Summary (Masterplots II: American Fiction Series, Revised Edition)
Originally called “The Flight of the Rocket,” The Beautiful and Damned is the story of Anthony Patch’s life between his twenty-fifth and thirty-third years. The novel follows the progression of his intense love for the dazzlingly beautiful Gloria Gilbert. It traces their attachment through their courtship and marriage, through their apparently endless round of parties and gaiety, to their eventual financial difficulties, and finally to their triumphant achievement of Anthony’s “great expectations.” The victory comes too late, however, and the conclusion is more bitter than sweet.
As the novel opens, Anthony Patch, handsome, intelligent, and moderately well educated, wants only to live a life of luxury. When he inherits his grandfather’s many millions, he will be able to do exactly that. Until then, he has enough money to continue to live comfortably although without any particular goal. Someday, he tells his family and friends, he may write, but in actuality he lacks both the discipline and the ambition of his friend Richard Caramel.
When Anthony meets the incredibly beautiful Gloria Gilbert, his life changes. He pursues her, eventually marries her, and believes that he has everything that he needs to be happy—except his grandfather’s money. The years that follow, however, gradually take Anthony and Gloria from blissful romantic happiness to alcoholic boredom. The novel becomes the story of how a lack of purpose and...
(The entire section is 588 words.)
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Summary (Magill's Survey of American Literature, Revised Edition)
The Beautiful and Damned, Fitzgerald’s second novel, follows the decline—fiscal, physical, and moral—of Anthony and Gloria Patch. Like so many of Fitzgerald’s figures, the Patches are destroyed by great wealth; the irony in this novel is that they are undone not by the possession of money but merely by expecting it.
Anthony, the only heir of his wealthy grandfather, Adam Patch, is a young Harvard University graduate who lives on money left by his father and disdains work because he believes nothing is equal to his supposed abilities. He marries the beautiful Gloria Gilbert, and they sink into a pointless and destructive life, squandering their income in an endless round of parties and extravagant expenses. When Grandfather, an inflexible and intolerant reformer, walks in unexpectedly on one their gin-soaked parties, he writes Anthony out of his will. Following his death, the Patches must sue to claim the inheritance which lured them into destruction. At novel’s end, they triumph, but the cost has been high: Gloria’s beauty has been coarsened, and Anthony’s mind snapped by worry and drink.
Anthony and Gloria are selfish, self-indulgent characters who begin the novel with some perverse appeal but quickly deteriorate under the influence of greed, excess, and alcohol. As they move through their pointless round of pleasures, they demand wilder and stronger stimulation, but this only contributes to their downward spiral. Rejected as officer material when the United States enters World War...
(The entire section is 625 words.)
Book 1, Chapter 1 Summary
Anthony Comstock Patch is twenty-five years old and full of the conviction of his own importance. His ancestral heritage descends from his grandfather, Adam Patch, who joined the Union army during the Civil War, left the war a major, and entered Wall Street. There he built a multimillion-dollar fortune but became a righteous reformer when his health began to fail. His son, Adam, was a man about town. He became a widower when his son, Anthony, was five years old, then he died six years later while touring Europe with Anthony. Through the deaths of his parents and soon his grandmother, Anthony acquires a spirit of melancholy that stays with him for the rest of his life.
Until the age of fourteen, Anthony’s favorite pastime is stamp collecting. For two years, he is tutored in Europe with the aim of attending Harvard as a way of “opening doors” to his destined future. In college, Anthony lives within himself, diving into books and flamboyant fashions. It is not until his senior year that he discovers that the other students view him as a romantic figure but a recluse. With this news, Anthony begins to socialize. He graduates when he is twenty years old.
After college, Anthony travels to Rome to study architecture and painting as well as music and poetry. Several of his Harvard classmates visit him as they journey through their own European tours. He returns to America when he is twenty-three to respond to his grandfather’s illness. He decides he must put off until his grandfather’s death any plans to live abroad permanently. He finds an apartment in New York and begins to settle down. His home is furnished richly and brightly. In his bathroom are hung photographs of four of the leading actresses of the day.
