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Summer Tales: Reading #2

Summer Tales was launched to create virtual communities for students taking classes remotely promising short mental breaks from coursework through a fool-proof method of distraction.

Why Should You Read This Story?

F. Scott Fitzgerald's short piece about insomnia is what we might today call "autofiction" -- a story that might or might not be based on his own experience.  Anyone who's dealt with thoughts and anxieties they can't quite keep out of mind, especially in those late hours when there's nothing else to block them out, will feel like it's their experience too.


About the Author

Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald (September 24, 1896 – December 21, 1940), known professionally as F. Scott Fitzgerald, was an American novelist and short story writer, whose works illustrate the Jazz Age. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest American writers of the 20th century. Fitzgerald is considered a member of the "Lost Generation" of the 1920s. He finished four novels: This Side of Paradise, The Beautiful and Damned, The Great Gatsby, and Tender Is the Night. [Wikipedia]

The Short Story: Sleeping and Waking by F. Scott Fitzgerald

"it appears that every man’s insomnia is as different from his neighbor’s as are their daytime hopes and aspirations"


In a first-person, confessional tone, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s short story explores chronic insomnia: an unnamed narrator struggles each night to fall asleep.  From the mosquito he blames for first disrupting his bedtime routine to the escapist fantasies he uses to try and lull himself to sleep, the narrator draws us in with self-deprecating wit — but as the night goes on his desperation boils over into a personal crisis, only to collapse with exhaustion and wake up to face another day and night of the same.  Fitzgerald, a heavy drinker for most of his short life, portrays insomnia as a vicious cycle of self-reproach and oblivion eerily reminiscent of addiction.

Read full text from where it was first published in Esquire, December 1, 1934

Talking Points - Reflection Pool

Sample discussion questions

  1. What might be different about each person’s insomnia?
  2. Why does the mosquito disrupt the narrator’s ability to sleep?
  3. What kind of relationship does the narrator seem to have to sleep?
  4. What are the dreams in the story like?

Short Story Collections Online

The following books are available online (Rutgers restricted)

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