This Side of Paradise

( 47 )

Overview

Published in 1920, F. Scott Fitzgerald's first novel, This Side of Paradise, became the novel that defined an era and launched his literary career. This is the story of Amory Blaine, "romantic egotist," and his journey from prep school to Princeton to the First World War. This dazzling chronicle of youth and the Jazz Age remains bitingly relevant decades later.

The story of Amory Blaine's adolescence and undergraduate days at Princeton, This Side of Paradise captures...

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This Side of Paradise

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Overview

Published in 1920, F. Scott Fitzgerald's first novel, This Side of Paradise, became the novel that defined an era and launched his literary career. This is the story of Amory Blaine, "romantic egotist," and his journey from prep school to Princeton to the First World War. This dazzling chronicle of youth and the Jazz Age remains bitingly relevant decades later.

The story of Amory Blaine's adolescence and undergraduate days at Princeton, This Side of Paradise captures the essence of an American generation struggling to define itself in the aftermath of World War I and the destruction of "the old order."

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Fitzgerald's first novel, about a coterie of Princeton socialites, appears in a 75th anniversary edition. (Mar.)
From Barnes & Noble
This story of a privileged but aimless young man traces his formative years in the Midwest and at Princeton, then follows him as he is dumped unceremoniously into WWI and an everyday world at complete odds with his lofty aspirations.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781494961213
  • Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
  • Publication date: 1/10/2014
  • Pages: 160
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.34 (d)

Meet the Author

Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald (1896-1940) was an American author of novels and short stories, whose works are the paradigm writings of the Jazz Age, a term he coined himself. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest American writers of the 20th century. Fitzgerald is considered a member of the "Lost Generation" of the 1920s. He finished four novels, This Side of Paradise, The Beautiful and Damned, Tender is the Night and his most famous, The Great Gatsby. A fifth, unfinished novel, The Love of the Last Tycoon was published posthumously. Fitzgerald also wrote many short stories that treat themes of youth and promise along with despair and age. Novels such as The Great Gatsby and Tender is the Night were made into films, and in 1958 his life from 1937-1940 was dramatized in Beloved Infidel.
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Read an Excerpt

Book One
The Romantic Egotist
Amory, Son of Beatrice

Amory Blaine inherited from his mother every trait, except the stray inexpressible few, that made him worth while. His father, an ineffectual, inarticulate man with a taste for Byron and a habit for drowsing over the Encyclopædia Britannica, grew wealthy at thirty through the death of two elder brothers, successful Chicago brokers, and in the first flush of feeling that the world was his, went to Bar Harbor and met Beatrice O’Hara. In consequence, Stephen Blaine handed down to posterity his height of just under six feet and his tendency to waver at crucial moments, these two abstractions appearing in his son Amory. For many years he hovered in the background of his family’s life, an unassertive figure with a face half-obliterated by lifeless, silky hair continually occupied in “taking care” of his wife, continually harassed by the idea that he didn’t and couldn’t understand her.

But Beatrice Blaine! There was a woman! Early pictures taken on her father’s estate at Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, or in Rome at the Sacred Heart Convent–an educational extravagance that in her youth was only for the daughters of the exceptionally wealthy–showed the exquisite delicacy of her features, the consummate art and simplicity of her clothes. A brilliant education she had–her youth passed in renaissance glory, she was versed in the latest gossip of the Older Roman Families; known by name as a fabulously wealthy American girl to Cardinal Vitori and Queen Margherita and more subtle celebrities that one must have had some culture even to have heard of. Shelearned in England to prefer whiskey and soda to wine, and her small talk was broadened in two senses during a winter in Vienna. All in all Beatrice O’Hara absorbed the sort of education that will be quite impossible ever again; a tutelage measured by the number of things and people one could be contemptuous of and charming about; a culture rich in all arts and traditions, barren of all ideas, in the last of those days when the great gardener clipped the inferior roses to produce one perfect bud.

In her less important moments she returned to America, met Stephen Blaine and married him–this almost entirely because she was a little bit weary, a little bit sad. Her only child was carried through a tiresome season and brought into the world on a spring day in ninety-six.

