Book 2, Chapter 1 Summary
It is the February after the end of the war. In a townhouse in New York, the sister of Alec Connage (Amory’s friend and now roommate) is preparing for her debut. Written in the style of a play, the action describes the spoiled Rosalind as she makes herself the center of everyone’s lives. Amory is arriving at the home this night, and Mrs. Connage warns Alec that there will be precious little time to make him welcome because all the attention must be on Rosalind. Alec describes Amory as temperamental, which peaks Rosalind’s interest. Rosalind’s sixteen-year-old sister, Cecelia, is cynical about the whole “coming out” business but secretly admires all the drama surrounding it.
Amory unwittingly stumbles into Rosalind’s dressing room. She invites him in and begins to display her personality. She tells him that she has kissed many men and plans on kissing many more. Amory falls instantly in love and they kiss. Amory explains to Rosalind that he is not sentimental but romantic. Sentimental people think things will last; a romantic person hopes that they don’t. Amory leaves after kissing her again, and Mrs. Connage enters. She warns Rosalind that this is her chance to acquire a rich husband. She has several prospects lined up and tells Rosalind to keep on the dance floor and not run off to a corner with some young, inappropriate college boy. Rosalind speaks of Amory, but Mrs. Connage is not optimistic about his prospects. Amory and Rosalind dance and profess their love for one another.
Mrs. Connage does not encourage Amory and Rosalind’s love affair. Amory finds a job working in an advertising agency, which does not pay much. He spends as much time with Rosalind as possible. Rosalind tells Amory she will marry him whenever he wants. They talk of a June or July wedding, but Amory warns Rosalind that they will not have much money at first. Rosalind says they can survive.
Five weeks later, Rosalind is speaking with her mother before Amory arrives. Mrs. Connage tells Rosalind that Dawson Ryder is a more appropriate pick as a husband than is Amory. She points out that Amory will not make enough money even to pay for Rosalind’s expensive taste in clothing. When Amory arrives, he can tell that something is bothering Rosalind. He asks if it has anything to do with Dawson Ryder, whom he has heard has been with Rosalind every afternoon for a week. Rosalind confesses that she is thinking about marrying Dawson. Amory is devastated, and Rosalind becomes more convinced that Dawson would be a better provider and father than would Amory. She breaks off her engagement with Amory, who leaves still professing his love for her. After he leaves, Rosalind breaks down with sadness at what she has done to Amory.