This Side of Paradise | Study Guide

F. Scott Fitzgerald

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This Side of Paradise | Book 2, Chapter 2 : The Education of a Personage (Experiments in Convalescence) | Summary

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Summary

Dazed after Rosalind Connage ends their relationship, Amory Blaine wanders into a bar and checks his watch so that he knows the exact day and time their love affair ended. An old acquaintance from Princeton, Jim Wilson, recognizes him and assumes that Amory is already drunk. He isn't, but proceeds to get drunk. He wakes up in an unfamiliar hotel and immediately orders more alcohol from room service. He remembers the previous day with Rosalind and begins to weep. He continues to go out and drink in bars all day, acting erratically and telling people that he plans to commit suicide the next day.

A few days later, Amory walks into work and announces that he is quitting. He returns to his apartment. Thomas Parke D'Invilliers is shocked to see him covered in bruises from various fights he has gotten into during the last few days while he's been drinking. He tells Thomas he "ought to get beaten up just for the experience of it." Thomas says he's been trying to track Amory down, to no avail. Back in his room, Amory boxes up all of his mementos of Rosalind, then leaves again to continue drinking.

In 1920, an amendment to the U.S. Constitution forbidding the production or sale of liquor began to be enforced. Called Prohibition, it puts a sudden stop to Amory's ceaseless drinking. Amory feels indifferent about it—neither remorse for what has transpired nor regret that it can't continue. While he believes he wouldn't recommend his course of action to anyone else, he also believes that it got him over his immediate sense of heartbreak. Even though Amory has loved other women, his love for Rosalind was different—she was more than just a mirror of his moods, and the end of their relationship decimates him, making him unable to simply walk away from it.

Amory tries to track down Monsignor Darcy but instead ends up having lunch with one of his devotees, Mrs. Lawrence. He tells her that he is "rather pagan at present," because religion doesn't seem to be important at his age. After leaving, Amory feels revived for the first time in a long while. Upon returning home, he feels his life settle "back into an ambitionless normality." His experiences in love and war have made him restless. Amory reflects that it has only been five months since he met Rosalind and already it is hard for him to visualize the person he was before he met her.

He receives a letter from Monsignor Darcy, who declares that he is worried about Amory and deduces that his engagement to Rosalind was making him unhappy. Suddenly Thomas's mother falls ill, and he and Amory are forced to sublet their apartment so Thomas can care for her, while Amory attempts to visit Monsignor Darcy in Washington. On the way back, he stops in Maryland, where he stays for two months after he meets a girl named Eleanor Savage.

Analysis

The emotional aftermath of Amory Blaine's breakup with Rosalind Connage is unprecedented for him. He seemed to lose himself in the relationship, and it's as though, for the first time, he is unable to coldly push his emotions away. His reaction to their breakup, including drinking to excess, threatening suicide, and recklessly quitting his job, shows how thoroughly off-kilter he has become.

However, for the first time Amory seems to realize how much his friendships mean to him, as Thomas Parke D'Invilliers is one of the only people who worries about him and tries to keep him safe and sane. F. Scott Fitzgerald alludes that worse things might have happened if Thomas had not intervened on Amory's behalf. Although Monsignor Darcy offers him a fatherly kind of support, it is distant, while Thomas's support is close and constant. More importantly, Thomas is not judgmental about Amory's actions, providing him with the kind of stable, unconditional love that Amory has always yearned for in some form.

Only the introduction of Prohibition puts a stop to Amory's destructive drinking binge, as Fitzgerald inserts another actual historical event, along with World War I, into the novel, revealing how culture and politics influence the outcomes of individual lives. Even though Amory is indifferent to Prohibition's impact on his drinking, he still remains tormented over Rosalind, indicating that he probably would have continued his self-destruction through drinking if Prohibition hadn't ended his ability to do so.

Amory's decision to quit his job, even in light of the harsh reality of his finances, underscores his delusions about himself and the world. Amory wants to be rich and successful, but he doesn't seem to understand the hard work that it will entail, again falling short of the meaning of his name. He doesn't seem to ever consider the long-term consequences of his actions, choosing to float from fantasy to fantasy that he can disengage from at any time. Yet on some level, Amory is aware of how his lack of wealth impacts his reality—it is one of the reasons that Rosalind was hesitant to marry him. However, quitting his job also signifies his rejection of the "conventional" life that marrying Rosalind would have required him to have; therefore, he can return to being himself.

Perhaps Fitzgerald shows this decision because it is what Amory must learn: to not lose sight of himself in the face of love or else he will be thoroughly destroyed. Yet Fitzgerald suggests that Amory also needed to learn this from Rosalind: that she "brought from his unplumbed depths tenderness that had surprised him, gentleness and unselfishness that he had never given to another creature." Through loving Rosalind and mourning the death of their relationship, Amory is finally able to release some of his egotism through caring for another person.

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