When Amory was five he was already a delightful companion for her. He was an auburn-haired boy, with great, handsome eyes which he would grow up to in time, a facile imaginative mind and a taste for fancy dress. From his fourth to his tenth year he did the country with his mother in her father’s private car, from Coronado, where his mother became so bored that she had a nervous breakdown in a fashionable hotel, down to Mexico City, where she took a mild, almost epidemic consumption. This trouble pleased her, and later she made use of it as an intrinsic part of her atmosphere–especially after several astounding bracers.

So, while more or less fortunate little rich boys were defying governesses on the beach at Newport, or being spanked or tutored or read to from “Do and Dare,” or “Frank on the Mississippi,” Amory was biting acquiescent bell-boys in the Waldorf, outgrowing a natural repugnance to chamber music and symphonies, and deriving a highly specialized education from his mother.

“Amory.”
“Yes, Beatrice.” (Such a quaint name for his mother; she encouraged it.)
“Dear, don’t think of getting out of bed yet. I’ve always suspected that early rising in early life makes one nervous. Clothilde is having your breakfast brought up.”
“All right.”
“I am feeling very old today, Amory,” she would sigh, her face a rare cameo of pathos, her voice exquisitely modulated, her hands as facile as Bernhardt’s. “My nerves are on edge–on edge. We must leave this terrifying place tomorrow and go searching for sunshine.”

Amory’s penetrating green eyes would look out through tangled hair at his mother. Even at this age he had no illusions about her.

“Amory.”
“Oh, yes.”
“I want you to take a red-hot bath–as hot as you can bear it, and just relax your nerves. You can read in the tub if you wish.”

She fed him sections of the “Fêtes Galantes” before he was ten; at eleven he could talk glibly, if rather reminiscently, of Brahms and Mozart and Beethoven. One afternoon, when left alone in the hotel at Hot Springs, he sampled his mother’s apricot cordial, and as the taste pleased him, he became quite tipsy. This was fun for a while, but he essayed a cigarette in his exaltation, and succumbed to a vulgar, plebeian reaction. Though this incident horrified Beatrice, it also secretly amused her and became part of what in a later generation would have been termed her “line.”

“This son of mine,” he heard her tell a room full of awe-struck, admiring women one day, “is entirely sophisticated and quite charming–but delicate–we’re all delicate; here, you know.” Her hand was radiantly outlined against her beautiful bosom; then sinking her voice to a whisper, she told them of the apricot cordial. They rejoiced, for she was a brave raconteuse, but many were the keys turned in sideboard locks that night against the possible defection of little Bobby or Barbara. . . .

These domestic pilgrimages were invariably in state; two maids, the private car, or Mr. Blaine when available, and very often a physician. When Amory had the whooping-cough four disgusted specialists glared at each other hunched around his bed; when he took scarlet fever the number of attendants, including physicians and nurses, totalled fourteen. However, blood being thicker than broth, he was pulled through.

The Blaines were attached to no city. They were the Blaines of Lake Geneva; they had quite enough relatives to serve in place of friends, and an enviable standing from Pasadena to Cape Cod. But Beatrice grew more and more prone to like only new acquaintances, as there were certain stories, such as the history of her constitution and its many amendments, memories of her years abroad, that it was necessary for her to repeat at regular intervals. Like Freudian dreams, they must be thrown off, else they would sweep in and lay siege to her nerves. But Beatrice was critical about American women, especially the floating population of ex-Westerners.

“They have accents, my dear,” she told Amory, “not Southern accents or Boston accents, not an accent attached to any locality, just an accent”–she became dreamy. “They pick up old, moth-eaten London accents that are down on their luck and have to be used by some one. They talk as an English butler might after several years in a Chicago grand opera company.” She became almost incoherent– “Suppose–time in every Western woman’s life–she feels her husband is prosperous enough for her to have–accent–they try to impress me, my dear–”
Though she thought of her body as a mass of frailties, she considered her soul quite as ill, and therefore important in her life. She had once been a Catholic, but discovering that priests were infinitely more attentive when she was in process of losing or regaining faith in Mother Church, she maintained an enchantingly wavering attitude. Often she deplored the bourgeois quality of the American Catholic clergy, and was quite sure that had she lived in the shadow of the great Continental cathedrals her soul would still be a thin flame on the mighty altar of Rome. Still, next to doctors, priests were her favorite sport.

