In summation, how does The Beautiful and the Damned end?
Reflective of the corruption and blighted hope that finds its way into many of Fitzgerald's works, The Beautiful and the Damned ends with characters becoming vastly worse than how they started. The Beautiful and the Damned ends with Anthony and Gloria falling down on the social ladder. Their position as wielders of social power had once been so important to them. Their descent is enhanced through economic worry and a general withering away of individual identity. Anthony's talent is washed away in drink, while Gloria's initial beauty and allure withers away. They are described as players "who had lost their costumes, lacking the pride to continue on the note of tragedy." Waiting on money that was not earned becomes the defining element to both of them. Fitzgerald constructs materialism as something so corrosive that its presence is not needed for individuals to degrade themselves. The promise of material wealth takes away both of their dignity. Anthony's embrace of alcohol causes him to be treated as a pariah, an outsider that people avoid, referred to as a "bum" and find himself subject to beatings.
Lack of money and food as well as a lack of promise and hope end up defining both Gloria and Anthony. In the end, Anthony and Gloria win their appeal to the inheritance. While they get the money, a previous description illuminates the lives Anthony and Gloria lead: ". . . The fruit of youth or of the grape, the transitory magic of the brief passage from darkness to darkness — the old illusion that truth and beauty were in some way entwined." Their truth is that there is no redemption within them. Nothing constructive remains. Even upon the news that he is worth "thirty million," Anthony is more concerned with his stamp collection: "He held up a handful of stamps and let them come drifting down about him like leaves, varicolored and bright, turning and fluttering gaudily upon the sunny air: stamps of England and Ecuador, Venezuela and Spain — Italy. . . ." The ending features Anthony sitting alone on a boat to Italy. He is muttering to himself that “I showed them... It was a hard fight, but I didn’t give up and I came through!” For Anthony, the promise of money has not developed anything constructive in him. Rather, it has enhanced his own paranoia and lack of security in his being. There is a mixture of melancholy and disdain in the ending, reflective of Fitzgerald's own ambivalence towards individuals who are both a perpetrators of a shallow social condition and victims of it.