illustrated profiles of Amory and Beatrice Blaine

This Side of Paradise

by F. Scott Fitzgerald

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Book 2, Chapter 5 Summary

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Amory stands under the glass portcullis of a theater, too poor to go inside to get out of the rain. He hears the sounds of the people exiting the matinee. The rain makes him think of the people who, like himself, have no money to give themselves an adequate life. He realizes that he detests poor people. Although poverty might have once had some romantic appeal, now it is just rotten. He believes it is better to be rich and corrupt than poor and innocent.

Amory begins an internal conversation analyzing his situation. He has only twenty-four dollars plus the property at Lake Geneva, which he plans to keep. He is confident that he will be able to live somehow, because people always do in books, and he always manages to do things that are done in books. He does not want a lot of money but he is afraid of being poor. He thinks that a good man going bad gives off some type of energy off which other people feed. He does not want to go back to his innocence, but he wants the pleasure of losing it again. Amory drifts along until he finds himself at a private club. He asks to be let in but is turned away. He walks along, thinking of letting himself go completely, of giving up on a life of comfort. He thinks of the friends he has lost, of Burne Holiday and Monsignor Darcy. He regrets no longer having someone to depend on.

Amory goes to Monsignor Darcy’s funeral and is struck by the sincere grief of his fellow mourners. He realizes that this is because, at some level, Monsignor Darcy gave all these people a sense of security. Now that he was gone, that security has dissolved as well. Amory realizes that his selfishness has not helped him at all. What he really wants is to provide people with some sense of security: he wants to be needed.

Amory decides to walk to Princeton because he has no money for a train. A large man and his secretary give him a ride in a limousine. Amory ignores the secretary and begins to expound his beliefs on socialism. He tells the large man that life would be more secure with government ownership of business, with each person starting out in life with an equal chance. Both the large man and his secretary point out to Amory that all this has been tried before and proved a failure. Amory confesses that this is the first time he has thought along socialist lines, and he has yet to think it out completely. He learns that the large man is the father of Jesse Ferrenby, who was killed in the war. Amory tells Mr. Ferrenby what a good man Jesse was. Mr. Ferrenby lets Amory out and wishes him luck. Amory arrives at Princeton and feels sorry for the students who are still being fed what he feels are lies. He visits a graveyard and contemplates his own disillusion. He raises his hands to the sky and proclaims, “I know myself, but that is all—.”

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Book 2, Chapter 4 Summary