Anthony has the use of an English servant named Bounds each morning, who is taciturn and somewhat hostile. He visits his broker at least once a week to check on his income, which amounts to about seven thousand...
(The entire section is 616 words.)
Book 1, Chapter 2 Summary
In November of that year, Anthony begins to receive invitations from dozens of debutantes who are coming out into society. One day, as he is out walking, he runs into Dick Caramel, who coerces him into going with him to some undetermined destination. Dick explains the work he has accomplished on his novel. He suggests that they go uptown to visit his cousin from Kansas City, Gloria Gilbert. He describes her as attractive and popular at all the college parties, though not especially intelligent. Dick feels that Anthony and Maury think him intellectually inferior to them, but Anthony points out that, to Dick, intelligence does not matter.
At the Gilberts’ home, Dick’s aunt misunderstands and calls Anthony “Mr. Pats.” Gloria is out dancing, which worries her father, who is involved with the film industry. The young men wait for Gloria but leave when she does not appear.
Maury Noble has only recently returned from three years in Europe. He is now in search of some amusement. Anthony goes to visit Maury, who is home after having missed the train to Philadelphia to see his mother. Anthony talks about his current romance with a girl named Geraldine, the epitome of a flapper. Geraldine does not understand much of what Anthony says; his comments are over her head intellectually. This fascinates Anthony. Maury describes to him his own encounter with Gloria Gilbert. She had talked quietly about her own legs.
In the morning (with a raging hangover), Anthony arranges for Bounds to come in the afternoon to serve a tea for Dick and Gloria. When they arrive, Anthony is overcome by Gloria’s beauty and personality. They talk of names, those of the past and those that will be popular and common in the future. Gloria is a modern girl and thus does not appreciate the reformers, such as Anthony’s grandfather. On another day, Anthony and Gloria meet for tea and then go dancing. They talk about Dick’s book, which has an uncomplimentary view of women, stating that a woman’s biography begins with her first kiss and ends when her child is laid in her arms. Gloria confesses that she does not want the responsibility of marriage and motherhood.
After that afternoon, Anthony and Gloria begin to go on a series of dates. One evening, Gloria is restless and wants to go someplace, but she has seen all the shows in town. Finally they decide to go down Broadway to find a cabaret. As they watch the people in the club, Gloria states that she is like them. She feels that she has at last found her people.
Book 1, Chapter 3 Summary
Dick Caramel intends to be a writer, but not long after graduation he fulfills a yearning to serve in the poverty-stricken areas of the city. He eventually moves back uptown and starts to write his first novel, The Demon Lover. As the book nears completion, it begins to make demands on him, and he pours out his problems to anyone who will listen, especially his aunt, Mrs. Gilbert. She explains to Dick her position as a “Bilphist,” one who studies all religions. The talk turns to Anthony’s attraction to Gloria. Mrs. Gilbert admits that she would like to see Gloria settle down from her wild ways, and she recounts Gloria’s history with innumerable men. Dick is also concerned about her, noting that her current friends are not of the same quality as her old ones.
Gloria returns with two of her friends, whom she introduces to Dick. The girls are flappers, the jazz girls of the decade. Their slang and flirtatiousness are foreign to Mrs. Gilbert. Gloria suddenly announces that she intends to give a dinner party. It is arranged to take place within the week. On that note, Dick departs.
On Monday, Anthony takes Geraldine Burke to dinner; he has seen her frequently over the past several months. Geraldine is worried that Anthony is drinking too much, but he denies this. She asks him if he has any ambition; Anthony states that he doubts he will live that long. She discovers that he is related to Adam Patch, whom she believes has done a lot of good. Anthony dismisses this. She asks if everyone wants to marry him because his grandfather is rich, but Anthony says that he does not intend to marry. He tells her the story of Chevalier O’Keefe, who was ruined because he became overconfident.
Gloria has her dinner party at the Biltmore Hotel. Bloeckman, one of her guests, praises Anthony’s grandfather to him, but Anthony is noncommittal. Bloeckman does not connect with the others because he thinks they are frivolous....
(The entire section is 685 words.)
