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....
(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 dollars a year. His grandfather sees this as sufficient, but Anthony always seems a little short of cash. Someday in the future, he is sure he will have millions.
On his return from Rome, Anthony visits his grandfather, who is nowhere as near death as Anthony had hoped. When his grandfather suggests that Anthony should do something productive, Anthony announces that he wishes to write about the history of the Middle Ages. Adam...
(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,...
(The entire section is 440 words.)
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. After the champagne, everyone begins to loosen up. As Anthony dances with Gloria, she says she wants to pop out for some gumdrops to keep her from biting her nails. They decide to catch a taxi and ride around for a bit. They kiss, and then Gloria wants to return to the dinner party immediately.
Anthony decides that he cares for no other girl as he does for Gloria Gilbert. He tries to call her, but she is out. He suspects this is deliberate to keep him guessing. He waits all day for her...
(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 not have to part. Over everything is the expectation that Anthony’s grandfather will die and leave them a substantial inheritance.
Before the engagement is officially announced, Anthony visits his grandfather to inform him of his approaching marriage. At first Adam Patch is dismissive of Anthony’s ability to support a wife. When Anthony gets up to leave, his grandfather suddenly decides he likes him and offers him his home as the site of the wedding. Later he also gives the couple five thousand dollars, which Anthony finds somewhat disappointing. Mrs. Gilbert is impressed, as she is with the rest of the gifts, which she places around Anthony and Gloria’s theoretical home.
Gloria has kept a diary over the years. Before her wedding, she looks over the past entries, which are mostly concerned with former loves. She becomes misty-eyed over the entry of her first kiss. She writes “FINIS” after the last entry, closes it, and puts it away. Anthony, unable to sleep, is disturbed by the unrestrained and maniacal laughter of a woman in the street below his apartment.
Anthony and Gloria are married without incident. After a six-month honeymoon, they settle down to the mundane life of married people no longer besotted with each other. They revert to enjoying the company of other people, not just each other’s. Anthony learns of Gloria’s nervous tension. Gloria sees that Anthony is a coward in many ways. Gloria is no good at everyday tasks, like sending out the laundry. Anthony resents having to do this himself to avoid a row with his new wife. Gloria resents turning historic sites, such as Robert E. Lee’s home at Arlington, into tourist attractions under the pretense of preserving...
(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 whether she has the baby.
Adam Patch, Anthony’s grandfather, becomes increasingly interested in the war in Europe. He urges Anthony to go over to write something about the Germans, and he even offers to financially support him on this mission. Anthony hesitates because of Gloria’s current neediness, although it turns out she is not pregnant. On the train home, he discovers that he is sitting by Bloeckman, Gloria’s old beau. Bloeckman has toned down his personality and become more dignified. They have a pleasant conversation, and Anthony invites him to visit them in their home in Marietta.
Anthony discusses the possibility of his going to Europe as a war correspondent. Gloria is upset that he would think of going without her, so he suggests that she might go as a nurse. They both agree that he should probably be doing something because a life of leisure will not last for years if his grandfather does not die soon.
Bloeckman stops by for the promised visit. He suggests that Gloria might be able to make it in moving pictures, and Gloria agrees. Anthony becomes jealous when he comes home one day to find that she has gone out with Bloeckman, but he is subdued when he learns they just went for a ride in the country.
Anthony and Gloria return to New York for the winter because they do not have enough money to go to California. Dick Caramel has made a fortune from his novel as well as selling plots for movies to Hollywood. Maury Noble has gone to work in Philadelphia. Anthony feels that he should do some kind of work during the winter, and he asks his grandfather for advice. Adam Patch recommends that he enter the bond business. Anthony decides this is as good as anything,...
(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, engages Paramore in a conversation about religion. Paramore tries to be tolerant of her views. The crowd begins to dance, and Paramore loosens up. Just then, Anthony’s grandfather walks in. He sees that they have been drinking, which strikes against the large donation he gave just that day to the cause of Prohibition. He says nothing, turns, and leaves.
After two years of marriage, Anthony and Gloria have become accustomed to occasional spats and moments of pure hate. Overall, however, they cannot imagine being apart from each other. The night after the party, they receive a call from Adam Patch that changes their future prospects. Anthony feels he must find some way to reform and convincing his grandfather to keep them in his will. He goes to visit Adam Patch but is turned away; he is told the older man is ill. He and Gloria write a letter of apology and explanation, but the letter is unanswered. They return to New York for the winter. Anthony tries to rent his old apartment but is unsuccessful. Gloria is contemptuous of his cowardice in this failure. They find a smaller apartment and move in just before they learn that Adam Patch is seriously ill. Anthony once again tries to see him but cannot.
