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F. Scott Fitzgerald's debt to the fin de siecle American naturalists is well known. Princetonian Amory Blaine gives the most famous suggestion of the influence in This Side of Paradise when he finds himself "rather surprised by his discovery through a critic named Mencken of several excellent American novels: 'Vandover and the Brute,' 'The Damnation of Theron Ware,' and 'Jennie Gerhardt'" (209). Henry Dan Piper notes that "Fitzgerald wrote this particular passage during the summer of 1919, when he revised his novel for the last time. It is likely that he had heard about all three books very recently" ("Norris and Fitzgerald" 395). That is not to say, however, that Fitzgerald did not come upon the novels of Norris, Dreiser, and Frederic at an important time in his literary formation. On the contrary, he discovered them just as he was writing - for the third time - This Side of Paradise ("Noah and Fitzgerald" 393); and although by then, as Piper suggests, it was too late for them to have much of an influence on the first novel (Portrait 88), they did play an important part in the conceptualization of the second novel, The Beautiful and the Damned. In fact, Fitzgerald's interest in the American naturalists was so intense and influential that it kept him from getting on with his second novel (84).


Originally published in Studies in Short Fiction, Winter 1998, Vol. 35 Issue 1, pages 85-90