The Last Tycoon Essay, Research Paper
Infatuating Idealism in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s
The Last Tycoon
Idealism Is undoubtably present in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Last Tycoon. Infatuation may be a better word, for that was exactly what possessed the main character, Monroe Stahr. He was totally engorged with one Kathleen Moore. He idealized Miss Moore as the second coming of his deceased wife Minna Davis. Stahr was a true man of men that had little to do with women since the tragic passing of his wife. He would rather put his feet up with a cigar and shoot the breeze with the boys. Yet once he laid eyes on Kathleen for the first time, all of that changed. It was love at first sight.
Kathleen and Stahr meet after an earthquake rocked Los Angles. Stahr was surveying the damage done to the studio, when a prop came floating by with two “dames” clinging to it for their lives. A stage hand rescued and presented them to Stahr for judgement. That was the moment that would change everything. The following excerpt is a narration of what was going through Stahr’s mind when he was struck blind by Cupid’s golden arrow.
“Smiling faintly at him from not four feet away was the face of his dead wife, identical even to the expression. Across the four feet of moonlight, the eyes he knew looked back at him, a curl blew a little on a familiar forehead; the smile lingered, changed a little according to pattern; the lips parted–the same.” (Chp II, p.26)
She was Minna, but she wasn’t. All her features were Minna’s, except her voice. “–and then he heard another voice speak that was not Minna’s voice.” (Chp II, p.26) She was obviously British and not glamorous American, as Minna’s had been. Nevertheless, she was a replica of his life long love. Stahr determined right then that she would be the next. Before he could get himself together, Kathleen was whisked away by the police for trespassing. Stahr spent the next few days trying to track her down. By this time he had fully succumbed to her rapture. On their third meeting, they happened to stumble upon each other at a posh Hollywood party. Her beauty brought back all the sensations that had trapped him initially. The scene was as follows:
“…the white table lengthened and became an altar where the priestess sat alone. Vitality welled up in him, and he could have stood a long time across the table from her, looking and smiling…(while dancing) she was momentarily unreal. Usually a girl’s skull made her real, but not this time–Stahr continued to be dazzled as they danced out along the floor….” (Chp. V, p.73)
Stahr wanted desperately to have her as is own, but she was not to be had. Unbeknownst to him she was engaged to be married. She tried to tell him, but could not. She too was in love. The romance that followed was of a whirl wind pace that ended with a “Dear John” letter. She could not bring herself to tell him in person. Kathleen had fallen in love with Stahr although she resisted it by the fact she was already involved with another man. His ideal was not to be realized. His ideal goddess was the beginning of Stahr’s downfall. The simple fact that Stahr was unable to win Kathleen away from her fianc? causes him to become extremely miserable. In F. Scott Fitzgerald’s own words: “Stahr is miserable and embittered toward the end.” (Author’s Notes, p.149) He continued to love her to the end, as he lost his life, he lost it lovelessly.
All this fuss over a woman might seem a bit trivial, but in true love, nothing is trivial. Monroe Stahr idealized Kathleen Moore as the true cure to all his ills and loveless nights. To him, she was Minna Davis. In being, but not spirit, she was a replica.
This theme of idealism is similar to what Richard Slotkin reflects as “the American dream of perpetual self-improvement and transcendence.” (22) Stahr idealized Kathleen as his way of perpetual self-improvement. He believed that Kathleen was the ticket he was waiting for, the ticket to happiness and closure. His life was a non stop slug fest that drained him of all his bodily and mental strength. Kathleen seemingly rejuvenated him. Her own vitality became his. She improved his life during their brief affair. The fact that when she left his life can reinforce this idea she took more from him than she had originally given. When she left, his life went back to the way it was, but this time even worse. He started to drink, which had never done before. During his drunken episode he single handedly alienated everyone to whom he was close. In a sense, when he lost his love, he lost control of his life.
Monroe Stahr had achieved his American dream. He had achieved it during a time of incredible time of national economic upheaval. His genius had propelled him into the Hollywood spotlight, but with one foul swoop a woman brought him down like a ten-ton beam. Where did he go wrong? The answer lies in the fact that he simply loved and lost. Most people believe it is better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all. Yet in Stahr’s case it would have been better for him if he had never loved at all. Stahr had loved once and she died, the second time around he died. The fact that she could not truly love him killed him. He could not deal with the fact that she had already committed to another man. To him Minna Davis and Kathleen Moore were the same. They looked the same, and both brought out his true feelings like no one else ever had. His dream woman had deserted him and he refused to deal with it. His idealistic fantasy had figuratively stabbed him in th!
I can personally relate to how Monroe feels. I have loved and lost in a similar way. A young woman that I had been seeing for some two and a half years died as the result of a drunk driver. In retrospect, I really loved that girl. We had planned our lives together and were seemingly inseparable. On one of the few nights that we were apart, she left this world and my life. I don’t mean to come off as selfish, but I felt that I could not go on, just like the way that Stahr had felt. I have sense picked up the pieces and moved on. The pain is still great, but I now go on with my life after much soul searching and grieving. Stahr and I have the devastating similarity in the fact that we both lost love by way of death. Though Stahr is a fictional character, his feelings are real. I had, in my short life, experienced many of the same feelings. I have not yet found another love to fulfill my life, but I trust that someday I will. Time will tell. At times I still have a!
n instance of grief that makes me feel as if life is just one big joke. I soon come to my senses and re-release that life will go on. Stahr on the other hand cannot get past the facts that love has left his life twice. It is just too much for him to deal with. I too idealized the woman in my life as the “wind beneath my wings.” The sad fact is that just is not true. The only wind under my wings is the mountain valley breeze that is ever present on this university campus. I am reason for my survival, not a woman. Stahr saw Kathleen as the only thing missing from his life, and quite possibly that being a true statement. He could have lived without her, but he just didn’t see it that way.
Overall idealism is an interesting idea. We all do it, but why? Why do we idealize people and ideas? Are we trying to make them seem better than they really are? I believe that we do it, because it is instinctive. Whether we idealize a person or an abstract idea, we all do it. The Last Tycoon is an idealistic novel. Even during the time in which Fitzgerald was writing this novel, he idealized the novel itself as his best work. Tragically, just like Stahr, his dream was not realized due to death, that death being his own.