The Beautiful and Damned | Study Guide

F. Scott Fitzgerald

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Course Hero. "The Beautiful and Damned Study Guide." June 14, 2019. Accessed September 30, 2023.


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The Beautiful and Damned | Plot Summary

See Plot Diagram


Book 1

The novel begins by introducing the reader to Anthony Comstock Patch and his family. Anthony's grandfather, Adam J. Patch, was a celebrated Union officer during the Civil War. Once the war was over, he made a fortune on Wall Street and then, at age 57, became a rabid social reformer. He and his wife, Alicia, had one child, Adam Ulysses Patch. Adam and his wife, Henrietta, held prominence in the New England social scene during the late 19th century. They had a son whom they named Anthony. Anthony's mother died when he was five, and his father died six years later. Adam J. Patch took charge of Anthony's upbringing, providing him with a private tutor during his midteen years and facilitating his acceptance to Harvard University.

It is now 1913 and Anthony is 25 years old. He has settled into an upscale apartment on Fifty-Second Street in New York City. He is living on the interest from the money his mother left him, anticipating the "golden day" when he will inherit his grandfather's fortune. Anthony has little interest in pursuing a career of any sort. His two closest friends are Maury Noble and Dick Caramel, both of whom he met at Harvard. Dick is fixated on a novel he is writing, and Anthony and Maury snipe to each other about their friend's obsession one evening over dinner. From there, the narrative digresses to a time seven years in the past. The scene is some ethereal realm, where a being called "The Voice" tells a spirit called "Beauty" that she will soon travel to a land where "ugly women control strong men." She will become known as a "flapper" and a "baby vamp" and will remain in this land for 15 years.

Back in the material world, debutante season (period where wealthy young women formally enter society) begins in November. Anthony is invited to nearly 100 coming-out parties. He has little conscious interest in finding a wife, but Dick Caramel wants to introduce him to Dick's cousin, Gloria Gilbert. One evening, the two go to the apartment where Gloria lives with her mother, Catherine, and father, Russel, but she is not home. Anthony later discovers that Maury has met Gloria at a party and found her attractive. Dick makes arrangements to bring Gloria to Anthony's apartment for dinner. Anthony finds her beautiful, and they meet again for tea. It goes well, but subsequent afternoon dates are infrequent and unsatisfactory. Finally, as Christmas approaches, Anthony convinces Gloria to have dinner with him. They end up afterward at a low-end cabaret, which Gloria insists is her kind of place.

Dick begins to suspect that Anthony is falling in love with Gloria. He discusses the matter with Catherine, Gloria's mother. Catherine says that she fears Gloria has gone from flightiness about men to complete disinterest in them. At a dinner party hosted by Catherine, Anthony meets Gloria's friends Muriel Kane and Rachael Jerryl. Gloria announces that she intends to host another dinner and wants them all, including her cousin Dick, to attend. She says she will also be inviting a man named Joseph Bloeckman, who works in the motion picture industry.

At the dinner, held at the Biltmore Hotel, the invitees drink and dance to a ragtime band. Gloria becomes bored and coaxes Anthony into taking her out for a taxi ride. They kiss. When they return, Bloeckman is aloof. The following day, Sunday, Anthony telephones Gloria. She is not in. He calls two more times and manages at last to reach and schedule another date with her. They meet on Tuesday afternoon and take a cold, unpleasant walk. Back in her apartment, Anthony asks her whether Bloeckman is in love with her. She says she does not know. They kiss for a while, but she loses enthusiasm. He leaves, irritated.

Anthony resolves to wait six weeks before contacting Gloria again. He passes some of that time with Geraldine Burke, a woman he likes but does not take seriously. At the end of the period, he asks Gloria out again. The two take a long walk and chat pleasantly. On the date that follows, he tells her that he loves her. She says she is glad. He asks her out a third time but she says she has plans. When he insists, she cancels her plans and meets him. They fall in love.

Book 2

After two weeks of steady dating, Anthony and Gloria make plans to wed in June. She tells him that Bloeckman was indeed in love with her. In fact, he had asked her to marry him, something she considered until she fell for Anthony.

