illustrated portrait of main character Gloria Gilbert Patch

The Beautiful and Damned

by F. Scott Fitzgerald

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What are the main themes in F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Beautiful and the Damned?

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The Beautiful and the Damned by F. Scott Fitzgerald is a novel about the Jazz Age, or the time period before the great wars of World War I and World War II. In it, the author examines the usual themes ascribed to novels written before, during, or about the Jazz Age, such as inherited wealth, frivolity, and excess. This book is unique because it gives a very close account of Fitzgerald's relationship with Zelda, as fictionalized by the experiences and characters Anthony Patch and Gloria Gilbert, who are expatriate Americans who live in Europe during this time period, with a special emphasis issued on the pitfalls of close romantic relationships during a time of Great War and tribulation. Fitzgerald provides wealth and romanticism as an answer to these negative attributes of the time period, as evidenced by his relationship with Zelda.

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There is some disagreement as to the exact themes that Fitzgerald meant to represent in the story, but given the context and some of his other writings, there are a few that you can count on.  One constant is the fact that people living in the "high" society are generally characterized as vapid and somewhat empty of real emotion and feeling.  This is a theme present in many of Fitzgerald's works, perhaps most notably in The Great Gatsby.

Another theme is that of the incredible danger represented by inherited wealth.  If you look at Anthony's actions and consider that the guarantee of great wealth likely encouraged many of the most imprudent, etc., you can see that Fitzgerald felt that it was a very dangerous thing indeed.

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What are the main topics for The Beautiful and Damned by F. Scott Fitzgerald?

The Beautiful and Damned is a novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald first published in 1922. It tells of the life and relationships of Anthony Patch, a young man from a wealthy family, who lacks purpose in life.

Although Anthony was considered intelligent and possessed a certain taste for the arts and culture, unlike his friends Richard Caramel and Maury Noble, he lacks both writing ability and the discipline to do the hard work of actual writing. Although at various points in the novel we see him fantasizing about writing projects, he doesn't actually put in the hours necessary for success. Instead, he becomes infatuated with, and eventually marries, a beautiful young woman, and the couple live a life of extravagant socializing and partying in expectation of inheriting money from Anthony's grandfather. 

The first major theme is that of the bad effects of the prospect of inheriting money on Anthony's character. Because he anticipates inheriting money, he lacks not only a career but also a purpose, leading to his eventual downfall.

Unlike the actual writers and artists in the novel, who do have a real sense of purpose in life, Gloria and Anthony are constantly bored and often resort to sexual affairs and alcohol to provide interest in their lives, but these stimuli always prove insufficient to give meaning and purpose to their lives. Even when Anthony has minor successes, he tends to sabotage himself, especially by drinking.

Thus the main topics you want to look at in the novel are the difference between actually producing art and merely being vaguely "artistic," the effects of the expectation of money on young people, the bad effects of alcohol, and the need for a purpose in one's life.

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