“Ah, Bishop Wiston,” she would declare, “I do not want to talk of myself. I can imagine the stream of hysterical women fluttering at your doors, beseeching you to be simpatico”–then after an interlude filled by the clergyman–

“but my mood–is–oddly dissimilar.”

Only to bishops and above did she divulge her clerical romance. When she had first returned to her country there had been a pagan, Swinburnian young man in Asheville, for whose passionate kisses and unsentimental conversations she had taken a decided penchant–they had discussed the matter pro and con with an intellectual romancing quite devoid of soppiness. Eventually she had decided to marry for background, and the young pagan from Asheville had gone through a spiritual crisis, joined the Catholic Church, and was now–Monsignor Darcy.

“Indeed, Mrs. Blaine, he is still delightful company–quite the cardinal’s right-hand man.”
“Amory will go to him one day, I know,” breathed the beautiful lady, “and Monsignor Darcy will understand him as he understood me.”

Amory became thirteen, rather tall and slender, and more than ever on to his Celtic mother. He had tutored occasionally–the idea being that he was to “keep up,” at each place “taking up the work where he left off,” yet as no tutor ever found the place he left off, his mind was still in very good shape. What a few more years of this life would have made of him is problematical. However, four hours out from land, Italy bound, with Beatrice, his appendix burst, probably from too many meals in bed, and after a series of frantic telegrams to Europe and America, to the amazement of the passengers the great ship slowly wheeled around and returned to New York to deposit Amory at the pier. You will admit that if it was not life it was magnificent.

After the operation Beatrice had a nervous breakdown that bore a suspicious resemblance to delirium tremens, and Amory was left in Minneapolis, destined to spend the ensuing two years with his aunt and uncle. There the crude, vulgar air of Western civilization first catches him–in his underwear, so to speak.

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Table of Contents

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Foreword

1. In her introduction, Susan Orlean says that, like everything else Fitzgerald wrote, This Side of Paradise is “a treatise about class.” Do you agree? How does Fitzgerald’s preoccupation with class inform his writing? Why is Amory so obsessed with social status?

2. Many critics have dismissed the novel’s episodic structure. What do you think of Fitzgerald’s organization of plot and theme? Does his arrangement, or lack thereof, in any way effectively convey the restlessness of Amory and his contemporaries? What did you ultimately come away with at the novel’s conclusion?

3. Discuss the importance of all things romantic in the novel. Are the romantic pursuits of Amory and his friends primarily satisfying or disillusioning? How does money, or the lack of it, play a part in the pursuit of love? Would you characterize Amory as cynical about love?

4. When first published, This Side of Paradise defined and catalyzed the youth movement of the 1920s. How does Fitzgerald’s forthrightness on the vagaries of youth in 1920 strike you as a reader today?

5. At the conclusion of the novel, Fitzgerald describes a new generation “grown up to find all Gods dead, all wars fought, all faiths in man shaken.” To what extent is this true? What part does World War I play in the consciousness and actions of Fitzgerald’s characters?

6. Discuss the significance of religion in the novel. Amory often raises questions of faith, good versus evil, and sacrifice. What does he conclude? What role does Monsignor Darcy play in Amory’s developing moral identity? What is Amory’s vocation?

7. Is This Side ofParadise in any way a tragic novel? How does it attempt to explain tragedy or loss? Do you think Fitzgerald intended a mournful or ultimately hopeful perspective? Why or why not?

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Reading Group Guide

1. In her introduction, Susan Orlean says that, like everything else Fitzgerald wrote, This Side of Paradise is “a treatise about class.” Do you agree? How does Fitzgerald’s preoccupation with class inform his writing? Why is Amory so obsessed with social status?

2. Many critics have dismissed the novel’s episodic structure. What do you think of Fitzgerald’s organization of plot and theme? Does his arrangement, or lack thereof, in any way effectively convey the restlessness of Amory and his contemporaries? What did you ultimately come away with at the novel’s conclusion?

3. Discuss the importance of all things romantic in the novel. Are the romantic pursuits of Amory and his friends primarily satisfying or disillusioning? How does money, or the lack of it, play a part in the pursuit of love? Would you characterize Amory as cynical about love?

4. When first published, This Side of Paradise defined and catalyzed the youth movement of the 1920s. How does Fitzgerald’s forthrightness on the vagaries of youth in 1920 strike you as a reader today?

