The Characters (Masterplots II: American Fiction Series, Revised Edition)
Anthony Patch was intended by Fitzgerald to be a tragic character, but Anthony does not have enough substance for his fate to be tragic. At times, Fitzgerald treats Anthony satirically, as if Anthony is not to be taken seriously. Yet the moments of poignancy—especially in the love affair of Anthony and Gloria—undermine any satirical intent. At the end, the reader has confused feelings about Anthony, pitying him but believing that, after all, he brought about his own destruction.
Gloria Gilbert Patch is, in some ways, more sympathetic than Anthony. Gloria believes above all in the rights and privileges of her beauty. She believes in this with a passion that is lacking in Anthony’s supposed belief in his own undemonstrated intellectual and moral superiority. When she is forced, brutally, to recognize that her beauty is fading, she accepts it with a dignity of sorts. She is not crushed, as Anthony finally is.
Richard Caramel, who enjoys the kind of early literary success that Fitzgerald himself experienced, is too heedless to realize that he is compromising his talent as he churns out one popular book after another. He is incapable of recognizing that the success which he has achieved through compromise is not worth having. The character is, in some ways, a warning from Fitzgerald to himself, of what he feared he might become.
Maury Noble, supposedly based on the contemporary wit George Jean Nathan, is cynical enough to...
(The entire section is 358 words.)
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Characters Discussed (Cyclopedia of Literary Characters, Revised Third Edition)
Anthony Patch, a playboy and dilettante. Most of the novel is narrated from the point of view of this good-looking, intelligent, and fundamentally decent man and concerns his moral deterioration between the ages of twenty-five and thirty-three. He stands to inherit the lion’s share of his grandfather’s estate, worth about $75 million. This inheritance has a debilitating effect on Anthony because it stifles any motive to do anything for himself, although he continues to entertain notions of writing about history. His parents died when he was a child, as did his paternal grandmother, who was rearing him in their stead. These tragedies left him with a chronic paranoid anxiety and help to explain why he is passive, immature, and lacking the aggressiveness to carve out a career for himself. With nothing serious to occupy his mind, he takes to drinking and becomes a hopeless alcoholic.
Gloria Gilbert Patch
Gloria Gilbert Patch, Anthony’s wife, three years his junior. Just as Anthony has never had to develop any strength of character because of his grandfather’s riches, Gloria has never had to develop any strength of character because of her remarkable beauty. She is spoiled, selfish, and narcissistic. She believes that her beauty conveys a certain nobility upon her, so that she does not have to do anything; she merely has to be. Gloria is the worst possible wife for Anthony because she is as feckless...
(The entire section is 672 words.)
Characters / Techniques
Apart from Anthony, Gloria, and old Adam Patch, the early friend of Anthony's, Maury Noble (artfully described as very catlike in appearance and demeanor) and Richard Caramel are the principal personages in The Beautiful and Damned. The function of these two men is largely to act as counterpoises to Anthony. At first, both are close to him and spend much time at parties; but, soon, Richard takes up his task of writing seriously, becomes successful, and loses sight of Anthony for a long time; Maury keeps on idling for a while, but later starts to work and earns large sums of money. Meanwhile, except for a brief stint in the army, Anthony does nothing of a vocational nature.
Gloria, who has been identified as one of Fitzgerald's images of the quintessential flapper, simply loses her beauty (largely from irregular hours, drink, and lack of activity) and becomes a disappointed harridan. Of course, the marriage that was established on expectations of wealth suffers, especially when the expectation is damaged (Adam discovers the couple holding a raucous, drunken party and cuts his grandson out of his will); but, the force that holds them together, apart from the legal appeal for some of the inheritance, is simply inertia. They quarrel, but seem to have not enough energy to part.
At the end, when they have won the court case, after a long delay, they are viewed on the ocean liner, looking old, worn out, and wasted. Much uncertainty attaches to...
(The entire section is 570 words.)