Themes and Meanings

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Fitzgerald depicted the lifestyle of the Lost Generation of the 1920’s, those rich young people who blamed the evils of the world on the previous generation and rejected their parents’ value system of duty to society and family but also failed to establish a new system. Instead they adopted an irresponsible, cynical, extravagant way of life, which Fitzgerald recognized as essentially devoid of meaning or fulfillment. Certainly Anson is depicted as a superficial character who has no concern for anyone other than himself and who consistently fails to learn from his experiences. Fitzgerald’s belief that the rich pay a price for their self-imposed isolation is demonstrated in “The Rich Boy.” Anson is rich and different, and the penalty that he pays for his sense of superiority is that he never achieves a meaningful relationship with anyone. Fitzgerald explored the basic psychological drives and how they are satisfied by the very rich. He learned that the possession of wealth was bought at the price of individualism and of increased responsibility to others. His character Anson never learns this lesson. He refuses to take responsibility for his own actions, never considering his effect on the lives of others. Anson is a user of people; he views them as merely objects on which to exert his influence, thus reinforcing his sense of superiority, as exemplified particularly by his treatment of women: Paula, Dolly, and Aunt Edna.

As a child, Anson recognizes the unchallenged superiority of the rich, and “he accepted this as the natural state of things, and a sort of impatience with all groups of which he was not the center—in money, in position, in authority—remained with him for the rest of his life.” However, this superiority has its price; closeness to other people becomes unavailable to him. His...

(The entire section is 747 words.)