Decline and death

Mental illness, depression

From 1930 onwards, Zelda Fitzgerald spent time in and out of mental hospitals until her death in 1948 as a result of a fire at Highland Hospital in Asheville. Fitzgerald remained in contact with Zelda up to 1939 but meanwhile had a serious relationship with the columnist Sheila Graham, from 1937 until his death in 1940.

Just as Zelda suffered mental illness, Fitzgerald also underwent periods of depression and breakdown. He chiefly experienced these after the publication of The Great Gatsby, feeling increasingly bitter at his lack of success as a writer. His mental states were doubtless complicated by his alcoholism, and he described his own despair in The Crack-Up in 1936.

Alcoholism and health issues

Alcohol, despite the restrictions of Prohibition, was a prominent feature of the ‘Roaring Twenties’ and Fitzgerald’s dependence on it was well-established by the time he was writing The Great Gatsby. He had bouts of heavy drinking, leading in later life to violent outbursts, and may have also suffered from tuberculosis, although this is a subject of contention. His drinking undoubtedly contributed to his early death from a heart attack in 1940, aged just 44.

Grave of F Scott and Zelda Fizgerald