Summary (Magill's Survey of American Literature, Revised Edition)
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,...
(The entire section is 741 words.)
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Summary (Masterplots II: American Fiction Series, Revised Edition)
The son of Stephen Blaine and Beatrice O’Hara Blaine, Amory grows up with money. He spends his early years traveling around the United States and Mexico in his father’s private railroad car. At fifteen, he leaves his Midwestern home to attend St. Regis, a preparatory school in New Jersey, where he concentrates on football and popularity. Shortly after enrolling, he meets Monsignor Darcy, with whom he has a number of intellectual conversations and with whom he corresponds on important issues. Darcy serves as both confidant and mentor to the maturing youth, who is thirty years his junior.
From St. Regis, Amory goes on to Princeton; his first two years there, like those at St. Regis, are devoted to making friends rather than to studying. Amory is successful in his effort, which culminates in his election to the prestigious Cottage Club. He does, however, begin to write for the Daily Princetonian. In his sophomore year, he easily wins a competition in the newspaper, and he is the most likely candidate for the editorship until his poor grades make him ineligible.
Among the friends he makes at Princeton is Thomas Parke D’Invilliers, whom Amory admires for his poetry in the Nassau Lit. D’Invilliers introduces Amory to many modern writers, among them William Butler Yeats, Oscar Wilde, and Algernon Charles Swinburne. Under D’Invilliers’s influence, Amory begins writing poetry. Thus, at Princeton he begins his love affair...
(The entire section is 498 words.)
Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
Amory Blaine is the only child of an alcoholic mother and an absent father. As his mother’s companion, he spends his early childhood traveling and living in hotels. When Beatrice’s alcoholism results in a breakdown, Amory goes to live with an aunt and uncle in Minneapolis, where he resides for nearly two years. These years are encapsulated in the description of a party and first kiss shared with Myra St. Claire, and the pattern of Amory’s subsequent life is established as one of anticipation and disappointment. His fledgling character also emerges, as Amory assumes an aristocratic posture.
Amory is reunited with Beatrice at the family estate in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, before traveling east to attend prep school at St. Regis’s. After taking his entrance examinations, Amory visits his mother’s friend Monsignor Darcy in New York City. Darcy becomes a mentor and confidant of Amory. At St. Regis’s, where he spends two years from ages fifteen to seventeen, Amory begins badly but eventually distinguishes himself as a star quarterback, actor, and editor of the school paper, though when later he recalls his prep school years he remembers his failures more than his successes.
In 1913 at age seventeen, Amory enters Princeton University. In his freshman year, he lives with Kerry Holiday and Tom D’Invilliers and he begins a friendship with Alec Connage. Amory begins to write poetry and vows to make more of his abilities in his sophomore year....
(The entire section is 756 words.)
Book 1: The Romantic Egotist
The novel opens with a description of Amory Blaine’s mother Beatrice and her exciting life of travel with her son Amory until his appendix bursts on a ship to Europe, and he is sent to live with his aunt and uncle in Minneapolis, Minnesota. While in private school there, Armory kisses Myra St. Claire on the cheek and takes on various elitist values before Beatrice gives in to his request to go to a boarding school. After enrolling at the school, where he is unpopular because of his arrogance, Amory meets his friend and mentor Monsignor Darcy. Amory is more popular during his second year because he succeeds at football and as a writer for the school paper, and he decides to enroll at Princeton University.
At Princeton, Amory once again gradually becomes a social success by acting in plays and writing for the college newspaper, and he meets some of his most important friends, such as Kerry and Burne Holiday, and Tom D’Invilliers. He travels back to Minneapolis to meet his first love, Isabelle Borgé, at a “petting party” for upper class daughters, and they exchange long letters while Amory is at Princeton with his elitist group of friends. Then, coming back from a night out in New York, Amory is shocked and dismayed to see his friend Dick Humbird die in a car accident.
When he next sees Isabelle at the prom, they quarrel and Amory leaves her, and this is followed by Amory’s discovery that he...
(The entire section is 825 words.)
