The Rich Boy Summary

F. Scott Fitzgerald's "The Rich Boy" is a short story about Anson Hunter, a very affluent young man. Anson was born rich and has always enjoyed a life of privilege, including being tutored by a British nanny in the hopes that her accent and manner of speaking might rub off on him.

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At its core, the story is really about Anson's quest to discover and nurture true love. Although he has no difficulty finding female companionship, Anson somewhat cynically wonders if he will ever have any luck finding a woman who loves him for something other than his money and prestige. At the same time, however, Anson is conflicted, because he isn't sure he can find a woman who fits that bill and is his equal in social standing. This is of great importance to Anson, because—as Fitzgerald writes—the ultra rich are quite different from most people:

They think, deep in their hearts, that they are better than we are. . . . Even when they enter deep into our world or sink below us, they still think that they are better than we are.

Surrounded by the wealthy and elite, Anson is convinced that one can tell whether someone is well-off—and thus, in his mind, superior—just by looking at them. While in the Navy, Anson meets Paula, a beautiful woman who is both wealthy and seems sincere in her feelings for Anson, though his feelings toward her appear more uncertain. They are engaged soon after, but Anson develops a terrible alcohol problem, leaving his relationship with Paula fraught and difficult. On one occasion, he becomes so drunk at a party with Paula's family that she decides to put the engagement on the back burner for a while.

While Paula grows frustrated by Anson's instability and increasing dependence on alcohol, Anson remains convinced that he and Paula have a future and that she will wait for him indefinitely. He is therefore devastated when Paula sends him a telegram informing him of her engagement and upcoming wedding to another man. Anson realizes he has lost the only woman who ever truly understood and loved him. In his reckless despair, he begins a superficial tryst with a woman named Dolly, who is not known for her discretion. Anson treats Dolly cruelly and they both attempt to make each other jealous, though Anson always gets the upper hand in the end. In the end, Anson, consumed by his memories of Paula, is unable to consumate his relationship with Dolly and rejects her, telling her that he doesn't love her. Soon after, Dolly marries someone else.

Anson, believing he has given up his one chance at true love, takes up a new hobby: counseling married couples about their relationships. He claims to live vicariously through these "happy marriages." To no great surprise, Anson's predilection for providing his unsolicited insight into other people's problems does not endear him to his friends and relatives. This is especially true when he learns of his Aunt Edna's affair with a young man named Cary Sloane. Anson confronts Edna and Cary together and warns them that he will tell both his uncle and Cary's father about the affair. Sadly, Cary is found dead in the morning, likely of suicide. After Cary's death, Anson demonstrates no remorse, and neither his uncle nor aunt want anything to do with him.

Anson feels very alone and falls into a depression. He later meets Paula by chance and discovers that she has married and is pregnant. Paula confesses that she was never really in love with him—only infatuated. She insists that Anson will never settle down, but he refuses to accept any personal responsibility for his inability to sustain a meaningful relationship. Soon after, Paula dies in childbirth, and Anson is clearly affected by this news. However, by the end of the novel, Anson is on board a ship, where he notices a beautiful woman. He introduces himself and they are soon having champagne together. Anson seems to be yet again headed down the road of eventual romantic disappointment.


(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Anson Hunter, the rich boy for whom the story is named, aptly...

(The entire section is 1,662 words.)