Anthony tells his grandfather that he plans to marry. His grandfather is dubious about whether the two will able to keep themselves financially secure, but he also offers to let them use his home for the wedding. As the day approaches, Dick's novel, The Demon Lover, is published and becomes quite successful. On the evening of her bridal dinner, after receiving several fine gifts, Gloria sits alone in her bedroom. She reads through the "Line-a-day" diary she has kept for seven years and makes a final entry.

Anthony and Gloria wed and embark on a six-week honeymoon. Much of their passion fades during this period, although they remain in love. Gloria turns out to be nervous, selfish, and easily angered, and she begins to view Anthony as something of a coward. Upon their return to New York, they settle into Anthony's apartment but become bored with it. They decide to buy a car and simply drive until they find a nice place to rent for the summer. After an unfortunate but minor car accident in the town of Marietta, they decide upon a gray house there.

The following summer, they rent the same house. Gloria is nearly 24 now, and she panics frequently over her advancing age. One evening, while visiting friends in a nearby town, Anthony becomes quite drunk. A fight ensues, reaching full pitch by the time Anthony and Gloria reach the train station to return home. In full view of some locals, Gloria bites Anthony's thumb hard enough to draw blood. They take a taxi rather than a train back to Marietta and sleep apart that night. The next morning, they reconcile. Later that summer, Gloria fears she is pregnant but then discovers to their mutual relief she is not.

Irritated that Anthony has no interest in getting a job, Anthony's grandfather offers to set him up as a war correspondent for a newspaper. Anthony says he will consider it. A week later, Bloeckman pays them a surprise visit. Over drinks, Bloeckman offers to set up a screen test for Gloria. Anthony does not approve of the idea. After Bloeckman leaves, the two decide that neither of them will pursue the opportunities they are being offered. A few days later, while Anthony is out, Gloria spends an afternoon with Bloeckman. At first, Anthony is upset, but then he tells her, "I suppose I don't care."

By February, the couple has returned to Anthony's New York City apartment. Anthony's grandfather has secured him a job as a bond salesman. Anthony and Gloria go on a two-day drunken binge to commemorate the end of his period of idleness. He begins the job but quits it soon afterward. At the same time, the two come to realize that they bore each other. They compensate by kicking off a period of nonstop drunken revelry.

Three or four months later, Anthony and Gloria rent the gray house in Marietta for the third summer in a row. Their drinking and entertaining do not abate. In August, during an evening of alcoholic merriment that includes Anthony's friends Maury and Dick, Anthony's grandfather pays them an unexpected visit. Aghast at what he sees, Anthony's grandfather and his secretary Edward Shuttleworth immediately leave. The next morning, a hungover Anthony and Gloria panic over the possible repercussions of the incident. Anthony goes to his grandfather's home to smooth things over, but he is told that the old man is very ill and that visitors are not permitted. The couple writes Anthony's grandfather an apologetic letter, but it is not answered.

The couple returns to New York City with the realization that they are running out of money. The lease on their apartment is up for renewal at a much higher rate. Anthony again attempts to visit his grandfather and is again denied permission to see him. Soon thereafter, the old man dies.

A week after his death, Anthony discovers that his grandfather has disinherited him. He contacts a lawyer named Mr. Haight and begins preparations for contesting the will. He and Gloria are forced to move to a smaller apartment. World War I is in full swing, and Anthony applies for officer's training camp. He is rejected because of his low blood pressure. Bloeckman again offers Gloria a chance to enter the movie industry. Anthony objects, and he and Gloria quarrel violently.

Anthony's attempt to contest his grandfather's will is unsuccessful, and an appeal is filed. He is drafted into the infantry as a private because his blood pressure is no longer an issue. He catches the train to his training camp at Grand Central Station. Gloria arrives too late to see him off properly.

Book 3

After his first week at Camp Hooker, Anthony is allowed to visit a small town off base. There he meets Dorothy Raycroft, who goes by the nickname "Dot." Dot is 19 years old—Anthony is 30 at this point—and the two embark on an affair. Gloria seems "less real" to Anthony with each passing day, and in his letters he finds himself discouraging her from joining him at camp.

Anthony is promoted to corporal. That summer, rumors spread that his unit is about to be deployed to the German trenches. Instead, he receives orders for relocation to Camp Boone, Mississippi. Dot is distraught, and Anthony surprises himself by inviting her to come with him. Once there, Dot's unstable behavior—she is given to tantrums and threats of suicide—sparks a chain of events that results in Anthony's demotion and a stint in the guard house.

