The plot of This Side of Paradise is about the development of the protagonist’s personality from egoism into ‘personage’. This will be described in a characterization further down.
However, other objectives are addressed as well. One main theme of the novel is to tell “the story of the youth of my generation” as F. Scott Fitzgerald puts it himself. He does this by describing the life of Amory Blaine, who is very much like the author. He faces the same problems and shares the same feelings as the author did in his youth, like idealism and the following disillusion, that not honor, but only money counts in our world.
In addition, the novel was the first to describe especially the changes in the lives of girls that had undergone during the First World War. His “flappers” were strong-willed, freethinking, and did all the things, their mothers did not do, like kissing every man they liked, drinking, smoking and even petting, while they were still supposed to be shy and completely unaware of their attractiveness to men.
Amory Blaine is a very selfish character. He thinks himself superior to anyone else and is strengthened in this believe by his mother and later by Monsignor Darcy. As he lives only for his values and does not care about bad marks nor that the students think him odd, he has many problems in school.
Later, at Princeton, he becomes more popular, because more students accept his values. He enjoys his popularity since it ensures him that he is a member of the ‘leading class’.
When his social rank sinks, he blames this on other people, as he always blames everything on other people. For example, in the end of his relation with Isabelle he says: “She’s spoiled my year!” (p. 86) instead of looking at himself.
Even when he sacrifices himself for Alec Connage in Atlantic City, he does this only for selfish reasons, as he expresses on his way back to Princeton:
“I am selfish. [...] There is no virtue of unselfishness that I cannot use. I can make sacrifices, be charitable, give to a friend, endure for a friend, lay down my life for a friend – all because these things may be the best possible expression of myself; yet I have not one drop of the milk of human kindness.” (p. 259)
Amory grows increasingly abstract to life, which he calls “mass life”, due to its lack of individualism. The only people he totally admires are Burne Holiday and Monsignor Darcy, but as he sees that they are of no real importance in the world, he concludes that not he, but the world must be wrong.
That is the reason, why he agrees with socialism in the end, since socialism, would improve his situation and thus would make the world fit him – as the superior being – better. Fitting him better, the world would be better in itself.
In a comparison of the life of F. Scott Fitzgerald and the main character in this novel, one can easily see the many autobiographical aspects of the novel. However, as there are quite a lot, it seems worth making a list.
These are the exact matches, but one can see more correspondences in character. For example, both of them have a strong dependence on alcohol.
Another interesting point is that while Fitzgerald copies many facts of his own life to Amory Blaine, he leaves out or changes the points that seemed to bother him.
It seems that F. Scott Fitzgerald tried to make Amory Blaine a copy of himself and changed just those issues that were necessary to make him the superior being that Fitzgerald had always wanted to be.
© 1999 by Timo Baumann at www.eichenblatt.de, all rights reserved.
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