This Side of Fitzgerald’s Paradise

This Side of Paradise (1920). Francis Scott Fitzgerald

Beholden to read Fitzgerald’s first stumbling and jolting published novel This Side of Paradise, I kept contemporaneous literature in mind.  Only a few months ago, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Beautiful and Damned was completed due to the enjoyment derived from The Great Gatsby years earlier.  In the vacuum of time, his style and content resounded uniquely, yet Fitzgerald stuck to the elitist world and cliches he knew best, which limited his potential.  Predictable self-indulgence from his main protagonists, which were masks of himself, marred moments of literary greatness.

An intense insecurity regarding diminishing privilege follows Amory as he moves from prep school at the fictitious St. Regis to the dignified, stuffy ivy halls of Princeton University.  Quirky and unapologetic, Amory encounters criticism and dismissal from peers in the beginning before the same behaviors become lauded and imitated by classmates.  Operating on the fringe of society is the only time Amory finds comfort.  He casts aside any fragments of complacency or so-called normalcy.  Resigning from his copy editing position at an advertising firm knowing that his deceased father speculated with the family fortune inadvisedly shows a self-destructive determination to annihilate oneself.  World War I disillusioned youths forever changing the optimistic landscape.  Amory’s participation in the war was perfunctory, but several classmates died irreparably eschewing the protective shell highfalutin education implies.

Desolately romantic to most women yet sentimental about Rosalind, Amory plunges into alcoholism.  His charm and elevated theories add to the throngs of manifestos espoused by regular bar bums.  No matter his handsome facade, Amory is metaphysically in Stage 4 cancer.

Fitzgerald is exceptional in observational truisms.  He separates these nuggets of wisdom from his main character almost signalling the reality about knowing what is best and choosing the worst.  Apropos to life.  Fitzgerald’s own Greek tragedy of a life is a screenplay itself with mental illness in significant women connected to him and squandered talent due to egotism and inebriation.  He idolatrized classism while fighting against the same pillars of entitlement only to revel in its power once again.  At the novel’s conclusion, Fitzgerald’s philosophy spews out of Amory in a car ride scene that is common practice from socially minded authors.  The amount of preaching is forced and creates an exhaustion to the finish line.  Fitzgerald did not know how resolve his own feelings about the world so neither would his characters, principally Anthony Patch in The Beautiful and Damned and Amory Blaine of This Side of Paradise.

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