Book 1, Chapter 1 Summary
Amory Blaine is the son of the “ineffectual” Stephen Blaine and the beautiful and intriguing Beatrice Blaine. Beatrice was born in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, to a well-to-do family. She went to school in Rome, where she learned to love the culture of Europe. When she returned to America, she married Stephen and bore her only son, Amory. From the beginning, Amory and Beatrice were good companions. Traveling around the world, mother and son became inseparable. Beatrice introduced Amory to a former lover and now good friend, Monsignor Darcy. After his mother had a nervous breakdown, Amory was left with his aunt and uncle in Minneapolis for two years.
Amory’s experiences in Minneapolis are mixed. Though superior to the other boys in his class, Amory is seen as artificial and self-absorbed. He is disliked for the most part. His first kiss is with Myra St. Claire on the way to a bobbing party. He had been trying to impress her and arrived fashionably late, but it was too late to go with the rest of the children to the party. Myra had stayed behind to wait a bit. They went to the party together then, but Amory pulled Myra to one side and surreptitiously kissed her. Immediately he is disgusted with the whole incident. He wanted to go away and never see Myra again. She asks him to kiss her again, but he tells her that he does not want to. She becomes angry and threatens to tell her mother that he kissed her. When Myra’s mother appears, however, she does not say anything.
In Minneapolis, Amory becomes quite an outdoorsman, hunting with his dog. His schooling ruins his French, and his reading habits change for the worse, he feels. He tries to be a lady’s man and collects locks of hair from several different girls. He dreams of becoming something great—but never of being great.
When Beatrice returns after two years, she takes over the remaking of her son back into the gentleman she wants him to be. She tells Amory of her breakdown. Amory is struck with shame at her appearance of weakness. Amory tells Beatrice he wants to be sent away to a prep school, St. Regis, in Connecticut. After Amory takes his admissions exam, he goes to visit Monsignor Darcy. Their relationship becomes that of a father and son.
At St. Regis, Amory is considered arrogant and conceited. He is also unhappy. He comes up with a classification of boys: the Slicker is clean and intelligent, popular and accommodating; the Big Man is a...
(The entire section is 462 words.)
Book 1, Chapter 2 Summary
At Princeton, Amory meets his roommates, Burne and Kerry Holiday. The three live off campus because there is not much for freshmen to do on the campus. While Amory enjoys himself in college, he realizes the social distinctions are created by the strong to protect the weak who cater to the strong as well as to keep out the “almost strong.” Intent on becoming a big man on campus, Amory joins the football team but eventually must drop out after a rather severe injury. Instead he joins the board of the Daily Princetonian newspaper, thinking this will give him some popularity. It does not, but he vows that he will make his mark during his sophomore year.
Amory befriends Tom d’Invilliers, an intellectual who shares Amory’s love of books. They enjoy intellectual, literary conversations. He envies some of the other boys, especially Dick Humbird, whom he sees as the epitome of sophistication.
During the summer following Amory’s freshman year, the First World War breaks out. Amory pays little attention to it. He sees it only as an “amusing melodrama,” nothing more. During his sophomore year, Amory joins the Triangle Club, the musical theatre group at Princeton. On tour over Christmas vacation, Amory meets Isabelle Borge in Minneapolis. He remembered her as a little girl from his childhood. Isabelle has come to be what was known as a “Popular Daughter,” someone who smoked and drank and kissed. Amory is entranced, and the two go off to a quiet room to talk. Though Amory knows it is not likely that they will meet again, he decides he wants to kiss her. On his attempt, however, they hear the others coming into the room. They separate, but their relationship is far from over.
According to his plan, Amory becomes a big man on campus during his sophomore year, mainly due to his position on the newspaper. He joins the Cottage Club, one of the more prestigious college organizations. He and a group of other boys take a weekend trip to the coast to return a car. Amory thinks this kind of life is glorious, even though they are drunk most of the time.
Since Christmas and all through spring, Amory has a heated and passionate correspondence with Isabelle. He convinces her to come to Princeton for prom. With Tom, Amory considers leaving college to get married, though only Tom considers it seriously. Amory identifies himself as a “cynical idealist.” When a group of the boys go to New York for a...
