Date of Award
College of Arts and Sciences
Master of Arts
F. Scott Fitzgerald, Religion, God, Short fiction, Idolatry, Addiction
The intention of my thesis is to reorient the popular vantage points whereby the masses view — and pigeonhole — author F. Scott Fitzgerald. Literary critics and cursory readers alike oftentimes fail to see how the writer’s foundational Catholic upbringing, and therefore, a religious inclination informed his craft. While Fitzgerald was raised Catholic, few literary critics acknowledge the pattern of religious thematics and imagery Fitzgerald implemented throughout the course of his career. Among those select critics — including Joan Allen, Alice Hall Petry, and Edward Gillin — none argue for a positive relationship between Fitzgerald and the Christian God. I assert that Fitzgerald exhibited a desire for God, and the short-fiction story form is the clearest evidence for such a claim. While Fitzgerald produced only four novels during his lifetime, he published well over 150 short stories. Brevity, commercial anonymity, and attention to concurrent novel releases provided Fitzgerald the opportunity to express his religious views via short fiction. I examine four of Fitzgerald’s short works, “Benediction” (1920), “One of My Oldest Friends” (1925), “Absolution” (1926), and “Thank You for the Light” (1936), paying particular attention to the apparent desires — what I call cisterns — of each tale. Examining these cisterns as they act upon a character’s religious beliefs or position, while employing Freudian theory of defense ii mechanisms, I illustrate how — for Fitzgerald — human craving usually overwhelms the need or benefit for religion. Although the character’s reaction usually yields a denial of God, each subsequent piece suggest a different tone of rejection from Fitzgerald. His subtle shift of rejection towards religious acquiescence suggests he used fiction to process both his religious and existential beliefs. Moreover, as I demonstrate with “Thank You for the Light,” when Fitzgerald spiraled into addiction, his characters not only follow their cisterns to greater detriment but also begin to acquiesce God in turn.
Halkyard, Richard W., "Becoming Your Broken Cisterns: F. Scott Fitzgerald's Short-Fiction Treatment of Religion" (2018). Graduate Theses. 81.