This Side of Paradise | Study Guide

F. Scott Fitzgerald

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This Side of Paradise | Book 2, Chapter 4 : The Education of a Personage (The Supercilious Sacrifice) | Summary

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Summary

In Atlantic City as Amory Blaine paces the boardwalk, he hears a voice call his name. It's Alec Connage, his former friend at Princeton University and brother to Rosalind. Alec invites Amory to join him and his friends on a drive, where they proceed to drink bourbon, which is still illegal under Prohibition laws. Alec asks Amory if he remembers their trip to New Jersey back in college, and Amory reminds Alec that three of their friends from then are now dead: Jesse Ferrenby, Dick Humbird, and Kerry Holiday.

Amory agrees to stay at Alec's hotel, and later that night they are woken up by hotel detectives pounding on the door. Alec and Jill emerge from the bathroom in pajamas. Alec realizes the detectives are there on a tip about his companion, Jill, and that he will be prosecuted under the Mann Act, which prosecutes those who transport a woman across state lines for "immoral purposes." Amory commands Alec to follow his instructions and proceeds to take the fall by pretending Jill is with him. The police tell Amory they won't prosecute him but that he will be mentioned in the newspaper as a warning.

A few days later, Amory spies the article in the paper, but he also sees an announcement for Rosalind's engagement to Dawson Ryder. Up until that moment Amory had always hoped that she would send for him and admit that their breakup was a mistake, but now he feels that the Rosalind of his past is dead to him. A few days later, Amory also receives a telegram that Monsignor Darcy has passed away.

Analysis

Amory Blaine's decision to take the fall for Alec Connage demonstrates the fact that he often makes decisions based on how he will be seen by others, not based on his own moral convictions. Amory wants to be seen as noble and finds a certain kind of romanticism in his decision to sacrifice himself for Alec's sake. But the outcome is not necessarily what Amory had hoped for—it seems to have little significance for Alec and doesn't seem to have much impact on their friendship.

Amory is also struck by the contrast between this visit to Atlantic City and the last one he made there with Alec and their friends years earlier. The narrator observes that "his youth seemed never so vanished as now in the contrast between the utter loneliness of this visit and that riotous, joyful party of four years before." This contrast marks the passage of time, both for Amory and the reader, and indicates how much has changed for him since then.

The pride that Amory feels in seeing his "mistake" advertised in the newspaper is eclipsed both by the revelations of Rosalind Connage's engagement and the death of Monsignor Darcy. Both seem to herald a symbolic death for these aspects of Amory: love and family. Amory will never love anyone the way he loved Rosalind, the love of his life, and Monsignor Darcy, who once told Amory that he considered them father and son. It's at this point that Amory's isolation also hits both himself and the reader—he has few people left to turn to for solace and support, and his money has dwindled as well. By all accounts he has hit bottom, and the reader must ponder whether or not Amory can make some kind of change for the better because he feels "that life had rejected him."

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