(The entire section is 493 words.)
Book 1, Chapter 3 Summary
While petting with Isabelle, Amory hurts her neck with his shirt stud. They begin to argue, and Amory realizes that he really has no affection for her at all. Isabelle claims that Amory is too conceited. He breaks off his relationship with her. He returns to Princeton the next morning.
Having failed a math class the previous year, Amory arrives at Princeton early in September to take a tutoring class and a make-up exam. He knows that, should he fail the exam, he will forfeit his position on the Princetonian board as well as jeopardize much of his chance for success. However, he does not study and therefore fails. Rather than blame his own laziness, Amory feels that it was his destiny to fail. This failure has brought him back to the “fundamental” Amory that he once was.
At Thanksgiving, Amory’s father dies. Amory attends the funeral without emotion. He is more interested in hearing the conditions of the will and the state of his father’s finances. It seems that the late Mr. Blaine made several bad investments, and the family finances have been severely depleted. Beatrice has her own income, but much of this went to pay for medical expenses during her nervous breakdown. Beatrice speaks of investing heavily in railroad and street car stocks because she believes that people will not long stay in one place.
Before returning to Princeton, Amory spends part of the Christmas vacation with Monsignor Darcy in New York. Monsignor explains to Amory that he is more of a personage than a personality. A personality is active, always overriding whatever comes next. A personage collects experiences like medals. Amory has considered leaving college and joining the Lafayette Esquadrilles, an aviation company fighting in France, but Monsignor tells him that he has not given up enough on life to take that step. Amory has been given a clean start, and it is up to him to make the most of it. Monsignor Darcy continues to write advice to Amory after he returns to Princeton.
Amory and Fred Sloan meet two girls during a night on the town. Amory goes back with them to the girls’ apartment, where he hallucinates that a man, whom he believes is the devil, is watching him. He leaves the apartment but feels that the devil is still chasing him, or perhaps he is chasing the devil. When he returns to Princeton, Tom tells him that the previous night he had a dream that Amory is in trouble. Later, Tom looks at the...
(The entire section is 458 words.)
Book 1, Chapter 4 Summary
During Amory’s last year at Princeton, Burne Holiday leads a campaign to rid the college of all clubs because they are too reminiscent of the class system. His reading of Tolstoy and Whitman has led him to embrace a more socialistic point of view. Although Amory admires Burne, he cannot bring himself to support this viewpoint. Like his feelings for Humbird, Amory’s admiration of Burne is centered on his earnestness. Sitting up and talking with Burne about the clubs, he learns to agree with him, but he does not feel as strongly about it as he did as a younger student. Burne loses prestige among the student body, but this does not bother him. Burne withdraws more and more from the college social life. While Amory disapproves of this self-imposed hermitage, he is equally opposed to the disdain that the other students feel for Burne.
While attending a play in New York, Amory is struck with a vague remembrance. He suddenly realizes he is thinking of Isabelle. On his program, he writes a poem about the experience. As the year winds down, Amory’s friend Alec warns him that he is getting a reputation as being eccentric. Amory does not care, and eventually Alec accepts him the way he has now chosen to be.
Amory visits Monsignor several times during the late winter and early spring, and he takes Burne with him. As he had thought, the two hit it off. Monsignor writes Amory about a young widow, Clara Page, who is near his age and living in poverty in Philadelphia. He urges Amory to visit her. Amory does so and is surprised she is not the impoverished widow he had imaged but is really a beautiful young woman living in an old family home with her two small children and a maid. There are many men who visit Clara, each one hoping to win her hand. Amory soon becomes one of them. He has fallen in love with her and contemplates marriage. Clara, however, informs him that she has never been in love and is not now. She also tells him that she would never marry him because he lacks self-confidence and he masks it with bravado. He always brags how much of a genius he is, but Clara sees it as a cover for his insecurity. He lives his life by his imagination. Amory realizes that Clara is the first woman whom he could see as preferring another man over himself.
America finally becomes involved in the Great War. Amory decides he wants to be either in the infantry or in aviation. Burne, however, is resisting the draft. He is taking off...
