This Side of Paradise

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This Side of Paradise
This Side of Paradise dust jacket.gif
Dust jacket cover of first edition
Author F. Scott Fitzgerald
Cover artist W. E. Hill
Country United States
Language English
Genre Novel
Publisher Scribner
Publication date
1920
Media type Print (Hardcover and Paperback)
Pages 305 pp (first edition hardcover)
ISBN NA

This Side of Paradise is the debut novel of F. Scott Fitzgerald. Published in 1920, and taking its title from a line of the Rupert Brooke poem Tiare Tahiti, the book examines the lives and morality of post-World War I youth. Its protagonist, Amory Blaine, is an attractive Princeton University student who dabbles in literature. The novel explores the theme of love warped by greed and status-seeking.

Background[edit]

In the summer of 1919, after less than a year of courtship, Zelda Sayre broke up with the 22-year-old Fitzgerald. After a summer of heavy alcohol use, he returned to St. Paul, Minnesota where his family lived, to complete the novel, hoping that if he became a successful novelist he could win Zelda back. While at Princeton, Fitzgerald had written an unpublished novel called The Romantic Egotist and ultimately 80 pages of the typescript of this earlier work ended up in This Side of Paradise.[1]

On September 4, 1919, Fitzgerald gave the manuscript to a friend to deliver to Maxwell Perkins, an editor at Charles Scribner's Sons in New York. The book was nearly rejected by the editors at Scribners, but Perkins insisted, and on September 16 it was officially accepted. Fitzgerald begged for early publication—convinced that he would become a celebrity and impress Zelda—but was told that the novel would have to wait until the spring. Nevertheless, upon the acceptance of his novel for publication he went and visited Zelda and they resumed their courtship. His success imminent, she agreed to marry him.[2]

Publication[edit]

This Side of Paradise was published on March 26, 1920 with a first printing of 3,000 copies. The initial printing sold out in three days. On March 30, four days after publication and one day after selling out the first printing, Fitzgerald wired for Zelda to come to New York and get married that weekend. Barely a week after publication, Zelda and Scott married in New York on April 3, 1920.[3]

The book went through 12 printings in 1920 and 1921, for a total of 49,075 copies.[4] The novel itself did not provide a huge income for Fitzgerald. Copies sold for $1.75 for which he earned 10 percent on the first 5,000 copies and 15 percent beyond that. In total, in 1920 he earned $6,200 from the book. Its success, however, helped the now-famous Fitzgerald earn much higher rates for his short stories.

Plot summary[edit]

This book is written in three parts.

"Book One: The Romantic Egotist"—the novel centers on Amory Blaine, a young Midwesterner who, convinced that he has an exceptionally promising future, attends boarding school and later Princeton University. He leaves behind his eccentric mother Beatrice and befriends a close friend of hers, Monsignor Darcy. While at Princeton he goes back to Minneapolis where he re-encounters Isabelle Borgé, a young lady whom he met as a little boy and starts a romantic relationship with her, but after a few days he becomes disillusioned by her and returns to Princeton.

"Interlude"—Following their break-up, Amory is shipped overseas, to serve in the army in World War I. Fitzgerald had been in the army himself, but the war ended while he was still stationed on Long Island. Amory's experiences in the war are not described, other than to say later in the book that he was a bayonet instructor.

"Book Two: The Education of a Personage"—After the war, Amory Blaine falls in love with a New York debutante named Rosalind Connage. Because he is poor, however, this relationship collapses as well; Rosalind decides to marry a wealthy man instead. A devastated Amory is further crushed to learn that his mentor Monsignor Darcy has died. The book ends with Amory's iconic lament, "I know myself, but that is all."[5]

Characters[edit]

Most of the characters are drawn directly from Fitzgerald's own life:[6]

  • Amory Blaine — the protagonist of the book, is clearly based on Fitzgerald. Both are from the Midwest, attended Princeton, had a failed romance with a debutante, served in the army, then had a failed romance with a second debutante (though after This Side of Paradise's success, Fitzgerald won back Zelda).
  • Beatrice Blaine — Blaine's mother was actually based on the mother of one of Fitzgerald's friends, rather than his own.
  • Isabelle Borgé — Amory Blaine's first love is based on Fitzgerald's first love, the Chicago debutante Ginevra King.
  • Monsignor Darcy — Blaine's spiritual mentor is based on a Monsignor Fay, to whom Fitzgerald was close. Fay was from Minneapolis.
  • Rosalind Connage — Amory Blaine's second love is based on Fitzgerald's second love, Zelda Sayre. Unlike Zelda, Rosalind was from New York. Rosalind is also partially based on the character Beatrice Normandy in H.G. Wells' novel Tono-Bungay.
  • Cecilia Connage — Rosalind's cynical younger sister.
  • Thomas Parke D'Invilliers—one of Blaine's close friends (also the fictitious author of the poem at the start of The Great Gatsby) was based on Fitzgerald's friend and classmate, the poet John Peale Bishop.
  • Eleanor Savage - a girl Amory meets in Maryland. They share their love for literature and they fall for each other during the summer. But they break up after Eleanor sends her horse off a cliff and nearly dies herself.
  • Clara Page - Amory's widowed cousin, whom he loves. But she doesn't love him back.

Style[edit]

This Side of Paradise blends different styles of writing: at times a fictional narrative, at times free verse, sometimes narrative drama, interspersed with letters and poems from Amory. In fact the novel's odd blend of styles was the result of Fitzgerald cobbling his earlier attempt at a novel The Romantic Egotist together with assorted short stories and poems that he composed, but never published. The occasional switch from third person to second person gives the hint that the story is semi-autobiographic.[7]

Critical reception[edit]

The book's critical success was driven in part by the enthusiasm of reviewers. Burton Rascoe of the Chicago Tribune wrote that "it bears the impress, it seems to me, of genius. It is the only adequate study that we have had of the contemporary American in adolescence and young manhood."[8] H. L. Mencken wrote that This Side of Paradise was the "best American novel that I have seen of late."[9]

One reader who was not entirely pleased, however, was John Grier Hibben, the President of Princeton University: "I cannot bear to think that our young men are merely living four years in a country club and spending their lives wholly in a spirit of calculation and snobbishness."[10]

In popular culture[edit]

In "30 Rock", the character Jack Donaghy played by Alec Baldwin says that he was awarded the "Amory Blaine Handsomeness Scholarship" by Princeton University.

"This Side of Paradise" appears in the film "The Rum Diary", a 2011 film starring actor Johnny Depp and based upon the book of the same name by Hunter S. Thompson. The paperback copy can be seen on a nightstand alongside a copy of On the Road, a novel by Beat writer Jack Kerouac, in the scene where Depp's character Paul Kemp purchases drugs from another character named Moberg, played by actor Giovanni Ribisi.

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Bruccoli 2002, pp. 98–99
  2. ^ Bruccoli 2002, p. 109
  3. ^ Bruccoli 2002, pp. 127–28
  4. ^ Bruccoli 2002, p. 133
  5. ^ This Side of Paradise, p. 285
  6. ^ Bruccoli 2002, pp. 123–124
  7. ^ West, James L. W. III, "The question of vocation in This Side of Paradise and The Beautiful and Damned. In Prigozy 2002, pp. 48–56
  8. ^ Bruccoli 2002, pp. 116–17
  9. ^ Bruccoli 2002, p. 117
  10. ^ Bruccoli 2002, p. 125

References[edit]

External links[edit]