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Published in 1920, “This Side of Paradise” is the debut novel of F. Scott Fitzgerald.
And, to quote an early review, it is a great study “of the contemporary American in adolescence and young manhood.”
The fascinating thing:
It seems that, even a century later, not that much has changed for a twenty-year-old wannabe writer!
The questions still the same, the answers ever evasive.
Who Should Read “This Side of Paradise”? And Why?
Even though it’s not “The Great Gatsby,” “This Side of Paradise” is still F. Scott Fitzgerald and F. Scott Fitzgerald will always be considered one of the greatest writers America has ever produced.
So, not reading something he has written is not exactly an option if you are even remotely interested in literature.
F. Scott Fitzgerald Biography
F.Scott Fitzgerald was the leading American author of the Jazz Age and one of the most prominent members of America’s Lost Generation.
During his immensely vibrant life – framed between an iconic relationship with Zelda Sayre and numerous disturbing drinking episodes before his premature death at the age of 44 – he managed to write 164 short stories and four exceptional novels: “This Side of Paradise,” “The Beautiful and Damned,” “The Great Gatsby,” and “Tender Is the Night.”
An icon of his times and age, Fitzgerald is widely regarded today as one of the greatest writers in the history of the English language.
He had courted her for a year – charming her with constant talks of his plans to be a famous and beloved writer – but by the summer of 1919, Zelda decided to break up with him.
A couple of hundred drinks later, Fitzgerald realized that he had one final ace in the sleeve: actually becoming a famous writer!
So, by the end of the summer of 1919, he completed the manuscript of “This Side of Paradise” and started begging his editor to release the book as quickly as possible:
I have so many things dependent on its success – including of course a girl.
“This Side of Paradise” was eventually published on March 26, 1920.
Eight days later, Francis and Zelda were married.
And you thought that books are overrated!
Anyway, we told you the above story because “This Side of Paradise” is – much like Hemingway’s “The Sun Also Rises” – basically roman à clef.
In other words, without too much of a fear that you’ll be making a mistake, you can safely read F. S. Fitzgerald where we write Amory Blaine, Zelda Sayre instead of Rosalind Connage, and Ginevra King for Isabelle Borgé.
As for the beautiful title – Fitzgerald has a knack for choosing the right, unforgettable title – it’s taken from the last verses of Rupert Brooke’s poem “Tiare Tahiti”:
Dive and double and follow after,
Snare in flowers, and kiss, and call,
With lips that fade, and human laughter
And faces individual,
Well this side of Paradise!…
There’s little comfort in the wise.
“This Side of Paradise” is divided into three parts:
Book One: The Romantic Egotist
Amory Blaine is a spoiled kid from Minnesota with an eccentric mother named Beatrice.
The perfect recipe for developing a grandiose ego founded on a shallow knowledge of the world and a keen interest in the art of impressing people.
Amory attends boarding school and, despite his laziness earns grades good enough to grant him acceptance at Princeton.
He befriends Monsignor Darcy – a close friend of his mother – who, in time, becomes his spiritual mentor.
At Princeton, Amory spends most of his time writing baroque poems and basically expecting to fail so that he is able to learn something more about life. Back in Minneapolis, he starts a romantic relationship with Isabelle Borgé, a girl he had once met as a little boy.
However, the relationship ends once the couple meets once again at Amory’s prom.
The Great War starts, and following the break-up with Isabelle, Amory is shipped overseas to serve in the U. S. Army.
We don’t really learn too much about Amory’s experiences in the war (all we know is that he was, at least for some time, a bayonet instructor), but we are fairly sure that Amory is lucky to return from it alive.
This Side of Paradise Epilogue
Book Two: The Education of a Personage
Once back, Amory becomes obsessed with a question all of us have tried answering at least once in a while: what is the meaning of life?
More often than not, the answer “love” is not scoffed at.
In the case of Amory, the name of love after the war is Rosalind Connage, a lovely New Yorker modeled after Zelda Sayre, who resembled her – as Fitzgerald famously wrote to her once – “in more ways than four.”
However, much like Zelda, Rosalind is not that interested in marrying Amory – at least not until he becomes someone successful.
So, she breaks up with him and decides to go for a wealthy man instead.
To make matters worse, Amory learns that even his mentor, Monsignor Darcy, has died.
The only comfort he has during this time is alcohol and for the next year or so, he does nothing else but drowning his sorrow in booze.
At least temporarily, Amory is saved by the Prohibition.
However, on a more permanent basis, Fitzgerald speaks of no salvation for Amory whatsoever. In fact, this is how the last paragraph of the book reads:
And he could not tell why the struggle was worthwhile, 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.’
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“This Side of Paradise PDF Quotes”
I'm not sentimental – I'm as romantic as you are. The idea, you know, is that the sentimental person thinks things will last – the romantic person has a desperate confidence that they won't. Click To Tweet
Our Critical Review
Soon after it was published, H. L. Mencken – all that you need to know about him is that he wasn’t that generous when it came to compliments – wrote: “’This Side of Paradise’ is… the best American novel that I have seen of late.”
True, just a few years later, it will not even be the best one written by its author, but, nevertheless – especially retrospectively – 2This Side of Paradise” is quite an event in the history of American literature.
And Fitzgerald’s exquisite style and meticulous analysis of traits such as egotism and narcissism make the book both a darling for specialized researchers and general readers alike!
For more than one good reason!