(The entire section is 476 words.)
In January 1919, Monsignor Darcy writes a letter to Amory, who is now a second lieutenant in the 171st Infantry on Long Island. Monsignor asks Amory only to let him know that he is alive. He also needs to write him to rail against the stupidity of people in wartime. He tells Amory that this war is the end of the world as he knew it. Amory and his generation are growing up much harder than the older generations did. Monsignor confesses to Amory that he has long imagined that Amory is his son. There is so much resemblance between the two of them that Monsignor imagines they are distantly related. Like Amory’s shipping out to Europe, Monsignor is off to Rome. He has written a “keen” for Amory, a lament for the youth that has passed.
On deck of his transport ship, Amory writes a reflection of all the past that is dying. Later, at Brest, he writes to Tom D’Invilliers to arrange a meeting at the end of March 1919 in Manhattan. He plans on getting an apartment with Tom and Alec in New York. He does not know what his plans are, but he is thinking about politics. He muses that in England it is the upper-class men of Oxford and Cambridge who go into politics; in America is the middle classes from the streets. Amory confesses that he sometimes wishes he had been an Englishman. He refers to Beatrice, his mother, as having died. Before her death, she had become more in touch with her religious faith and left half of her money to the Church. The remainder of her fortune is in street railways, which are not faring well.
Amory mentions that Kerry and Jesse were killed in the war, which came as a shock to him. He does not know what has happened to Burne, but he imagines that he might be in some prison under an assumed name. His religious faith has taken a hit, and he has become something of an agnostic. He does not think many men came out of the Great War with their faith in God completely intact.
Amory tells Tom that they and Alec will live the high life in New York. He hopes that something significant happens because he is as restless as the devil and fears getting fat or falling in love or growing domestic in peacetime. He says that he is planning on checking out the family homestead in Lake Geneva to get more details about his inheritance.
(The entire section is 423 words.)
Book 2, Chapter 1 Summary
It is the February after the end of the war. In a townhouse in New York, the sister of Alec Connage (Amory’s friend and now roommate) is preparing for her debut. Written in the style of a play, the action describes the spoiled Rosalind as she makes herself the center of everyone’s lives. Amory is arriving at the home this night, and Mrs. Connage warns Alec that there will be precious little time to make him welcome because all the attention must be on Rosalind. Alec describes Amory as temperamental, which peaks Rosalind’s interest. Rosalind’s sixteen-year-old sister, Cecelia, is cynical about the whole “coming out” business but secretly admires all the drama surrounding it.
Amory unwittingly stumbles into Rosalind’s dressing room. She invites him in and begins to display her personality. She tells him that she has kissed many men and plans on kissing many more. Amory falls instantly in love and they kiss. Amory explains to Rosalind that he is not sentimental but romantic. Sentimental people think things will last; a romantic person hopes that they don’t. Amory leaves after kissing her again, and Mrs. Connage enters. She warns Rosalind that this is her chance to acquire a rich husband. She has several prospects lined up and tells Rosalind to keep on the dance floor and not run off to a corner with some young, inappropriate college boy. Rosalind speaks of Amory, but Mrs. Connage is not optimistic about his prospects. Amory and Rosalind dance and profess their love for one another.
Mrs. Connage does not encourage Amory and Rosalind’s love affair. Amory finds a job working in an advertising agency, which does not pay much. He spends as much time with Rosalind as possible. Rosalind tells Amory she will marry him whenever he wants. They talk of a June or July wedding, but Amory warns Rosalind that they will not have much money at first. Rosalind says they can survive.
Five weeks later, Rosalind is speaking with her mother before Amory arrives. Mrs. Connage tells Rosalind that Dawson Ryder is a more appropriate pick as a husband than is Amory. She points out that Amory will not make enough money even to pay for Rosalind’s expensive taste in clothing. When Amory arrives, he can tell that something is bothering Rosalind. He asks if it has anything to do with Dawson Ryder, whom he has heard has been with Rosalind every afternoon for a week. Rosalind confesses that she is thinking about marrying Dawson....
