous life. He disliked the French, never went to Spain and never learned a foreign language. Zelda developed a disastrous obsession with ballet and had a series of mental breakdowns. She was committed in an insane asylum in 1936 and died there in a fire twelve years later. Fitzgerald went into a sharp decline after the disappointing reception of his most ambitious novel, Tender Is the Night, and lacerated himself in the “The Crack-Up” (1936). In the late 1930s he worked unsuccessfully as a screenwriter in Hollywood and had a lasting love affair with the English journalist Sheilah Graham. In the low, dishonest decade of the 1930s, he had no interest in politics. He wound up poor and after a self-destructive life had a fatal heart attack, aged forty-four, in 1940.
By contrast, Hemingway was competitive, selfish and realistic, tough, short-tempered and dangerous. He liked violent situations in sport and war, which tested his physical courage and moral values, took many risks and suffered frequent injuries. He loved bullfights in Spain; learned Italian, French, Spanish and German; lived in Cuba and traveled in Africa and Asia. He avoided Hollywood, and reported the Loyalists’ battles in the Spanish Civil War. After the great success of A Farewell to Arms (1929) and For Whom the Bell Tolls (1940), his work declined, but he won the Nobel Prize in 1954. He ended up rich, but fell into a deep depression and killed himself, aged sixty-one, in 1961. His posthumous masterpiece, A Moveable Feast (1964) was scathing about Fitzgerald and other expatriates of the 1920s.
Fitzgerald and Hemingway knew each other intimately and were extremely perceptive about one another’s virtues and faults. Fitzgerald saw that Hemingway, oppressed by his mother’s influence, was “still rebelling against having been made to take cello lessons when growing up.” Helping him leave Liveright for the more prestigious Scribner’s, Fitzgerald took the role of an older sophisticate who guided his charming but naïve friend toward the promised land. He told his editor Max Perkins, “To hear him talk you’d think Liveright had broken up his home and robbed him of millions — but that’s because he knows nothing of publishing, except in the cuckoo magazines, is very young and feels helpless so far away. You won’t be able to help liking him — he’s one of the nicest fellows I ever knew.” Eager to sign the contract, Hemingway confirmed that his literary experience did not include receiving money from publishers.
Hemingway, who rarely praised contemporaries and rivals, called Gatsby “an absolutely first-rate book.” Fitzgerald’s novel reveals a new and confident mastery of his material, a mysterious hero and idealised heroine, a complex plot with adultery, crime and murder, class conflicts and incisive social satire, an opulent setting and lavish parties, a Keatsian ability to evoke a romantic atmosphere, the loss of impossible dreams and illusions, and a silken style that seems as fresh today as it did almost a century ago.
Instead of cultivating the snobbery and remoteness of the rich, Gatsby recklessly throws open his doors to all the riff-raff, so he can attract the unattainable Daisy. She wants her little daughter to become exactly like her own flawed self, and remembers thinking when the baby was born: “I hope she’ll be a fool — that’s the best thing a girl can be in this world, a beautiful little fool.” She has no maternal feelings and merely exhibits her daughter as a precious toy in her wealthy hermetic world. Gatsby does not buy his beautiful shirts to wear, but to throw onto his bed to impress Daisy. His grand gesture appeals to her materialistic character and makes her sob with joy.
Daisy is perennially bored and wants to drive into Manhattan in the blazing heat. Like the neurasthenic heroine in “The Waste Land” who pleads, “What shall I do now? What shall I do. . . / What shall we do tomorrow? / What shall we ever do?,” Daisy asks, “What’ll we do with ourselves this afternoon, and the day after that, and the next thirty years?” — a great vacuous leap in time. Daisy’s husband, Tom Buchanan, sees through Gatsby’s lies about his background and wealth, but she is deceived by him. The irony, which Gatsby doesn’t see, is that Daisy is a shallow, narcissistic and mercenary — completely unworthy of his sacrificial quest. Gatsby gets everything he ever wanted — except Daisy. Tom, though brutal, rotten and adulterous, manages to keep her.
The imagery and sense of loss in The Great Gatsby influenced the conclusion of A Farewell to Arms. The narrator Nick Carraway says, when he leaves Gatsby’s mansion as Gatsby and Daisy seem to recapture but are really about to lose their dreams: “Then I went out of the room and down the marble steps into the rain, leaving them there together.” Hemingway boldly appropriated this and used it as the last sentence in A Farewell to Arms: “After a while I went out and left the hospital and walked back to the hotel in the rain.”