Book 2, Chapter 1 Summary
Anthony and Gloria grow closer as they discuss marriage. Gloria insists on a June wedding because it matches their personalities, both “clean like streams and wind.” Mrs. Gilbert is not surprised but acts like she is. Although they often argue, Anthony and Gloria enjoy making up. Gloria tells Anthony how she became involved with Bloeckman, who tried to dissuade her when she told him that she and Anthony are engaged. One spring afternoon, Anthony and Gloria ride around the city atop a bus. They disagree whether the city is fake or glorious. Gloria observes the policemen and wonders if they think the people they help are fools. As the dusk approaches, Gloria must return home, and Anthony dreams of the day they are married and do...
(The entire section is 475 words.)
Book 2, Chapter 2 Summary
Anthony and Gloria settle into their new home. They have a Japanese cooked named Tana who considers himself a man of the world. One Sunday evening they are going visiting, but Gloria wants to go home. Anthony refuses, and the two make a scene at the railroad station. Gloria screams that she hates him and bites his thumb. Anthony triumphs, in his mind, for being the masterful husband she hinted he was not. At home, they sleep in separate rooms but make up in the morning. The incident is gradually forgotten.
Gloria asserts her independence, expressing her philosophy to “never give a damn.” She soon discovers that she is probably pregnant and worries that it will destroy her beauty. Anthony expresses indifference as to...
(The entire section is 648 words.)
Book 2, Chapter 3 Summary
Fred Paramore, an old friend from Harvard, arrives at Anthony’s home in Marietta to find him dining out. Tana tries to make him feel at home, but Fred announces that he does not drink alcohol. Maury Noble arrives, looking for Anthony. He vaguely remembers Paramore’s face but not his name. They discuss the war in Europe, which Maury sees as a source of entertainment for Americans, not as the fight for ideals that Paramore views it.
Anthony and the rest of his party return and greet Paramore, who is obviously of a more serious nature than the rest of the group is. Gloria chides Anthony for always paying for everything when guests arrive, but Anthony thinks this is only right. Muriel, Anthony’s old flapper flame,...
(The entire section is 565 words.)
Book 3, Chapter 1 Summary
Anthony travels down to the South with the troop train. This is a new experience for him, and he meets a different class of people from that to which he is accustomed. As they arrive at Camp Hooker, Anthony smells the garbage that is typical of a boot camp of the period. He struggles to adjust to the primitive living conditions, the rules and regulations. While walking down the street of a nearby town, he is stopped by an officer and is vociferously berated for not saluting. Two girls watch him and giggle. Later Anthony meets one of them; she is named Dorothy Raycroft, or Dot. They immediately form a connection, and Anthony arranges to meet her later.
Anthony begins an affair with Dot simply because of his inability to...
(The entire section is 620 words.)
Book 3, Chapter 2 Summary
During the year Gloria and Anthony are apart, Gloria has trouble adjusting to life alone. All the men she knew are in the army, and most of her female friends are involved in the war effort or involved in lives of their own. She meets Rachael Barnes, whom she has not seen since that party in Marietta. She instantly likes her this time, and the two women become good friends. Rachael introduces her to two officers, one of whom (Captain Collins) is especially attentive to her and says he wishes she were not married. When Rachael invites her to stay the night when Captain Collins will also stay the night, Gloria rejects the opportunity of an affair and leaves. When she meets another old friend, she allows him to kiss her. She is glad...
(The entire section is 497 words.)
Book 3, Chapter 3 Summary
Anthony and Gloria move lower down the social scale. Acquaintances from Kansas City ignore them when they pass them on the street. Their apartment is smaller and cheaper. Anthony meets Muriel, and they discuss what exactly makes a person upper class. Anthony says it is money, but Muriel believes that one will always belong to the higher social order if one comes from a good family. She accuses him of thinking that his old friends are trying to avoid them. Maury Noble no longer comes to see them. He is making a great deal of money and is getting married. Anthony becomes upset and leaves. Gloria is not bothered and tells Muriel that he will come back eventually.
Anthony has resigned from his last club. He spends most of...
(The entire section is 666 words.)