(The entire section is 473 words.)
Book 2, Chapter 2 Summary
For three weeks following his breakup with Rosalind, Amory descends into a drunken debauchery. He drifts from bar to bar and avoids sobriety. He meets several of his old classmates but refuses to talk of the end of his engagement. He stays in rooms at the different bars and does not go back to the apartment. He considers suicide but not seriously enough to stop drinking and do it. A woman begs him to take her home, but the man she came with interferes; the conversation almost ends in a fight.
After three weeks, Amory goes to the advertising agency at which he works. He confronts his employer and quits. He hated the work and did not feel that he was paid enough or would he ever make any headway in business there. Four days later he returns to the apartment, where Tom is writing book reviews for his weekly magazine. Amory is a physical wreck, suffering cuts and bruises from his many encounters with people during his drunken spree. Tom breaks the news to him that Alec has left and returned home at the request of his family. Amory is pained at the remembrance of the Connages. The rent is going up at the apartment, so Tom says they will have to find someone else to replace Alec.
Amory packs up remembrances of Rosalind in a cardboard box and hides it in the bottom of his trunk. He then goes out once again to a bar to get drunk. Soon Prohibition begins, cutting off his supply of alcohol, so he must face sobriety. He comes to face the end of his love affair, what he feels is the one true love he will ever have. He is confronted by the fact that at the end, there was nothing but dramatic tragedy followed by three weeks of drunkenness. He decides life, but not love, must go on.
Amory writes a short story about his father’s funeral. He sells it to a magazine for sixty dollars and receives a request for more of his writing along the same cynical line. He is flattered, but he writes no more. Instead, he reads as much modern literature as he can. He comes to see the works of the previous generation as totally worthless in this new world after the war. He remembers Mrs. Lawrence, a friend of Monsignor Darcy’s. He calls her up to learn that Monsignor has gone to Boston. Mrs. Lawrence reminds Amory of his mother, and he enjoys her conversation. Amory learns that his family home in Lake Geneva is difficult to rent because of its size. He decides not to sell it yet, however. In the meantime, both he and Tom become cynical...
(The entire section is 535 words.)
Book 2, Chapter 3 Summary
Amory afterward judges his affair with Eleanor as the last time that evil crept close to him under the mask of beauty. Her wildness fed his imagination along the paths of adventure, and this is the last time he viewed romance as an adventure.
Amory meets Eleanor one day when he is bored at his uncle’s home in Maryland and goes walking in the country, reciting poetry by Edgar Allan Poe. He finds himself lost because of poor directions he was given. A storm begins and he heads for shelter. He hears a voice singing a poem by the French poet Verlaine and calls out. On being asked his identity, Amory says he is Don Juan. The voice is thrilled and invites him up on top of the haystack where she is taking shelter. Clambering to the top, Amory cannot tell what the girl looks like, just that her thumbs bend back like his. Lightning flashes and he sees that she is slim with beautiful green eyes. He is not sure if she is wonderful or just mad. As though she can read his mind, she tells him that she is not mad. In retrospect, Amory reflects that he and Eleanor could always match thoughts like that.
The girl introduces herself as Eleanor Savage. She lives with her grandfather nearby and has seen Amory before. Amory asks where she saw him. She chides him for trying to direct the conversation back to himself then says she overheard him reciting poetry one day and looked to see only the back of his head. She announces that she no longer believes in God. Amory thinks this is nothing unusual in this day and age and so is not shocked. But he disagrees with her; he feels he must have a soul. Eleanor calls him sentimental, but he repeats to her his epigram:
The sentimental person thinks things will last—the romantic person has a desperate confidence that they won’t.
Eleanor and Amory walk home and begin their relationship. They discuss and argue over poetry and ride often in the countryside. Eleanor tells him she was born in France but came to Maryland when her mother died. Amory decides that their two minds think along parallel lines, just as their pasts seem to. On the night before Amory leaves for New York, Eleanor takes him horseback riding in the country. Eleanor again states that she is an atheist, but Amory says she is the kind of person who will turn to God on her deathbed. She denies this, and to prove it runs her horse straight toward the cliff. At the last minute she...