The plot and mood of Fitzgerald’s novel also influenced two other works of art. The dead Gatsby floating face down in the swimming pool inspired the dead Joe Gillis floating face down in the pool in Billy Wilder’s film “Sunset Boulevard” (1950). In Gatsby and Nabokov’s Lolita (1955) vulgar women, Myrtle Wilson and Charlotte Haze, have been rejected by their lovers. They rush madly into the street, are hit by a car and instantly killed. Myrtle’s death frees Tom from his entanglement with her and allows him to recapture and escape with Daisy. Charlotte’s death allows Humbert to capture and escape with Lolita.
Fitzgerald had heard about Hemingway before they met, and Nick Carraway is a composite of the first name of Hemingway’s hero Nick Adams and an echo of his own three-syllable last name ending in “way.” In his most artistically refined novel, Fitzgerald contrasts midwestern and east coast values with Nick Carraway as the moral center and the polo player Tom Buchanan as Gatsby’s masculine rival. In The Sun Also Rises Hemingway contrasts American and expatriate values with Jake Barnes as the unsteady moral center and the bullfighter Pedro Romero as his masculine rival.
There is heavy drinking in both novels: during Prohibition in America (Gatsby is a bootlegger) and in the more bibulous France and Spain. Barnes tells Robert Cohn, who wants to travel to South America, “You can’t get away from yourself by moving from one place to another.” In Gatsby the characters move frantically from Long Island to Manhattan and the fatal car accident takes place on the way back. In The Sun Also Rises Barnes shifts uneasily from Paris to Spain to see the running of the bulls in Pamplona, fish in the Pyrenees, swim in San Sebastián and rescue Brett in Madrid.
In both novels the heroes of the lost generation face formidable problems. Jay Gatsby has lower-class origins, degrading poverty, criminal activities, fantastic dreams and futile gestures. He’s exposed and victimised by Tom Buchanan and murdered by Wilson, who mistakenly thinks that Gatsby, not Daisy, has killed his wife Myrtle in the car accident. Barnes has suffered a war wound that made him impotent, leads a decadent life and is hopelessly in love with Brett Ashley. Brett’s great love has been killed in the war, she’s had a bad marriage to a shell-shocked husband, is an alcoholic and nymphomaniac, and has a disastrous affair with Pedro Romero. Both Gatsby and Barnes are in love with an unworthy and unattainable woman, and the novels end with shattered illusions.
Brett, “built with curves like the hull of a racing yacht,” is a much more interesting and substantial character than the deliberately vague and wraith-like Daisy. Brett was a British nurse during the war and, like Barnes, “only wanted what she couldn’t have.” She egoistically behaves as if the Pamplona “fiesta were being staged in her honor” and all the celebrants worship her and dance around her. Cohn bitterly calls her a Circe who turns men into swine. Without restraint and “never able to help anything,” she pursues sex without love, is deeply attached to Barnes but sleeps with her fiancé Mike Campbell, the infatuated Robert Cohn and the teenaged Pedro Romero. Barnes, who pursues love without sex, is sadly reunited with Brett after she renounces Romero.
Brett’s lovers give Barnes the “rotten habit of picturing the bedroom scenes of [his] friends.” Gatsby is horrified to think of Daisy’s bedroom scenes with Tom, and wants her to deny the past and say she never loved her husband. Barnes believes that “you paid in some way for everything that was any good.” Gatsby pays with money, Barnes pays with pain. Corrupted by pimping for Brett with Romero, Barnes is despised by an old Spanish friend and when he leaves Pamplona, Montoya avoids him. In contrast to Daisy, who sacrifices Gatsby and remains with Tom, the lovesick Brett makes a moral choice. She gives up Romero before she ruins his career and tells Barnes, “you know it makes one feel rather good deciding not to be a bitch.”
Just as Hemingway borrowed from Gatsby, so Fitzgerald lifted two passages from The Sun Also Rises. In a witty exchange in that novel, a friend asks the dissolute Mike Campbell, “How did you go bankrupt?” and he responds: “Two ways. Gradually, then suddenly.” In “The Crack-Up” Fitzgerald writes that his second kind of nervous breakdown happened gradually, “almost without you knowing it but is realized suddenly.” In The Sun Also Rises, when Cohn fatuously says, “I’d rather play football again with what I know about handling myself, now,” Barnes calls him “a case of arrested development.” Later on, when walking down Fifth Avenue in New York, Fitzgerald tells Hemingway, almost verbatim, “if only I could play foot-ball again with everything I know about it now.” Forgetting the source, Hemingway quoted this as a typically foolish remark. But in Across the River and into the Trees the failed hero Richard Cantwell quite seriously thinks the very same thing about war: “I wish I could fight it again… Knowing what I know now.” This remark is foolish when Cohn and Fitzgerald say it, but it’s all right for Cantwell.
