Postwar Flappers


Mangum, Bryant


In 1923, an enthusiastic journalist for the Des Moines Capital claimed, perhaps somewhat hyperbolically, "When F. Scott Fitzgerald, the twenty-five year old author, wrote to "The Beautiful and Damned," he did more than merely write one of the cleverest stories ever done by an American; he immortalized the flapper (Figure 23.1.). As a result, when you think of a flapper your mind travels instinctively to "The Beautiful and Damned," either in its novel or screen adaptation form; and when you think of the novel or picture of this name, your thoughts revert to the much-discussed flapper. Fitzgerald himself seemed pleased to embrace the role of the flapper spokesman as the interview continued. ""I sometimes wonder," says Mr. Fitzgerald, "whether the flapper made me or whether I made her. At any rate, we both should be grateful to one another. My story has helped her to understand herself, and it has made the world of non-flappers more appreciative and tolerant."" Of course, Fitzgerald's comments were disingenuous; he certainly did not "make" the flapper (though one might argue that she made him, or at least started him off). But by the time The Beautiful and Damned came out in 1922, Fitzgerald, riding the wave of popular flapper fiction, was already widely regarded as an expert in the area of young modern women and their various behaviors, strategies, and goals. Indeed, Fitzgerald's This Side of Paradise (1920) was the first major novel to feature the rebellious and brazen flapper, and his first two collections of short stories, Flappers and Philosophers (1920) and Tales of the Jazz Age (1922), also included memorable flapper characters, including Marjorie Harvey in "Bernice Bobs Her Hair," Ardita Farnam in "The Offshore Pirate," and Nancy Lamar in "The Jelly-Bean." By the mid-1920s, Fitzgerald had become permanently associated in the popular imagination with the daring young flappers of post-World War I America.


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