(The entire section is 493 words.)
Book 2, Chapter 4 Summary
Upon his return to New York, Amory goes to Atlantic City, New Jersey, to stroll along the boardwalk. He is hailed from someone in a racing car—it is Alec Connage. Alec is with another man and two young women. Amory is invited to go along to find a place to drink (despite Prohibition). He climbs in beside Jill, who calls him Doug Fairbanks (the swashbuckling movie actor). Alec and Amory start to reminisce about their classmates who were killed, but Alec decides he does not want to talk about them.
Alec asks Amory to do him a favor. He and the others have booked hotel rooms, but the other man has to leave. Alec asks if Amory would take his room. Amory agrees as long as he can have it immediately. Amory goes to the hotel room, where he becomes absorbed once again in self-pity over his loss of Rosalind. He goes to bed but is awakened by Alec. Alec and Jill have been caught sleeping in the same room; this is against the Mann Act, which prohibits the crossing of state lines for immoral persons (in this case, sex between unmarried persons). Alec does not know what to do, and Jill is crying hysterically in the bathroom. The house detectives are pounding on the door, demanding to be let in.
Amory contemplates sacrificing himself and saying that it was he who was with Jill. He remembers an incident in college when a student was caught cheating and his roommate took the blame, eventually committing suicide because this sacrifice ruined his future. Knowing that Alec has a family to think of and he does not, Amory decides to sacrifice himself anyway. He opens door and lets the detectives in. They question him and Jill. The detectives will not prosecute them, but a notice will be put in the paper with their names, addresses, and the fact that they were “in trouble” in Atlantic City. Amory agrees, and he and Jill are escorted off the premises.
Two days later, Amory sees the notice in the newspaper. Above it is the announcement of Rosalind and Dawson’s engagement. Amory realizes that Rosalind is as good as dead to him. The next day he receives a letter from his attorney telling him that the stocks in the streetcar companies is worthless and Amory will be receiving no more money from that investment. Later he also receives a telegram informing him that Monsignor Darcy passed away five days previously.
(The entire section is 416 words.)
Book 2, Chapter 5 Summary
Amory stands under the glass portcullis of a theater, too poor to go inside to get out of the rain. He hears the sounds of the people exiting the matinee. The rain makes him think of the people who, like himself, have no money to give themselves an adequate life. He realizes that he detests poor people. Although poverty might have once had some romantic appeal, now it is just rotten. He believes it is better to be rich and corrupt than poor and innocent.
Amory begins an internal conversation analyzing his situation. He has only twenty-four dollars plus the property at Lake Geneva, which he plans to keep. He is confident that he will be able to live somehow, because people always do in books, and he always manages to do things that are done in books. He does not want a lot of money but he is afraid of being poor. He thinks that a good man going bad gives off some type of energy off which other people feed. He does not want to go back to his innocence, but he wants the pleasure of losing it again. Amory drifts along until he finds himself at a private club. He asks to be let in but is turned away. He walks along, thinking of letting himself go completely, of giving up on a life of comfort. He thinks of the friends he has lost, of Burne Holiday and Monsignor Darcy. He regrets no longer having someone to depend on.
Amory goes to Monsignor Darcy’s funeral and is struck by the sincere grief of his fellow mourners. He realizes that this is because, at some level, Monsignor Darcy gave all these people a sense of security. Now that he was gone, that security has dissolved as well. Amory realizes that his selfishness has not helped him at all. What he really wants is to provide people with some sense of security: he wants to be needed.
Amory decides to walk to Princeton because he has no money for a train. A large man and his secretary give him a ride in a limousine. Amory ignores the secretary and begins to expound his beliefs on socialism. He tells the large man that life would be more secure with government ownership of business, with each person starting out in life with an equal chance. Both the large man and his secretary point out to Amory that all this has been tried before and proved a failure. Amory confesses that this is the first time he has thought along socialist lines, and he has yet to think it out completely. He learns that the large man is the father of Jesse Ferrenby, who was killed in the war. Amory...
(The entire section is 522 words.)