Book 1, Chapter 2 Summary

At Princeton, Amory meets his roommates, Burne and Kerry Holiday. The three live off campus because there is not much for freshmen to do on the campus. While Amory enjoys himself in college, he realizes the social distinctions are created by the strong to protect the weak who cater to the strong as well as to keep out the “almost strong.” Intent on becoming a big man on campus, Amory joins the football team but eventually must drop out after a rather severe injury. Instead he joins the board of the Daily Princetonian newspaper, thinking this will give him some popularity. It does not, but he vows that he will make his mark during his sophomore year.

Amory befriends Tom d’Invilliers, an intellectual who shares Amory’s love of books. They enjoy intellectual, literary conversations. He envies some of the other boys, especially Dick Humbird, whom he sees as the epitome of sophistication.

During the summer following Amory’s freshman year, the First World War breaks out. Amory pays little attention to it. He sees it only as an “amusing melodrama,” nothing more. During his sophomore year, Amory joins the Triangle Club, the musical theatre group at Princeton. On tour over Christmas vacation, Amory meets Isabelle Borge in Minneapolis. He remembered her as a little girl from his childhood. Isabelle has come to be what was known as a “Popular Daughter,” someone who smoked and drank and kissed. Amory is entranced, and the two go off to a quiet room to talk. Though Amory knows it is not likely that they will meet again, he decides he wants to kiss her. On his attempt, however, they hear the others coming into the room. They separate, but their relationship is far from over.

According to his plan, Amory becomes a big man on campus during his sophomore year, mainly due to his position on the newspaper. He joins the Cottage Club, one of the more prestigious college organizations. He and a group of other boys take a weekend trip to the coast to return a car. Amory thinks this kind of life is glorious, even though they are drunk most of the time.

Since Christmas and all through spring, Amory has a heated and passionate correspondence with Isabelle. He convinces her to come to Princeton for prom. With Tom, Amory considers leaving college to get married, though only Tom considers it seriously. Amory identifies himself as a “cynical idealist.” When a group of the boys go to New York for a party, tragedy strikes on their return trip. Dick Humbird, who was driving drunk, was killed in an accident. This provides Amory with a more sober view of life. The next day, Isabelle arrives and the two of them go to the prom activities. Then Amory goes with Isabelle to her family’s summer place on Long Island. Amory realizes that he is enjoying life as he will probably never do so again.