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This Side of Paradise | Discussion Questions 21 - 30

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In This Side of Paradise, what is the significance of Amory Blaine comparing himself to the "primal honesty" of Burne Holiday and Kerry Holiday in Book 1, Chapter 4?

Amory Blaine has a deep fascination with his "fundamental self," so it comes as no surprise that he is equally fascinated by other people's "primal honesty": how they express their most authentic selves. In this moment, Amory is observing Burne Holiday, a fellow student whom Amory admires who chooses to leave Princeton due to his political convictions against World War I. Burne's brother, Kerry, had previously enlisted in the war due to his sense of personal conviction. Amory is struck by the similarity of the two brothers' different convictions and how they are a reflection of both men's honest selves. Observing their actions causes Amory to wonder if he possesses the same kind of "primal honesty"—something that he's not convinced he does. Amory is constantly assessing himself in this way, wondering if he is being authentic or not, so he is curious about whether this applies to other people.

In the Interlude of This Side of Paradise, what is the significance of Monsignor Darcy telling Amory that "you will never again be quite the Amory Blaine that I knew"?

This speculation by Monsignor Darcy comes in a letter he writes to Amory Blaine while Amory is stationed on Long Island during the war. Monsignor Darcy and Amory have a special, familiar relationship, and so Monsignor Darcy is highly attuned to Amory's personality and development. Knowing Amory as he does, Monsignor Darcy speculates here that the war will change Amory in a fundamental way, whether he realizes it or not. He attributes this to the fact that Amory's "generation is growing hard, much harder than mine ever grew," and so Amory will be an unfortunate byproduct of it. Monsignor Darcy isn't ultimately wrong, although Amory makes no mention of the war affecting him in any way in this section, or for some time to come. Though he almost never speaks of his experience, he does make comments throughout the rest of the novel regarding the ways in which his generation seems to have changed after the war.

In This Side of Paradise, what is the effect of the reader not being able to witness Amory Blaine's time at war in the Interlude?

It is striking for the reader to not have any of Amory Blaine's deep insights about his wartime experience as a soldier. There are only two letters—one from Monsignor Darcy to him and one from him to Thomas Parke D'Invilliers—from which to glean any of Amory's emotions or experiences, and Amory rarely mentions it directly when the novel resumes. This structural technique on F. Scott Fitzgerald's part is designed to leave the reader to fill in the blanks, studying any changes in Amory afterward and applying them to his experience. Because Amory seemed disinterested in the war before he was enlisted, the reader gets the sense that he wasn't invested in its outcome or passionate about its cause, but it's undeniable that it must have affected him in some formative way. In the novel's final pages, Amory finally mentions a brief memory of being in battle. This suggests that his realization that he can rely only on "self-knowledge" might be connected to his ability to recall and process his experience in the war.

In Book 2, Chapter 1 of This Side of Paradise, what is the effect of having the form of the novel change to that of a play?

F. Scott Fitzgerald's decision to shift the narrative structure of the novel to a play in Book 2, Chapter 1 is startling. By switching to a play, Fitzgerald highlights the artificiality and theatricality of the upper-class social world of the 1920s, as well as its conventions. The Connage house is an artificial, often superficial, setting as Rosalind Connage, a flapper, wearily brags about her conquests. But even as Rosalind rebels against authority, her relationship to love and marriage are being stage-managed behind the scenes. Rosalind's mother, Mrs. Connage, for example, watches closely to ensure her daughter's social debut is successful and that she attracts wealthy suitors. Switching the novel to a play also emphasizes the artificiality and theatricality of how Amory Blaine and Rosalind treat love at this point. They both conduct themselves as if they are playing a part in a play, constructions designed to entertain an audience with their sparkling sophistication and witty banter. And both are in the habit of treating their love affairs in a stagy, manipulative way, like shows they are putting on for their own benefit. Rosalind's and Amory's lovers are a means to an end for them, an ever-changing cast in an ongoing drama that is really about themselves and their sense of personal power. In the end, their love surpasses this kind of theatricality to become authentic, but the social realities of seeking money over happiness destroy their relationship when Rosalind decides to play the part her mother plans for her: to marry for money, not love.

What does Amory Blaine's experience in the aftermath of his and Rosalind Connage's breakup reveal about his state of mind in Book 2, Chapter 2 of This Side of Paradise?

