This Side of Paradise | Study Guide

F. Scott Fitzgerald

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This Side of Paradise | Book 2, Chapter 1 : The Education of a Personage (The Debutante) | Summary



This section of the novel takes the form of scenes from a play, with dialogue and set directions. In New York at Alec Connage's family house, his sisters, Cecelia and Rosalind, are getting ready to go out for the evening. Alec announces to his family that Amory Blaine has arrived to stay, and warns them that he is "temperamental." Cecelia says Rosalind can hold her own against any man and that men fall in love with her sister easily. She also notes that Rosalind "treats [men] terribly" when they do so.

Amory meets Rosalind Connage first, and the two are intrigued by each other. Amory tells her that he's "always afraid of a girl—until I've kissed her," then asks her to kiss him. She agrees, but after their kiss she asks him to leave. Rosalind's mother comes in and advises her about the men she should and shouldn't dance with that evening, and tells her she doesn't think she'll care for Amory because he doesn't have much money.

Downstairs at her party, Rosalind tells one of her suitors that he must win her over every time he sees her if he wants to keep her interest. Alec tells Cecelia Connage that he hopes Amory won't fall in love with Rosalind because she will only break his heart. Rosalind and Amory find each other again and confess their love for each other. Over the next few weeks, both seem to have forgotten their previous heartbreaks as they fall deeper in love.

In New York City, Amory begins working for an advertising agency, and he spends all his free time with Rosalind. After a few months, they begin to speak of marriage. Mrs. Connage complains to Rosalind about spending all her time with the "penniless" Amory. Rosalind is moody, and after her mother leaves and Amory enters, she bursts into tears. He responds that she is driving him crazy with her moods. He is also jealous of another suitor who has been calling on her, Dawson Ryder, but Rosalind reassures Amory that he's the only man she'll ever love. Amory asks her to marry him next week, but she refuses because he is too poor at the moment. She also notes that while she doesn't love Dawson, she respects him, and that she'd almost rather her time with Amory stay "a beautiful memory." She tells him that she'd make him hate her eventually. She hands him his ring back and tells him to go.


The title of Book 2, "Education of a Personage," echoes Monsignor Darcy's distinction between "personality" and "personage" in Book 1, Chapter 3. The title of Book 2 implies that Amory Blaine is now entering a new phase of his self-development. Rather than relying on personality to impress others or pursue grandiose illusions of success, Amory will move toward living more as his authentic self.

F. Scott Fitzgerald's choice to structure this section of the novel as a play forces the reader to observe the dialogue and actions at a distance, with no narrator to offer a glimpse into the thoughts and emotions of the characters. Characters are reduced to their words and gestures, becoming almost caricatures of themselves, as if they are characters in one of the witty plays about high society that Amory himself might see on Broadway.

With the introduction of Rosalind Connage, Fitzgerald reinforces the pattern of the women who attract Amory: fickle, charming, mysterious, and larger than life. Rosalind is portrayed as a seemingly independent young woman, a true "flapper," but her sister Cecelia Connage also ominously labels her a "vampire," or a kind of man-eater who disposes of men callously. It is easy to trace the thread back from Rosalind to Beatrice Blaine, whose rejection of Amory when she sends him away after her nervous breakdown sets up an emotional pattern for him that links love to instability. Both women are drawn to social status and are emotional, and for both, maintaining their lifestyles is more important than having a meaningful relationship with Amory. Rosalind also echoes his attraction to Isabelle Borge, who noted in Book 1, Chapter 2 that she anticipated she would see the boys in her life come and go.

The change in the novel's structure also signals a change in its protagonist. Amory falls so in love that he seems to surprise even himself. He no longer cares about his posturing and seems only to care about his genuine feelings for Rosalind. As for Rosalind, she claims he is the only man she'll ever love. Despite the fact that their love affair is presented in the form of a play, their love for each other appears authentic, not an act. When Rosalind breaks up with him because he isn't wealthy enough for her, he is devastated in a way he has never been before.

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