Born in Montgomery, Alabama in 1860, Zelda Sayre was a true southern spirit. She was restless, and thrived on the idea of adversity. At the time, this meant making it a point to consume as much alcohol and dance as much as she could. As a result, she became an icon of the roaring 20s as a racy socialite alongside her husband, F. Scott Fitzgerald.
In 1920, she married Fitzgerald in what would potentially be known as one of the most iconic manifestations of toxicity and abuse, since Fitzgerald often wrote direct happenings from their lives into his books. Of course writers are inspired, but it was rumored that Scott would take pages of her diary and incorporate them into books such as “Tender is the Night” and “This Side of Paradise.” After Zelda asked for a divorce because she had fallen in love with another man, Scott locked her in the house for an entire month and refused to let her leave — not then, not ever.
Some time after being locked up in her home, Zelda overdosed on sleeping pills but survived. After the incident, she channeled her energy into the one thing that she knew more than anything: writing. Although Scott demanded she not publish anything and often times published her prose under his own name, she went on to write “Save Me the Waltz,” despite his disapproval. What is so rebellious about “Save Me the Waltz” is the fact that it mirrors her less-than-savory marriage with her own husband, knowing full well he would eventually read it and know. Zelda stood up for herself through literature and for that she deserves the immortality she’s earned.
In the midst of all of this, Zelda was fighting her own battle with mental illness. Although she was diagnosed with chronic schizophrenia, it’s noted that if she were to be diagnosed now, she would be considered bipolar due to the fluctuation in her mood shifts. In addition to the drug overdose, she threw herself down a flight of stairs as well during one of her more erratic moments. Her behavior became increasingly self-destructive and unpredictable more so than ever before, causing her to be hospitalized in a sanitarium in Asheville, North Carolina in 1930. Here she underwent intensive care and the now controversial (and for good reason) and rather dated, electroshock therapy. Here she lived the rest of her life, painting and writing her next novel that would forever remain unfinished.
Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald has always, and will continue to be, the model of a southern belle. She is immortalized through her work and her husband’s. Her vivacious spirit lives on through the pages of Save the Waltz, The Great Gatsby, and The Beautiful and Damned. Zelda is classic American literature.