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This Side of Paradise

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Novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald, published in 1920.

Amory Blaine, after a pampered childhood with his wealthy, affected mother, Beatrice, attends preparatory school, where his indolence and aristocratic pose set him apart, until after an unhappy year he is accepted as a brilliant though eccentric athlete and leader. Although he is never religious, he has an affectionate father-and-son relation with his mother's friend Monsignor Darcy, a hedonist converted to Catholicism. He goes to Princeton, and there becomes a “literary bird,” writing for the Princetonian, joining the Triangle Club, and discovering the English fin de siècle poets. Among his companions are Alec Connage, an unoriginal youth, and Tom D'Invilliers, whose radicalism and poetry they try to reform. Amory has a romance with a childhood friend, Isabelle; is involved in a student revolt led by Burne Holiday, an earnest radical who becomes a pacifist during the World War; nearly falls in love with his widowed cousin Clara, a beautiful “St. Cecilia” who has “never been in love”; and goes to France as a lieutenant. On his return he finds Beatrice dead and his wealth diminished, and he becomes an advertising writer.

He has a passionate affair with Alec's debutante sister Rosaline—his one unselfish emotional experience—but she marries another man because she believes she cannot be happy without wealth. Amory drowns his disillusion in drink, but on a visit to Maryland meets Eleanor, a vivid, nervous personality even more egocentric than himself. They love for a few “bitter-sweet” weeks, and Amory continues his search for inner peace. He is penniless, and seeks employment. After Darcy's death, Amory realizes that his own unselfishness is the “the most living part” of himself, and considers his total experience at 24: “‘I know myself,’ he cried, ‘but that is all.’”

Subjects: Literature

Reference entries

F. Scott Fitzgerald (1896—1940) American novelist