Amory Blaine is deeply affected by his and Rosalind Connage's breakup in a way that he has never been by his previous love affairs. He allowed himself to fall deeply in love with Rosalind, becoming vulnerable in an experience that was new and different for him. The consequence of these deep feelings was a sense of deep and despairing hurt when it didn't turn out as he had hoped. In Book 2, Chapter 2, Amory turns to alcohol to cope and impulsively quits his job. He turns up back home after a few days covered in bruises, and tells Thomas Parke D'Invilliers that he "ought to get beaten up just for the experience of it." It's as though he needs his physical reality to match his emotional reality. His sense of self has been rattled, and as someone who is constantly assessing his own thoughts and emotions, he is unsettled by how unmoored he has become. He realizes that he only kept his job to appease Rosalind's family, and begins to harden his belief that he must never lose sight of his fundamental self again.

In Book 2, Chapter 2 of This Side of Paradise, in what ways does the narrator suggest that Amory Blaine's love for Rosalind Connage was different from his previous experiences?

The narrator states that "Amory had loved Rosalind as he would never love another living person." That statement seems dramatic because Amory Blaine is still very young, and the narrator suggests that Rosalind Connage was his first real love. As a consequence, she caught him off guard and took his innocence. Until Rosalind, Amory had always been able to present and control his image to the girls he fell for, but with her he had "gentleness and unselfishness that he had never given to another creature." Because he felt so exposed and vulnerable and consequently had his heart broken, Amory will never be that exposed and vulnerable again in order to avoid the risk of being hurt the same way. Rosalind wasn't just a convenient mirror for Amory—he cared for her deeply.

In This Side of Paradise, what does Amory Blaine mean when he says the war "sort of killed individualism out of our generation" in Book 2, Chapter 2?

In a discussion with Thomas Park D'Invilliers in Book 2, Chapter 2, Amory Blaine admits that "I'm more than bored; I am restless." When Thomas claims that love and war must have done him in, Amory actually disagrees—he says he doesn't think the war itself had any great effect on him or Thomas. But he does believe that the war "ruined the old backgrounds," and so their generation is fundamentally changed. Amory feels that the war has made life too huge and complex, given the vast scale it was fought on and the widespread destruction it left in its wake, including the loss of many young men like himself. His and Thomas's generation, a lost one, doesn't much care about individualism anymore after taking part in such massive destruction. In typical fashion, because he thinks the war might have "kill[ed] it out of the whole world," Amory worries that this change will get in the way of him fulfilling his overblown ambitions for success.

In Book 2, Chapter 4 of This Side of Paradise, why has Amory Blaine grown so disillusioned since he left Princeton?

In Book 2, Chapter 4, Amory Blaine has grown disillusioned since he left Princeton because of two formative events in his life: his return from the war and his breakup with Rosalind Connage. At Princeton, Amory rarely thought ahead to his future in anything other than vague terms, sure that he would become successful in an unconventional way. Rosalind is the first true love of Amory's life, and he longs to marry her. After the war, the loss of his family's wealth and his need to work at a conventional job destroy that illusion. His breakup with Rosalind also destroys his illusions about love and leaves him in terrible pain. As a result of both experiences, Amory is left feeling adrift and aimless. Here, F. Scott Fitzgerald offers a close-up portrait of what was deemed the "lost generation"—survivors of World War I who returned and felt skeptical and adrift in their lives.

What does Amory Blaine imply about his and Alec Connage's friendship after Amory takes the fall for him in Book 2, Chapter 4 of This Side of Paradise?

When Amory Blaine takes the fall for Alec Connage in Atlantic City regarding escorting a woman across state lines for "immoral purposes" (which was illegal under the Mann Act), he does so with a kind of smug satisfaction that he and Alec's friendship will never be the same again. Amory yearns to see himself as some kind of hero rather than commit the act as a true friend. He does it knowing that Alec will secretly resent him for it because it implies that Alec is too much of a coward to take the heat. For Amory, this seems like a stab at trying to reclaim his sense of self and of shaping his actions into a reflection of who he believes he wants to be. He doesn't care about the impact on his friendship but mostly how his "sacrifice" will be seen by others.

In Book 2, Chapter 4 of This Side of Paradise, how does Amory Blaine assess the poverty-stricken people he sees in the streets of New York City?

When Amory Blaine observes people on the streets of New York City in Book 2, Chapter 4, he finds that he is disgusted by their poverty. The narrator notes that "never before in his life had Amory considered poor people." This causes Amory to realize that he is "lacking in all human sympathy." Because Amory grew up wealthy and with everything that it afforded him, he never really had to consider anyone below his station, given how preoccupied he was with himself. Yet now that he has lost his wealth, Amory is closer than ever to the poor people who disgust him, and this recognition causes a sense of revulsion. It is as though by not feeling any sympathy for them, he does not have to identify with them. Amory recognizes that his reaction to the poor shows how flawed he is, but at this point he still lacks the ability to see himself in their situation or recognize their full humanity.

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