5. At the conclusion of the novel, Fitzgerald describes a new generation “grown up to find all Gods dead, all wars fought, all faiths in man shaken.” To what extent is this true? What part does World War I play in the consciousness and actions of Fitzgerald’s characters?

6. Discuss the significance of religion in the novel. Amory often raises questions of faith, good versus evil, and sacrifice. What does he conclude? What role does Monsignor Darcy play in Amory’s developing moral identity? What is Amory’s vocation?

7. Is This Side ofParadise in any way a tragic novel? How does it attempt to explain tragedy or loss? Do you think Fitzgerald intended a mournful or ultimately hopeful perspective? Why or why not?

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 47 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(14)

4 Star

(21)

3 Star

(8)

2 Star

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1 Star

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 47 Customer Reviews
  • Posted November 24, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    This is what Fitzgerald should be known for!

    I have read this inumerable times! My all time favorite book, especially by my favorite author. Never quite understood how The Great Gatsby can overshadow this amazing work of literature! The life of Amory Blaine is fascinating, following through his school days, the reader actually feels like they are there with him. Highly reccomended to anyone and everyone!

    7 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 12, 2012

    Fascinating Glimpse into the 1920s

    Fitzgerald's semi-autobiographical novel was utterly fascinating; as a 22 year old, I find it baffling that someone my age could have written such a cutting and spot-on description of everyday life. I could go into the fact that he was one of the first truly modern authors, how he is one of America's greatest authors, etc. but what I found most powerful was that his work is still relevant today. I've been in similar situations, I've felt the same way Amory felt (in relation to being better than everyone, in relation to "acting" at being into someone) which serves to highlight how timeless this novel truly is. I was captivated from start to end.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 26, 2011

    Not a clear ebook

    Download another version, this one has too many typos to be clearly understood.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 25, 2006

    An American Classic

    F. Scott Fitzgerald's picture of the 'jazz age' is not unlike much of today's more youthful generations. While this book is overshadowed by 'The Great Gatsby'it definitely should be read. It gives us a little insight to what the generation before WWI was up to before the depression and WWII.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 28, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Fitzgerald is one of the staple writers of American Literature,

    Fitzgerald is one of the staple writers of American Literature, especially for Modern American Literature. Fitzgerald is probably best known for his Beautiful and the Damned and The Great Gatsby, both of which are superb books.
    I feel like I am losing a sense of who I am by writing a review of a great writer here. Who am I to judge Fitzgerald in all his greatness and the skills he has mastered as a superb writer? I, who has not published anything is judging Fitzgerald's first novel. How pretentious?
    IF I am not wrong Fitzgerald wrote this book when he was in his early twenties and still inexperienced. However I feel that we must judge each book separately with it's own merits and not against other comparisons; whether it be against other writers or the other works of that particular writer. It is true there are some flaws with this book; but let's be honest, which book doesn't? There are no perfect books on which everyone will agree on. Everyone's best of classics will always be different.

    I however love this book. The characters are well designed and it reflects the 1920s through a young artist's eyes who is in the work of becoming one, though not yet one. The heartaches, the difficulties, mentalities and thought patters are carefully observed and presented, not always in the clearest way, however always there. Amory's awakening feels real, happening not in a fast paced story that seems to be based on too many coincidences. We don't just hit a wall and then a bulb doesn't go off in our heads. The influence of his parents, particularly of his mother, his religious mentor, his friends and the countless women who go in and out of his life. They all shape him separately in different directions in which his confusion becomes profound and relatable. Descriptions, monologues are enlightening, creative and original. No body does the Jazz era better than Fitzgerald, with hits glam and it's gloom.

    So, what was wrong with it? I don't think at any given time a student at Yale could be so carefree without having to work so hard at his studies. Sometimes the plot doesn't feel as established, solid and well planned out. There aren't always particularly something happening, or something being set up. (not that all plots needs to be this way, however for a novel of this length, sometimes it makes a reader feel like the writer is just dragging it on and is not authorized) to write the book. Some characters don't always seem to particularly have a purpose of being there. The book could have been shorter, the space utilized more efficiently. All in all though, it's a great book that is to be recommended.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 29, 2006

    Wowza!

