Abstract

Although F. Scott Fitzgerald’s fiction includes a number of combatants in the Great War, the global conflagration does not interest him primarily as a theater of combat. Rather, whenever war is discussion in his work, other social issues are implied—namely, disillusion and indifference. In the early short story “Dalyrimple Goes Wrong,” the veteran’s real shell shock occurs when he discovers that military service does not open the doors to upward mobility, and he finds opportunity only in a life of crime (that ironically eventuates a political career). In Josephine Perry stories such as “First Blood,” “A Snobbish Story,” and “Emotional Bankruptcy,” the war is remote history even as it is ongoing; the obligations of patriotism quickly sink into the great Sahara of American apathy. Finally, even in late Pat Hobby stories like “Two Old-Timers,” war is revealed to be nothing more than a flickering cinematic simulacrum of bravery that shapes both cultural and personal memory, a delusion that only insiders like Fitzgerald’s screenwriting hack know is engineered. Reading these three overlooked texts against the backdrop of commentary by H. L. Mencken, Edmund Wilson, and R. H. Tawney, this article argues that the cynicism of the interwar years did not begin in the battlefields but in the parlors, backrooms, and studio back lots of the home front.

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