(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

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.)


(Masterpieces of American Literature)

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. Rejected as officer material when the United States enters World War...

(The entire section is 625 words.)