    This book is such a classic! In the first chapter, which is conveinently segregated into titled bits, I got this feeling of literary genius. I immediately got this groovy Catcher and the Rye sensation right when the main character, Amory Blaine, began an in depth analysis upon all his education. Amory Blaine is such an amazingly conceited and zealous character he thinks he is completely amazing when in reality he is a lazy optimist, this is where the reader picks up hillarious emotions that allow loud outbursts of laughter. I absolutely adore this novel what a feat from F. Scott Fitzgerald. I dare yell OUTSTANDING!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 18, 2009

    Impressed in some ways.

    I really liked the characters, they were interesting and well set. The plot was a bit stale and depressing, but very stimulating and thought-provocative. Overall I liked it.

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 31, 2007

    It's recommended

    I recently finished this novel on my spare time. I found this story ok but not great. Some parts were boring and some were a little hard to understand. But if you just like really concentrate on the story, then I'm sure you can successfully complete it. Fitzgerald is a very creative writer and i just love the jazz age [ 1920's]

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 20, 2006

    The Egotist Becomes a Personage.

    The criticism that Paradise begins well and ends poorly is evidence of a misunderstanding. There is a natural build up of the bizarre social mold, not just of the upper class, but by America in general. Slightly slow to take off from the gate, this novel makes up for, in its second half, all that it missed as it idly drifted and set up in the beginning chapters. More than simply a ¿youth novel¿, as most reviewers have claimed, I found this to be an accurate criticism of the mass media driven rat race that we continue to live in today, more than 75 years after the book was first published. If I could give this piece three stars for a mediocre start and six for an excellent finish, that would be the only accurate review. It is absolutely worth picking up if you are young, have ever been young, or have ever done any small amount of thinking.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 10, 2006

    That Side of Paradise

    Started off with promise but had to make myself finish the last few chapters of this youth novel.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 19, 2004

    Caitlin's Review of 'This Side of Paradise'

    F. Scott Fitzgerald's 'This Side of Paradise' met with popular acclaim for its creative technique. Fitzgerald was one of few authors at the time who was able to capture a period of American history and paint a portrait of the new youth culture. He saw through the glamourous lifestyle to its morality of emptiness. This novel is a character study of the protagonist Amory Blaine. Throughout the novel, Amory attempts to make peace with himself and find his place in society. Several times in the novel, Amory reflects what has influenced his development the most. He eventually arrives to the conclusion on his road to self realization that convention, women, and money are the main elements that have influenced his life. Raised by an unconventional mother, Beatrice, Amory tries to correct her influence by indulging conformity. Eventually he discovers that a life full of conformity is full of emptiness and attempts to get back on the path of individuality. After many love affairs, Amory falls head over heels in love with Rosalind, sister of a former friend. Rosalind breaks Amory's heart by refusing to marry someone without great wealth. Amory Blaine eventually abandons women as a source of inspiration. By the end of the novel, Blaine finds himself penniless because of bad investments and no inheritance. With no money, Amory has to look harder for the meaning of life finding a source of guidance within himself. The last line of this novel, 'I know myself, ' ... 'but that is all,' sums up the theme of the entire book. Mistakes are defined as experience.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 7, 2004

    Gorgeous

    This is a young book, but it doesn't disappoint. The prose is absolutely gorgeous. Fitzgerald had a perfect pitch for the language that rivals that of his hero Keats... Of Gatsby and TSOP, Gertrude Stein said: 'Here we are and have read your book [The Great Gatsby] and it is a good book. I like the melody of your dedication ['Once again to Zelda'] it shows that you have a background of beauty and tenderness and that is a comfort. The next good thing is that you write naturally in sentences and that too is a comfort. You write naturally in sentences and one can read all of them and that among other things is a comfort... You make a modern world and a modern orgy strangely enough it never was done until you did it in 'This Side of Paradise.' My belief in 'This Side of Paradise' was alright.'

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 10, 2004

    Amazing Character

    Amory was a famously well written character. I found myself enthralled in his life watching those he knew through his eyes. Fitzgerald's style of writing is flavorful.

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    Posted April 25, 2010

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    Posted December 11, 2008

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    Posted January 14, 2009

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    Posted January 11, 2011

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    Posted October 14, 2008

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    Posted July 13, 2013

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    Posted December 26, 2011

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