The rich themes in Gatsby reverberate through The Sun Also Rises. Originally rejected by Daisy because he had no money, Gatsby has devoted most of his adult life to winning her back. “‘Can’t repeat the past?’ he cried incredulously. ‘Why of course you can!’” Barnes and Brett, more realistically, want to escape from rather than repeat the tragic past. Both novels are social satires. Carraway’s declaration to Gatsby, “They’re a rotten crowd… You’re worth the whole damn bunch put together,” is echoed by the solid Bill Gorton’s condemnation of expatriates: “You drink yourself to death. You become obsessed with sex. You spend all your time talking not working.”
Carraway calls Tom and Daisy careless people who “smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their… vast carelessness… and let other people clean up the mess they had made.” The careless Brett also leaves a trail of broken hearts and emotional misery behind her. At the conclusion of the novels, Gatsby’s dream of the green light across the water that led him to Daisy is extinguished. Barnes and Brett are together, as at the beginning, but remain in the same impotent state and with no hope for the future.
Hemingway admired Fitzgerald in the mid-1920s, became more critical as he knew him better in the late 1920s and cruelly attacked him in the 1930s. The first fissure in their friendship occurred early on when Fitzgerald advised him to cut the first two chapters of The Sun Also Rises, which described the background of the characters and afforded a more leisurely approach to the novel. Though Max Perkins wanted to keep them, Hemingway cut them and later resented his submission to Fitzgerald’s judgment. The first chapter now begins with a misleading emphasis on the odious Robert Cohn, who seems to be the main character but is actually much less important than Jake Barnes and Brett Ashley.
A more volatile incident, which Hemingway never forgave, took place in June 1929 when Fitzgerald lost track of the time in Hemingway’s boxing match with the Canadian writer Morley Callaghan. After Callaghan knocked Hemingway down, Fitzgerald woke up and screamed: “Oh, my God! I let the round go four minutes.” “‘All right, Scott,’ Ernest said savagely. ‘If you want to see me getting the shit knocked out of me, just say so. Only don’t say you made a mistake.’” “He thinks I did it on purpose. Why would I do it on purpose?”
Fitzgerald remained faithful to Zelda during her breakdowns; Hemingway discarded three wives and gave the fourth one a rough time. Fitzgerald shrewdly prophesied that Hemingway needed the emotional anguish of a divorce and excitement of a new wife to create a major work. He told Callaghan, “I have a theory that Ernest needs a new woman for each big book. There was one for the stories and The Sun Also Rises. Now there’s Pauline. A Farewell to Arms is a big book. If there’s another big book I think we’ll find Ernest has another wife.” Sure enough, Martha Gellhorn, his companion in the Spanish Civil War, became his third wife when he was writing For Whom the Bell Tolls.
Fitzgerald obliquely alludes to Hemingway in his sad self-exposure and evisceration in “The Crack-Up,” a three-part essay that appeared in Esquire in February, March and April 1936. This public catharsis, when he was blocked as a writer, confirmed Hemingway’s criticism of Fitzgerald’s weaknesses and was more severe than anything Hemingway ever wrote about him. Like Hemingway, Fitzgerald believes that “life was something you dominated if you were any good,” and then admits that life has dominated him and he’s cracked up. Contrasting his tame military service to Hemingway’s war wounds, he foolishly equates two very different tests of manhood: “not being big enough (or good enough) to play football in college, and not getting overseas during the war.”
The insecure Fitzgerald lists four men who served as his external conscience, though the man Hemingway called a guided missile without a guide rarely took their advice. The brilliant writer Edmund Wilson was his moral conscience. The bright, athletic and popular Charles “Sap” Donahoe, his friend at prep school and Princeton, was his moral conscience. The acerbic Hemingway, who maintained high standards when Fitzgerald sold out for money, was his artistic conscience. Gerald Murphy, who lived a hedonistic life on the French Riviera, was his social conscience.
