Themes and Meanings
Reflecting on his past, Amory refers to “the scrap-book of his life.” This Side of Paradise is a verbal scrapbook of Fitzgerald’s early experiences, yet the episodic nature of the work does not result merely from Fitzgerald’s lack of distance from the events he is relating. True, he did not have the perspective necessary to select what is important, what trivial, in the development of the artist. Yet this loose structure also expresses Fitzgerald’s belief at the time that the novel should be discursive, a theory that he adopted from H. G. Wells.
While Fitzgerald later rejected this view, he continued to espouse many of the other ideas present in his first novel. This work launched his career as spokesman for the Jazz Age. He chronicles the changing mores of the children of Victorian parents, children who indulge in petting parties, flirt shamelessly, and kiss promiscuously. He shows the freeing effects of the automobile and evokes America’s college life on the eve of World War I. He also demonstrates the demoralizing effects of that war and Prohibition. These moral crusades had not made the world better. Before Gertrude Stein made her pronouncement about the “Lost Generation,” Fitzgerald presciently wrote in the most famous passage of the novel, “Here was a new generation, . . . dedicated more than the last to the fear of poverty and the worship of success, grown up to find all Gods dead, all wars fought, all faiths in man...
(The entire section is 578 words.)