Hemingway & the Crack-Up Report

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Hemingway & the “Crack-Up” Report

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Between 1935 and 1936, F. Scott Fitzgerald suffered a mental breakdown, which would be referred to as the “Crack-Up.” Many things precipitated this meltdown including tuberculosis, alcoholism, Zelda’s deteriorating condition, and “his [troubled] sense of himself as a man” (Donaldson 189). During this period, Fitzgerald had been advised by his doctors to take time off work for the sake of his health. Heeding their advice, he decided to relocate to western North Carolina, most notably, Hendersonville, for some fresh mountain air.

His confessional “Crack-Up” essays were first published in Esquire Magazine in November 1935. The most well known essays were “The Crack-Up”, “Pasting It Together,” and “Handle with Care,” published in February, March and April of 1936 ( These essays were touted as being candid, with the intention of ‘exploring Fitzgerald’s “dark night of the soul”’ (Donaldson 194). In fact, much of the truth is omitted; Zelda’s illness is not mentioned as a possible factor, and the role of drinking is not credited as a part of Fitzgerald’s increasingly serious problem. The most powerful and literary part of his essays is his compelling use of metaphor, most markedly in his referral to himself as being “a cracked plate” (Donaldson 195). Fitzgerald believed that he had no real self, and the Fitzgerald who existed consisted of borrowed personalities. His “intellectual conscience” was derived from Edmund Wilson, and his “artistic conscience,” from Ernest Hemingway (Donaldson 195).

Hemingway disagreed entirely with the way Fitzgerald handled his breakdown. In a letter to Maxwell Perkins, Fitzgerald, Hemingway observed that Fitzgerald, has “a marvellous talent and the thing is to use it- not whine in public” (Donaldson 196). Hemingway also cited two of Fitzgerald’s other flaws that contributed to his downfall, both mentally and as a writer. First, Fitzgerald was plagued by a lack of courage; second, Fitzgerald never grew up and “jumped straight from youth to senility without going through manhood” (Donaldson 196).

Hemingway never directly wrote to Fitzgerald with criticism. Instead, he more publicly humiliated him in his short story, “The Snows of Kilimanjaro.” Published in Esquire magazine in August 1936, a passage from the story directly implicates Fitzgerald,

[They] were dull and they drank too much, or they played
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