This Side of Paradise | Study Guide

F. Scott Fitzgerald

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Course Hero. "This Side of Paradise Study Guide." March 13, 2017. Accessed November 15, 2018.


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This Side of Paradise | Plot Summary

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The novel begins by characterizing the childhood and upbringing of its protagonist, Amory Blaine, born in 1896. Amory is raised primarily by his mother, Beatrice, who is beautiful and well educated but mentally unstable at times. Amory spends much of his childhood in a nomadic existence traveling the world, but after he is hospitalized with a burst appendix, Beatrice has a nervous breakdown and sends Amory, now 13, to live with his aunt and uncle in Minnesota. There, Amory attends school, where he has a difficult time being accepted by his peers due to his snobbery. In Minneapolis, Amory develops his first fleeting romance with a girl named Myra St. Claire, whom he quickly spurns after they kiss for the first time.

Amory begins to develop his own philosophy about himself, which he dubs "aristocratic egotism." He believes that he is smarter and more charming than most people, as he begins to understand the magnetic effect he has on girls. After visiting Beatrice in Lake Geneva, he tells her that living in Minneapolis has taught him how to become conventional in order to fit in. Beatrice agrees that he can go away to boarding school, but she also introduces him to her friend Monsignor Darcy as a kind of spiritual adviser, and he and Amory become very close friends. After his education at St. Regis preparatory school, Amory decides to attend Princeton University in New Jersey.

At Princeton, Amory is again dogged by unpopularity, though he slowly begins to make friends whom he aims to impress in order to climb the social ladder. After his troubles at St. Regis, he is determined to find his place at Princeton. World War I begins in 1914, not long after he begins his freshman year; it doesn't seem to have a direct effect on Amory, who finds it boring. During his winter break, he reunites with a girl from his youth, Isabelle Borge, and the two fall in love. Upon his return to Princeton, Amory spends a wild weekend with his friends in Atlantic City that is marred by tragedy when one of them, Dick Humbird, dies in a car accident.

Amory pushes aside his feelings of horror, however, so that he can attend his prom with Isabelle the next day. He accompanies her to Long Island with her family over the summer, but the two get in a fight and break up. Back at Princeton, Amory begins failing his classes and learns about his family's dwindling finances after his father passes away. His friends begin enlisting in the war. On a drunken escapade in New York City, Amory has a frightening hallucinatory experience in which he believes he has seen the devil, who bears Dick Humbird's face.

During his last two years at Princeton, two relationships significantly influence Amory: he finds inspiration in Burne Holiday, who becomes a pacifist, and he falls in love with Clara Page, a distant widowed cousin. Burne's progressive ideas and his honesty cause Amory to question his own beliefs, and Clara's rejection of Amory causes him to question his own sense of self-worth because she is the first girl to resist his charms.

In search of a higher purpose for his life, Amory enlists to serve in the war. His experience is chronicled through two letters—one that he sends to his friend Thomas and another he receives from Monsignor Darcy, but neither mention anything of what he witnessed or how it affected him. The letters do reveal the death of his mother, Beatrice, as well as of his friend from Princeton, Kerry Holiday, who also enlisted and has been killed in the war.

Upon his return to New York, Amory stays with the family of his friend from Princeton, Alec Connage. Amory meets Alec's sister Rosalind and is instantly smitten with her, and the two fall quickly in love. In the hope of impressing her enough to marry him, Amory takes a job he hates at an advertising agency, but Rosalind's mother warns her that he is too poor to marry. Ultimately, Rosalind ends their relationship because of this, which devastates Amory and sends him into a tailspin of drinking and violence.

This episode comes to an end with the introduction of Prohibition, or laws against alcohol. Amory quits his job, even though his finances are dwindling. He is also forced to move out of his apartment with Thomas after Thomas's mother falls ill. On his way to visit Monsignor Darcy, he stops in Maryland where he falls in love with a girl named Eleanor, and stays for two months. Their relationship ends, too, after Eleanor proves dangerously unstable. Amory ends up alone and forlorn in Atlantic City, where he runs into Alec Connage and takes the fall for him in a police case involving the Mann Act, which forbids taking women across state lines for "immoral purposes." While reading about himself in the newspaper, Amory also sees two other pieces of devastating news: Rosalind is engaged, and Monsignor Darcy has passed away.

Amory attends Monsignor Darcy's funeral and finds himself alone again in New York, penniless and yearning to return to Princeton, which he sets off for on foot. He is picked up and given a ride by two men, one of whom turns out to be the father of his Princeton friend Jesse Ferrenby, who has died in the war. Amory reveals his beliefs about politics, culture, and life to the men. Once he is back at Princeton, he visits the tomb of a Civil War soldier. Amory realizes that he has been selfish, but he wants to transcend this state in his future life. He comes to the conclusion that the only thing he can really know in the world is himself.

This Side of Paradise Plot Diagram

123456789101112131415ClimaxResolutionIntroductionRising ActionFalling Action


1 Amory is raised by his mother, Beatrice.

Rising Action

2 Beatrice has a nervous breakdown.

3 Beatrice sends Amory to live with relatives in Minnesota.

4 Amory attends St. Regis preparatory school in Connecticut.

5 Amory attends Princeton University.

6 Amory falls in love and breaks up with Isabelle Borge.

7 Amory falls in love with Clara Page, who rejects him.

8 Amory enlists to serve in World War I.

9 Beatrice dies.

10 After the war, Amory falls in love with Rosalind Connage.


11 Rosalind breaks up with Amory.

Falling Action

12 Amory quits his job, although he has little money.

13 Amory has a summer love affair with Eleanor Savage.

14 Monsignor Darcy dies.


15 Amory returns to Princeton.

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