Abstract

Although F. Scott Fitzgerald and Philip Roth are not necessarily writers with an obvious thematic or biographical connection, this article argues that both authors were fixated on war and that a central clue to their respective oeuvres is the situation either of the reluctant combatant or the discharged soldier who never sees action on the battlefield—no matter whether the specific theater of combat is the Great War, World War II, or the Korean War. For Fitzgerald, much of the sympathy Nick Carraway feels for Jay Gatsby reflects their mutual experiences on the Western Front. In a similar vein, Sergeant Nathan Marx, the narrator of Roth’s most controversial story, “Defender of the Faith,” feels an innate regard for Private Sheldon Grossbart, the Jewish scammer and shirker whom Marx tries and fails to turn into a conscientious, patriotic soldier. In other cases, the noncombatant regret Fitzgerald expresses in stories such as “‘I Didn’t Get Over’” (1936)finds something of a parallel in Nathan Zuckerman, Roth’s most famous alter ego narrator who appears in nine novels across more than four decades. Surveying a range of Roth texts from his breakthrough 1959 novella “Goodbye, Columbus” to his late novel Indignation (2008), this article argues that corollaries in attitudes toward war, especially as it affects the American home front, can be traced within several Fitzgerald fictions.

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