This Side of Paradise
Dust jacket cover of first edition
|Author||F. Scott Fitzgerald|
|Cover artist||W. E. Hill|
|March 26, 1920|
|Media type||Print (hardcover and paperback)|
|Pages||305 pp (first edition hardcover)|
|ISBN||9781593082437 (Barnes & Noble paperback)|
|Followed by||The Beautiful and Damned (1922)|
This Side of Paradise is the debut novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Published in 1920 and taking its title from a line of Rupert Brooke's 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. The novel famously helped F. Scott Fitzgerald gain Zelda Sayre's hand in marriage due to its success.
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 drinking, 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 While at Princeton (notably in University Cottage Club's library), Fitzgerald had written an unpublished novel, "The Romantic Egotist", and ultimately 80 pages of the typescript of this earlier work ended up in This Side of Paradise.
On September 4, 1919, Fitzgerald gave the manuscript to his friend Shane Leslie 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 she agreed to marry him.
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.
The book went through 12 printings in 1920 and 1921, for a total of 49,075 copies. 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 ($82,095.27 in 2015 dollars) from the book. Its success, however, helped the now-famous Fitzgerald earn much higher rates for his short stories.
The 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 had met as a little boy, and starts a romantic relationship with her. At Princeton he repeatedly writes ever more flowery poems, but Amory and Isabelle become disenchanted with each other after meeting again at his prom.
"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 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".
- 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 the success of This Side of Paradise, 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 Sigourney 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. However, unlike Zelda, Rosalind was from New York. Rosalind is also partially based on the character Beatrice Normandy in H. G. Wells's novel Tono-Bungay (1909).
- 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 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.
This Side of Paradise blends different styles of writing: it is, at times, a fictional narrative, at times free verse, and at times a narrative drama, interspersed with letters and poems from Amory. In fact, the novel's odd blend of styles was the result of Fitzgerald's cobbling his earlier attempt at a novel, "The Romantic Egotist", together with assorted short stories and poems that he had composed but never published. The occasional switch from third person to second person gives the hint that the story is semi-autobiographical.
Many reviewers were enthusiastic. Burton Rascoe of the Chicago Tribune wrote: "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." H. L. Mencken wrote: This Side of Paradise was the "best American novel that I have seen of late."
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".
In popular culture
Alternative band Glass Animals subtly referenced the novel on their 2016 album, How to Be a Human Being, with a track entitled "The Other Side Of Paradise." The lyrics detail a one-sided, chaotic relationship.
- Bruccoli 2002, pp. 98–99
- Bruccoli 2002, p. 109
- Bruccoli 2002, pp. 127–28
- Bruccoli 2002, p. 133
- This Side of Paradise, p. 285
- Bruccoli 2002, pp. 123–124
- Mizener, Arthur (1972), Scott Fitzgerald and His World, New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons
- Noden, Merrell (November 5, 2003). "Fitzgerald's first love". Princeton Alumni Weekly.
- Stepanov, Renata (September 15, 2003). "Family of Fitzgerald's lover donates correspondence". The Daily Princetonian.
- 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
- Bruccoli 2002, pp. 116–17
- Bruccoli 2002, p. 117
- Bruccoli 2002, p. 125
- Chbosky, Stephen (1999). The Perks of Being a Wallflower. New York: Pocket Books. p. 14.
- Bruccoli, Matthew Joseph (2002), Some Sort of Epic Grandeur: The Life of F. Scott Fitzgerald (2nd rev. ed.), Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, ISBN 1-57003-455-9
- Prigozy, Ruth (ed.) (2002), The Cambridge Companion to F. Scott Fitzgerald, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, ISBN 0-521-62447-9
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