Almost immediately afterward, Anthony contracts influenza. Shortly after his recovery, his regiment is assigned combat duty in France. They are transferred to Camp Mills on Long Island for deployment overseas. Anthony's request for a furlough to visit Gloria is denied. The next day, however, the Armistice (a ceasefire or truce) with Germany is announced, and Anthony sneaks into New York City. When he reaches their apartment, Gloria is not there. The phone rings, and a man Anthony does not know tells him she is probably at an Armistice party at the Astor Hotel. Anthony finds her there and they embrace.

Anthony returns to Camp Mills where he and his regiment are put on a train back to Mississippi to be discharged from the military. He fears that Dot will be waiting for him at the train station, but he does not see her again. Two days later, Anthony and Gloria are reunited in New York City.

A resolution regarding Anthony's contest of his grandfather's will has not yet been reached, so Anthony and Gloria return to a life of drunken recklessness. At the same time, Gloria insists that Anthony find work. He gets a job selling shares door to door for a small business but cannot stay sober long enough to get through a single day. Gloria secretly contacts Bloeckman and asks him to arrange a screen test for her. He does, and three days after she takes it—on her 29th birthday—she is told that she has not gotten the part. She collapses in tears, certain she has lost her beauty.

Within another year or so, Anthony and Gloria's uncouth behavior and loss of social status have cost them most of their friends. They seldom if ever see even Dick or Maury. Virtually all they do is argue about money. One day, Anthony comes home and tells Gloria the bank is closing their account because he has written too many bad checks. He suggests she contact Bloeckman to see if he is still willing to arrange a screen test for her. She tells him that she took a screen test a year or so ago and was rejected. Despite the fact that Anthony had discouraged her from testing in the first place, he becomes angry at Bloeckman's "insolence."

Anthony takes the little cash they have and goes on a drinking binge, mooching drinks from acquaintances when the money is gone. Extremely drunk, he comes upon Maury getting into a cab with a female friend and asks him for money. Maury brushes him off, and he and the woman depart. Anthony then goes in search of Bloeckman and finds him at a hotel where he is hosting a dinner for friends. He berates the film executive for rejecting Gloria's screen test, calling him a "Goddam Jew." Bloeckman punches him in the face and has him thrown outside on the sidewalk. After a similarly unpleasant encounter with a man who offers to get him home, Anthony wakes up the next morning on the steps of his apartment building.

Three weeks later, Anthony and Gloria are informed that his grandfather's estate has been settled. The decision will be announced at four p.m. the next day. The couple agrees to meet at the courthouse. The next day, as he is preparing to leave, Anthony hears the doorbell ring. He opens the door and sees Dot, the woman with whom he had an adulterous affair while he was in the military. He tells her she must leave, but she refuses. He throws a heavy oak chair at her head and blacks out.

At five p.m., Gloria and her cousin Dick enter the apartment. There is no sign of Dot. Anthony is sitting on the floor playing with his stamp collection. They tell him that the court has awarded him $30 million from the estate. In a clearly unhinged frame of mind, he says, "You two get out—now, both of you. Or else I'll tell my grandfather."

The novel concludes at a point five months later. Anthony and a woman—most likely Gloria—are taking a cruise. He stands alone on the deck, and two other passengers gossip about him. They note that he has become "a little crazy" since inheriting the money from his grandfather. He travels with a private physician, perhaps in part as a reaction to Edward Shuttleworth's suicide. Anthony himself stands silently oblivious, contemplating how his perseverance has at last led him to the easy, idle life he was always meant to have.

The Beautiful and Damned Plot Diagram

Climax123456789Rising ActionFalling ActionResolutionIntroduction


1 Anthony grows up an orphan but is wealthy and educated.

Rising Action

2 Anthony is introduced to Gloria by his friend Dick.

3 After a tentative start, Anthony and Gloria fall in love.

4 Anthony and Gloria marry and live a life defined by excess.

5 Anthony serves in the military and has an affair.

6 Anthony comes home after the war and sinks into alcoholism.


7 The court awards Anthony $30 million.

Falling Action

8 Anthony has hallucinations and a mental breakdown.


9 Anthony and Gloria resume a wealthy, irresponsible life.

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