Hemingway always learned a great deal from expert teachers: fishing and shooting from his father; military tactics from the World War I hero Chink Dorman-Smith; journalism from the experienced and respected Lincoln Steffens; politics from observing Georges Clemenceau and Lloyd George; writing from Leo Tolstoy, Rudyard Kipling, Stephen Crane and T. E. Lawrence; art from the Spaniards Pablo Picasso and Joan Miró; big-game hunting in Africa from Philip Percival.
In a letter to Perkins, Fitzgerald contrasted his own laborious writing to Hemingway’s deceptively effortless ease: “everything I have ever attained has been through long and persistent struggle while it is Ernest who has a touch of genius that enables him to bring off extraordinary things with facility.” He confessed that he’d always wanted to have a nourishing connection to Hemingway, “had always longed to absorb into himself some of the qualities that made Ernest attractive, and to lean on him like a sturdy crutch in times of psychological distress.” His last wish, however, was never granted, and he always got more abuse than comfort from his caustic friend. In 1936 he admitted that he could never face Hemingway after their positions had been disastrously reversed: “I talk with the authority of failure — Ernest with the authority of success. We could never sit across the table again.” Yet in another tragic prophecy, he saw himself and his friend as two sides of the same manic-depressive personality: “He is quite as nervously broken down as I am but it manifests itself in different ways. His inclination is toward megalomania and mine toward melancholy.”
Though Fitzgerald had mocked Hemingway’s incongruous cello playing in Oak Park, his hometown taught his friend to look down on the Irish, who were usually servants. In A Moveable Feast he even criticized Fitzgerald’s attractive but effeminate appearance: “He looked like a boy with a face between handsome and pretty… [He had] a delicate long-lipped Irish mouth that, on a girl, would have been the mouth of a beauty… The mouth worried you until you knew him and then it worried you more,” because it suggested a kind of androgynous decadence. Satirising Fitzgerald’s hermetic, rich, faithful, snobbish and alcoholic milieu, he wrote that his idea of heaven was “a beautiful vacuum filled with wealthy monogamists, all powerful and members of the best families all drinking themselves to death.”
Hemingway despised Fitzgerald’s worship of youth, sexual naiveté, self-pity, attraction to money and lack of dedication to his art. His worst qualities were his inability to hold his liquor and the compulsion to debase himself in public. Putting the knife in, he said Fitzgerald never achieved maturity and “jumped straight from youth to senility” without going through manhood. He bluntly told Fitzgerald that his egoistic self-absorption prevented him from getting valuable material, and advised him to pay attention to people and learn from what they said: “A long time ago you stopped listening except to the answers to your own questions… That is where it all comes from. Seeing, listening. You see well enough. But you stop listening.”
No friend did more for Hemingway than Fitzgerald. Apart from placing him with Scribner’s, he gave him money when he needed it, lent the family his Riviera villa when their little son John was sick, and personally rushed from Delaware to the Philadelphia railroad station when Hemingway suddenly needed cash to get to Chicago after his father’s suicide. But Hemingway, who valued his independence and disliked obligations, often quarreled with friends who’d helped him. There’s a striking contrast between telling Fitzgerald in 1927, “I get maudlin about how damned swell you are… You are the best damn friend I have,” and the end of something two years later when his drunken best friend went out of control. In a murderous letter Hemingway told Perkins, “Last time he was in Paris he got us kicked out of one apt. and in trouble all the time. (Insulted the landlord — pee-ed on the front porch — tried to break down the door at 3-4 and 5 a.m.)… I am very fond of Scott but I’ll beat him up before I’ll let him come and get us ousted from this place — as a matter of fact I’m afraid I’d kill him.”
The stoic whose motto was il faut durer condemned Fitzgerald’s pitiful self-exposure in “The Crack-Up” and told Perkins, “He seems to almost take a pride in his shamelessness of defeat… He had a marvelous talent and the thing is to use it — not whine in public.” He felt that Fitzgerald’s self-autopsy and premature funeral sermon gave him the right to publicly criticise him in “The Snows of Kilimanjaro”, which appeared in Esquire in August 1936 — only three months after Fitzgerald’s essays. In “Snows” Harry, the failed writer, bitterly thinks: “He remembered poor Scott Fitzgerald and his romantic awe of [the rich]… He thought they were a special glamorous race and when he found they weren’t it wrecked him just as much as any other thing that wrecked him.” Hemingway knew that the self-destructive Fitzgerald had not been wrecked by the rich, whom he’d satirised in The Great Gatsby.
