This Side of Paradise, Fitzgerald’s first novel, made him an enormously successful popular author when he was only twenty-three years old. The combination of romanticism and realism, mingled with a fresh and—for the time—sometimes startling depiction of college life, caught the attention of the reading public and made the novel representative of an entire generation.
This Side of Paradise is loose and episodic, a collection of vivid scenes which do not fuse into a well-structured novel. It is divided into two sections: “The Romantic Egotist” (the title of the novel’s first draft) and “The Education of a Personage.”
The first takes Amory Blame from his childhood through his years at Princeton University and concerns his intellectual and moral development.
Convinced that he has a great, if obscure, destiny, Amory is greatly influenced by a Catholic priest, Father Darcy, who awakens him to the reality and power of evil. Darcy is based upon Father Sigourney Fay, who exerted a comparable influence on Fitzgerald. In the novel, this moral and spiritual education is dramatized by incidents that appear supernatural, as when Amory is pursued by a diabolic figure through the streets of New York. Perhaps a remnant of Father Fay’s moralism, the sense of sin and the power of sex are mixed in Amory’s mind in an inextricable, if often confusing fashion.
The second section is restricted to one year, 1919, and concentrates on Amory’s character development, which it traces by following his adventures after service in World War I. As Fitzgerald had no experience of combat, he wisely omitted any actual description of Amory in the conflict. In book 2, Amory’s courtship of Rosalind Connage is ended after the sudden loss of his family fortune. Having...
(The entire section is 741 words.)