"All good writing is swimming under water and holding your breath." ~ F. Scott Fitzgerald

Day Two: History and Selected Fitzgerald Literature

The students will apply prior knowledge in combination with new information to bridge history and literature through three works of F. Scott Fitzgerald: This Side of Paradise, “Head and Shoulders” and “Bernice Bobs her Hair”.

Background Information on "Bernice Bobs Her Hair," "Head and Shoulders," and This Side of Paradise

"Bernice Bobs Her Hair"

Bernice Bobs Her Hair" was Fitzgerald's fourth Saturday Evening Post story (1 May 1920) and provided the subject for the dust-jacket illustration when it was collected in Flappers and Philosophers. It occupies an important position in the Fitzgerald canon as a witty early treatment of a characteristic subject that he would later examine more seriously: the competition for social success and the determination with which his characters-- especially the young women--engage in it. The story was based on a detailed memo Fitzgerald wrote to his younger sister, Annabel, advising her how to achieve popularity with boys: "Cultivate deliberate physical grace." (See the complete letter in Correspondence of F. Scott Fitzgerald, pp 15-18.) Fitzgerald had some difficulty bringing "Bernice" to salable form; he cut some three thousand words and rewrote to "inject a snappy climax. "

"Head and Shoulders"

"Head and Shoulders" was the first Fitzgerald story to appear in The Saturday Evening Post (21 February 1920), but not his first sale-- having been preceded by five pieces in The Smart Set. He later wrote his literary agent, Harold Ober: "I was twenty-two [actually twenty-three] when I came to New York and found that you'd sold Head and Shoulders to the Post. I'd like to get a thrill like that again but I suppose its only once in a lifetime." The $400 fee was one-tenth of what the Post would pay for a Fitzgerald story in 1929.
Originally titled "Nest Feathers," this story was one of a group Fitzgerald wrote in the fall of 1919 after Scribner's accepted his first novel, This Side of Paradise. Fitzgerald's fiction has a curious way of anticipating his life: just as Horace is deflected by marriage from scholarship to entertainment, so would the author of "Head and Shoulders" soon be under pressure to provide literary entertainment after his own marriage to Zelda Sayre in April 1920. Fitzgerald selected "Head and Shoulders" for Flappers and Philosophers, his first story collection, published in 1920.

This Side of Paradise

F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote the first draft of his first novel in the army during 1917 and 1918. The working titles were "The Romantic Egoist" and "The Romantic Egotist." It was rejected by Charles Scribner's Sons in 1918. In 1919 Fitzgerald rewrote the book as This Side of Paradise. Its publication by Scribners in April 1920 made him a literary celebrity before his twenty-fourth birthday.
Set mostly at Princeton, This Side of Paradise was the most influential American college novel of its time and announced the arrival of a younger generation with new values and aspirations.


With the use of the Power Point Presentation, students will build a foundation of historical information from the 1920’s. With focus on literature, music, fashion and entertainment, the students will fuse the material into Fitzgerald’s novel and two short stories. The objective of the lesson is to engage the students through discussion and lecture.

Warm Up:

15 – 20 minutes: Based on Slide 2 – Do you think there a connection between history and literature? Why?
Free-write for 10 minutes and be prepared to discuss.


  1. Lecture: “The Roaring Twenties” – informational background presented through Power Point presentation. Students will follow along with the slideshow embedded below.
  2. The ultimate goal of this lesson is to relate the 1920’s and F. Scott Fitzgerald’s life to This Side of Paradise, “Head and Shoulders” and “Bernice Bobs her Hair”.


Students will be evaluated based on class participation and submission of the warm-up free-write excersise at the end of class