This Side of Paradise by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Jun 27, 2014 | by Becky Oeltjenbruns
For this month’s book club pick, we decided to re-read one of our favorite novels from our favorite writer: This Side of Paradise by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Reading it again brought fresh ideas to mind and that’s the sign of a great story: its ability to inspire you anew with each read. His talent with capturing the essence of youth is perhaps best seen in this work – his debut novel. Originally published in 1920 when Fitzgerald was a mere twenty three years old, it didn’t quite take the literary world by storm but laid the foundation for his future success.
The story is composed of three sections: The Romantic Egotist, Interlude from May 1917-February 1919, and The Education of a Personage. In the first book we are introduced to our protagonist Amory Blaine, a handsome, self-focused, and romantic young man leaving the warmth of his mom, Beatrice, to start his collegiate career. Fitzgerald perfectly conveys the joy of going to college (in his case Princeton), the excitement of starting a new chapter, the thrill from the first taste of independence, and the self-doubt that naturally comes with an unknown environment. Following Amory’s forays into friendship and romance, it’s easy to get drawn into the rhythm of Fitzgerald’s storytelling – the erratic nature reflects the ups and downs that we all can relate to in those “coming of age” years.
Fitzgerald always drew from real life when he fleshed out his characters and this tie back to reality makes their personalities tangible. The voice of encouragement, Monsignor Darcy, is designed around his own mentor, Monsignor Fay. Amory’s many loves included the flirty and superficial Isabelle Borgé (modeled after Fitzgerald’s socialite love, Ginerva King), Clara Page (perhaps too good for Amory and she knows it), Rosalind (a wild child), and Eleanor Savage (an even wilder child). In each romantic relationship Amory seeks out his ideal companion: the match to his shrouded insecurity. And in his relationship with Darcy he finds solace in finding someone who supports his interests and boosts his natural egotistical inclinations.
War interrupts Amory’s life, but it’s barely a blip on the radar for him. Fitzgerald shares poems and letters, none of which truly delve into the level of violence he may be witnessing. When we pick back up with him he is looking for work and finds it an ad agency. This chapter of his life starts out with even more doubt about the future with the underlying struggle over status, greed, and love continuing, much to his frustration. Set against the glamour and shine of the jazz age, the final words still grip us tightly: “And he could not tell why the struggle was worth while, why he had determined to use to the utmost himself and his heritage from the personalities he had passed… He stretched out his arms to the crystalline, radiant sky. “I know myself,” he cried, “but that is all.””
Cause A Frockus would like to thank their tremendous resources: F. Scott Fitzgerald and the people who post their imagery without restriction.
For our readers: What do you think about Amory’s last words “I know myself, but that is all.”