Adam Patch dies in November. Anthony waits a week after the funeral, but he hears no news from his grandfather’s attorney. He calls and learns that he is not mentioned at all in the will. Anthony hires a lawyer to contest the will, which has left the majority of his grandfather’s money to his father’s aide, Shuttleworth, and other distant relatives and acquaintances. Muriel returns and shares gossip she has heard, such as...
(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 say “no.” She is nineteen; she graduated from high school in the bottom fourth of her class and with a very unsavory reputation. She has had three lovers since high school, none of whom have taken her seriously. The boys she knew in high school pass by her without acknowledging her existence, which hurts her feelings. When Anthony arrives, she is ready to take this affair seriously.
Gradually adjusting to camp life, Anthony is taken aback when Gloria suggests that she should come to the South and join the Red Cross, as Muriel has done. Anthony does not want her there, however. He calls up Dot and arranges to meet her.
Anthony is promoted to corporal. Gloria’s letters become more hurried and less frequent. She no longer mentions the possibility of her coming south. The next summer, Anthony learns that his division is moving to a different camp. He goes to bid Dot farewell. She is beside herself and threatens to commit suicide if he should leave her. He tells her that this parting was inevitable.
In September, as he adjusts to the surroundings of his new camp, Camp Boone in Mississippi, he writes Gloria to hear what the matter is with her; he has not received a letter from her in two weeks. He worries that she might have found someone else, just as he has. Dot has followed him to Mississippi and stays in a boarding house that Anthony pays for. To do this, he has to borrow money from his broker. He is trying to find some way to break it off with her and have Gloria come to the South because he is anxious at not having heard from her.
Dot calls him to tell him good-bye. Anthony is at first relieved until he begins to suspect that she is intending to kill herself. He...
(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 that she did, for he is killed the following day.
As Gloria waits for the trial in the autumn, she seriously considers becoming an actress. She calls Bloeckman, but she learns that he is in Europe. When she receives Anthony’s letters, she can tell that he does not want her to come South. She then receives the telegram telling about his illness and his imminent arrival in New York. After they meet, Anthony returns to Mississippi to be discharged from the army. He fears that he will find Dot there, but does not. After two days he returns to New York.
Anthony has nothing to do until the trial, but he avoids going to see Mr. Haight, his attorney. He and Gloria continually argue about money. The costs of living have increased following the war. He tries to get a news correspondent’s position but is turned town at every place. Gloria suggests he try for a job in sales. He shows up at the appointed place to learn that the job is to sell a book called Heart Talk. That night, as he explains his experience to Gloria, he ridicules it but she takes it seriously. He goes back with the intention of being a salesman. He fails utterly, however, especially because he reinforces himself with drinks. When Prohibition comes, Anthony is faced with the struggle of becoming sober. The appeal of his grandfather’s will is dragged out again for at least another six months.
Gloria becomes more concerned about their decreasing income. She is faced with the fact that soon she will be twenty-nine. She admits to herself that she never really wanted children. She is glad that at least her beauty will never fade. Gloria falls ill with influenza. In February, she calls up Bloeckman and learns that he has...
(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 time at speakeasies. His only friends are the people he has met there. He meets Dick Caramel on the street. Dick has just returned from California, where he has heard stories of the downward spiral of Anthony and Gloria. Dick asks about the state of Adam Patch’s will. Anthony says he is still hopeful. Dick asks him if he has written anything lately, but he has not. Dick expresses contempt for modern literature, especially what he calls “shoddy realism.” He is tired of everyone asking if he has read This Side of Paradise. (This is an inside joke because it is Fitzgerald’s first novel.) Dick has achieved success as a novelist.
As the months pass, Anthony becomes an alcoholic; he is unable to function in the morning until he has a drink. Gloria is astonished to finds herself as a housewife. She no longer speaks of children. Anthony returns home to tell her that the bank has closed their account due to overdrafts. They become frantic for money; they have no one from whom they can borrow and very little food in the house. Anthony goes down to the speakeasy. He has four dollars on him, enough to buy a round of drinks. He leaves and wanders the street. He runs in to Maury Noble, who goes away as soon as possible. He tries to call up Bloeckman (Black) but is told he is at a party. On learning the location, Anthony goes there and asks to see Mr. Black. Bloeckman is repelled by Anthony’s drunken condition. Anthony takes a swing at him, who hits him back in a much more effective way. He has Anthony thrown out into the street. A Good Samaritan helps him into a cab after...
(The entire section is 666 words.)