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F. Scott Fitzgerald: This Side of Paradise
Fitzgerald’s first novel is a clear Bildungsroman. It tells the story of Amory Blaine, a poor little rich boy, who ends up by growing up. He comes from a rich family and is brought up by his rich, elegant and imposing mother, Beatrice. The first stage in his education is when he leaves his mother to attend a posh prep school, St Regis. At school, his good looks and brains get him through, though he is lazy. He carries these habits over to Princeton, where he spends more time on the Daily Princetonian and other non-academic activities than on his studies. When World War I breaks out, he gives up his degree to enlist. While he is serving abroad, his mother dies. She leaves him little money. When he falls for Rosalind Connage, the sister of a college friend, as a good Fitzgerald heroine, she dumps him for a man with money. As a good Fitzgerald hero, he gets seriously drunk. But Amory is starting to grow up. Another affair and the death of Monsignor Darcy (based on Fitzgerald’s friend, Father Cyril Sigourney Webster Fay), a good friend of his mother, and the realisation that he is broke, have all helped make a man of him.
The book was successful on publication, not least because it seemed to portray a group of rebels. Of course, it now seems tame but is still a good read. Fitzgerald throws in all he has got – bits of drama, verse and short stories – which makes the structure seem daring when it is, perhaps, more haphazard than daring but still interesting. While Amory Blaine claims, at the end of the book, that he knows himself, we suspect that, like his creator, that might be an exaggeration but, also like his creator, he has made some progress.
First published 1920 by Scribner’s