Fitzgerald, especially vulnerable the year Zelda became insane, was so disturbed by this story that he attempted suicide, but vomited from an overdose of morphine, an episode that proved not only his weakness but also Hemingway’s power to wound. Though Hemingway changed Fitzgerald’s name to “Julian” when the story appeared in a book, the damage was done. It’s difficult to see how this attack could possibly help Fitzgerald, but it allowed him to absorb some of Hemingway’s own guilt about selling out to the rich. Despite rough treatment by the taskmaster, Fitzgerald continued to admire Hemingway. He felt his criticism was valid and that his friend was really trying to help him.
Hemingway’s posthumous time bomb, A Moveable Feast, cruelly retaliated for Fitzgerald’s extraordinary generosity and kindness. He portrayed Fitzgerald as rude to all foreigners, childish and gauche, wasteful and irresponsible, quarrelsome and irritating, an artistic whore and destroyer of his own talent. Completely unreliable, he misses the train to take him and Hemingway to retrieve his automobile in Lyon and does not have a top on his car to protect them from the rain. A ludicrous and self-indulgent hypochondriac, he interferes with Hemingway’s writing, and most improbably — since a negative judgment would be devastating — humiliates himself by asking Hemingway to decide if his penis is too small. As Zelda became increasingly frigid, she attacked his sexual capacity and made him doubt his ability to satisfy her.
The sexually exciting Zelda was Hemingway’s bête noire and he told Fitzgerald, with his usual sensitivity and tact, “I thought Zelda was crazy the first time I met her and you complicated it even more by being in love with her.” He blamed Zelda for trying to destroy her husband and wrote to Perkins, “I think 90 per cent of all the trouble he has comes from her.” In A Moveable Feast he wrote that “Zelda was jealous of Scott’s work… As soon as he was working well Zelda would begin complaining about how bored she was and get him off on another drunken party.” Most grievously, he condemned Fitzgerald for allowing her to cuckold him with the dashing French aviator Edouard Jozan. By contrast, three of Hemingway’s wives adored and served him. Only Martha Gellhorn put her own interests first.
Hemingway satirized Zelda, a model for Margot Macomber, in his great story “The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber,” whose hero has the same first name as Francis Scott Fitzgerald. Like Zelda, Margot is a great beauty and has a nasty character. The white hunter, experienced with wealthy female clients, calls her kind of woman “the hardest in the world; the hardest, the cruelest, the most predatory and the most attractive and their men have softened or gone to pieces nervously as they have hardened.”
Also like Zelda, who slept with the French aviator, Margot sleeps with the red-faced white hunter Robert Wilson. (He has the same surname as the garage-man George Wilson who murders Gatsby, an ironic tribute to both authors’ mutual friend Edmund Wilson.) In a bitter exchange after Macomber discovers her adultery, he feebly complains about her past and present behaviour, and she mocks him with cutting endearments:
“You think that I’ll take anything.”
“I know you will, sweet.”
“There wasn’t going to be any of that. You promised there wouldn’t be.”
“Well, there is now,” she said sweetly.
Zelda tried to destroy Fitzgerald; Margot actually murders Macomber when he recovers his self-esteem by killing the charging buffalo and now has the courage to leave her.
In “The Short Happy Life” Hemingway lifted another moment of crucial transformation from The Great Gatsby. Both Gatsby and Macomber reach an emotional peak and experience a euphoric moment. When Daisy (partly modeled on Zelda) weeps and expresses her love for Gatsby on her first visit to his mansion, there was a change in Gatsby that was simply confounding. “He literally glowed; without a word or gesture of exaltation a new well-being radiated from him.”
Similarly, after redeeming himself by shooting the buffalo, Macomber instead of fear had a feeling of definite elation. “Macomber felt a wild unreasonable happiness that he had never known before.”
At the end of his life, Hemingway had fulfilled Fitzgerald’s prophesies and become tragically like his old friend. He too had been dazzled by the rich, turned into a celebrity and created a legend that made his life better known than his work. He too was blocked as a writer, had failed in marriage, escaped into alcoholism and cracked up. Ill-equipped to deal with depression, he finally put a shotgun in his mouth and killed himself. Fitzgerald, though apparently weaker, endured poverty and neglect in the 1930s — he sold only forty copies of his books in the last year of his life — but published his best novel, Tender Is the Night, in 1934.