Vol. 17 No. 1 1950 - page 25

FITZGERALD IN THE TWENTIES
23
But this kind of rescue by fresh funds solved nothing permanently. It
was not until the end of his life that Fitzgerald faced the fact that he
had never been "any of the things
.a
proper businessman should be,"
and recognized how "crippled . . . I am by my inability to handle
money." The truth is that, paradoxical as
it
may sound, Fitzgerald
did not care enough about money ever to take it seriously and handle
it carefully. What he did care for was that vision of the good life
which he had come, through a variety of circumstances, to feel was
open only to those who commanded the appurtenances of wealth. Lov–
ing the life which he imagined they lived and which he tried, often
so ludicrously, to imitate, he could find nothing to interest him in the
means to that life; in fact, he had a deep-seated moral distrust of the
whole process of money-making, and it is an image of this distrust
that Gatsby, with his incorruptible dream of a life, achieves the means
for it by all sorts of underworld activities. Fitzgerald never seriously
condemns Gatsby's illegal business life; he even makes you sym–
pathize with Gatsby when he defends it against Tom's condemna–
tion. Fitzgerald could see no real distinction between bootlegging and
dealing in stolen liberty bonds on the one hand and, on the other,
the kind of transactions he suspected, after the Harding scandals,
that most business men were a party to. He was not at all sure, a
good deal of the time, that he could distinguish between these peo–
ple and .a writer with a great gift who wrote superficial stories for
the commercial magazines. So, distrusting the methods by which
money is acquired and disliking the money these methods produced,
even though he loved the mobility and the opportunities for grace
which he believed were available only to the rich, he salved his con–
science by noticing the money itself as little as possible and refusing
to live in awe of it. "All big men have spent freely," he wrote his
mother in 1930 when she attempted to caution him. "I hate avarice
or even caution."
This grand tone did not mean that he was careless about being
in debt; that was quite .another matter, a matter of his honor, his
pride. All his life he was as scrupulous about monetary debts as he was
about all other kinds, and when he could not meet an obligation he
felt deeply humiliated. In 1920 a debt of $1600 was a very large one,
and in his fright at discovering he was in so deep, he solemnly resolved
to produce a novel and a play within the next nine months.
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