“The Crack-Up,” compiled and published by his friend, leading critic and editor Edmund Wilson, after Fitzgerald’s death, is a collection of writings describing the authors’ state of mind and personal perspectives on events, fellow writers and public figures in the 1920s and 1930s. Additionally, such as the famous title piece, this volume contains a selection of Fitzgerald’s notebooks, which – as well as a repository of anecdotes and humorous verses – provide an interesting behind the scenes of the creative process of novelists. An entertaining and eclectic variety that sheds light on the writer and his time, “The Crack-Up” is a valuable companion to famous works such as “The Great Gatsby” and “Tender Is the Night”.
“The Crack-Up” is a three-part autobiographical essay by Fitzgerald that describes the mental breakdown he suffers from at some point in his life. His three essays are an attempt to understand and explain his state of mind, then identify many factors, and finally discuss the changes he has made to survive the sad phase of ‘Crack-Up’.
The Crack-Up by F. Scott Fitzgerald Summary
The first essay begins with an account of two kinds of blows that affect a person’s life. One that impacts immediately and the other that makes its impact felt only when it too late. It is these blows that define a man’s life. He gives a brief account of his youth and writes that things were fine when he was young. It was easy to deal with the problems of life. However as years progressed Fitzgerald realizes that he had “prematurely cracked”, that is, due to “too much anger” and “too many tears” his nervous reflexes were giving away and he felt that he was ‘cracked’. This realization came with a sense of alienation and loneliness. He confesses that except a few things like Katherine Hepburn’s image on screen, children up to a certain age and doctors he could not stand anything or anyone. The essay ends with an excerpt of an interview he had with one of his critics who, in order to lift the spirits of Fitzgerald tries to tell him about the problems and challenges she faced in her life and how she managed to overcome them. However Fitzgerald informs his readers that though he was impressed with her vitality but unfortunately could borrow none of her energy.
The second essay titled as “Pasting it Together” begins with a realization that his narratives of self-revelation are different from others as they do not end on any positive note. In this essay Fitzgerald gives an account of the reasons that caused his mind to face such a breakdown. The first blow as Fitzgerald himself accepts was his loss of the Triangle Club and other offices in Princeton University due to an illness; the second blow was the tragic love Text “doomed for lack of money”. Along with these personal defeats, Fitzgerald had to face the plight of witnessing a new world order replacing the older one. To see the novel being replaced by the movies was obsessively painful for Fitzgerald. All these experiences together compelled his mind to get fatally disturbed and thereby “Crack-Up”.
Fitzgerald in the course of the essay realizes that for a longtime he had depended on various people for intellectual, aesthetic and personal support and assistance. This created was a crisis in his concept of self and identity, as he felt, “there was not an “I” anymore”. The essay ends with a sense of quest that Fitzgerald undertakes in order to find his sense of individuality and identity which he believed once existed.
The third essay “Handle with Care” gives an account of the consequences that Fitzgerald’s life and personality undergoes due to the ‘Crack-Up’. In order to survive Fitzgerald realized the need to have a ‘clean break’. This clean break as makes the past cease to exist and thus, he decides to continue being an author but he would no more be a person. The rest of the essay is an account of how Fitzgerald gets himself ready to become the ‘writer only’ who cares for nothing but his own profits. There is a detailed description of how he works on his voice and smile that will make this new persona of his, more effective and believable. The essay ends with a sarcastic comment that tells the reader that as he imbibes this new personality he becomes someone who is materialistic and opportunist to such an extent that he can “even lick your hand” if you throw him a bone with enough meat on it.