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Reviewing 'The Beautiful And Damned' Novel

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Literature
Wordcount: 2156 words Published: 5th May 2017

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In 1922, F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote the novel The Beautiful and Damned, which challenged his literary reputation. In his novel, Fitzgerald intertwines his life experiences into the characters of the novel. Fitzgerald places a great emphasis on a single period of the lives of the two main characters, Anthony and Gloria Patch, as they travel from a time of joy and happiness, to a time of hate and discontent towards one another. Anthony Patch sets out on a life journey from Harvard, to alcoholism, greed, and self pity; eventually damaging his mind and body from the effects of both.

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The title The Beautiful and Damned ultimately refers to the two main characters in the novel, Anthony Patch and his wife Gloria. While living the good life, of too many parties and excessive alcohol, Anthony and Gloria open themselves to suffering and failure. The “beautiful” and the “damned” are one and the same people. It’s their beauty and carelessness that damns them to fall from grace and suffer.

The Beautiful and Damned was set in the same time period that F. Scott Fitzgerald himself lived. There are many similarities between Fitzgerald and the main character, Anthony Patch. Matthew Bruccoli stated it best “The Dominant influences on F. Scott Fitzgerald were his aspirations, literature, Princeton, Zelda Fitzgerald and alcohol” (2003). Fitzgerald portrayed these same attributes to the main character, Anthony Patch. The story begins in 1913, when Anthony Patch was 25 years old. Anthony’s life begins with much heartache. At age eleven, he had already lived through the deaths of both his mother and father. During his Juvenile years, Anthony goes to England, for private tutoring, and then eventually attends Harvard. After graduating from Harvard, Anthony had high aspirations for himself. He considered himself to be above others; in an aristocratic sense. He felt that he would one day do something meaningful with his life; something that would bring him much notoriety and fame.

Fitzgerald was coached from a young age to strive for Excellency. Fitzgerald had high aspirations for himself. He attended Princeton, in 1917, but soon dropped out because of fear of failing. Literature played a very large role in his aspirations. From his brief time at Princeton he wrote stories for several of the school magazines.

In the Novel, Fitzgerald gave these same attributes to the main character, Anthony Patch. In the novel, Anthony also shows an interest in literature. He is afforded the opportunity, through his allowance from his grandfather, to acquire a rather large collection of literature; literature that was thought to be obtainable only by the astute and rich.

Anthony Patch was also taught to strive for Excellency. He was tutored in England, by private tutors and then attends Harvard. After graduating from Harvard, Anthony goes abroad to Rome and lives a very free life, where he paints and enjoys his time with friends that he met at Harvard. Anthony moves to New York City several years later, because of his grandfather’s illness, and is engrossed in the aristocratic and reckless atmosphere of the Jazz Age.

Fitzgerald’s writings were very influential at the time. It is thought that Fitzgerald’s contributions to literature helped shape film and theatre, and that film directors took some of the literary knowledge from Fitzgerald, and used it as their own. The changing culture and attitudes of the 1920’s were resonated in films and in books. But, the critics of the time were hesitant to place Fitzgerald in the category as that of Faulkner, or the sort. Instead, Fitzgerald was categorized as a “Jazz Age Writer”. Jonathan Enfield stated that film’s influence both on Fitzgerald’s technique and on the habits of vision shaping his technique have much broader implications for the study of American fiction (669).

Fitzgerald coined the term “The Jazz Age”. “The “Jazz Age” for Fitzgerald the term may have resonated humorously with Stone Age, Bronze Age, and Iron Age-periodizations of archaic humanity that came into use among archaeologists during the second half of the nineteenth century” (Breitwiese, 2000). The Jazz Age saturated the culture of the 1920’s. This was a very reckless time. It was the “anything goes” attitude that fostered after World War One. One could hear the bass from the jazz clubs resonating throughout the streets, and the excitement of visiting the questionable speakeasies, where alcohol was consumed underground because of the prohibition laws.

The Decade of the 20’s was also known as the boom, despite the 1921 recession. During this time Industrialism came about, and the middle class found themselves able to acquire the same riches and opportunities that the rich usually enjoyed. Fitzgerald was noticeably one of the first authors to monitor these changes in the American Culture, and he used these blueprints to set the stage for his second novel The Beautiful and Damned. The novel portrays a depressing portrait of what can happen to a married couple during the lazy and hedonistic society of the Jazz Age.

In Fitzgerald’s novel, Anthony Patch never maintained employment during his time in New York. He lived off of an inheritance, left by his mother after her death years earlier. Anthony learned quite a lot about the stock market from his grandfather, who was a millionaire at the time, and he used that knowledge to collect himself a rather profitable collection of savings bonds. The savings bonds seemed to be doing quite well; so well that Anthony had no need or desire to works some dead end job, or any job at all for that matter. Anthony felt that to acquire work was “beneath him” and he was raised to perform better functions for society; he just didn’t know exactly what that was, yet.

Anthony held many parties in his apartment. The apartment was where life started for him. It was where he slept, ate, and most importantly of all entertained. His apartment was kept clean by a butler, who brought him his mail, and cooked his breakfast every morning. Anthony’s aesthete character was resonated on to his very picky guest, Maury Noble and Richard Caramel, who were his friends from Harvard of course. Anthony’s involvement with Maury and Richard always involved the pleasantries of alcohol. At first, the alcohol consumption is maintained at a social level. Anthony is single and incorporates alcohol into his schedule as often as he can. Every time Anthony hosted a get together at his apartment in Manhattan, alcohol was introduced to set the mood. Many critics of the novel state that “The strongest autobiographical elements in Fitzgerald’s second novel, The Beautiful and Damned, lie in its portrayal of a marriage both defined and strained by endless parties in New York City and its environs” (Baughman).

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Since this is a love story gone badly, I think it’s important to explain how Anthony met his wife, Gloria, in the novel. Through Richard Caramel’s acquaintance, Anthony meets Richards’s cousin, Gloria Gilbert. Gilbert, a stage girl from Kansas City Missouri, was deemed to be one of the most sought after in the country, at the time. Her beauty was untouched, as Anthony would soon find out. One day, Richard brings Gloria over to Anthony’s apartment for an introduction. Anthony finds Gloria to be radiant, as she parades around the room; talking only about herself. Anthony finds his mind wondering. He looks at her and thinks “She was dazzling-alight; it was agony to comprehend her beauty in a glance (Fitzgerald, 57). Anthony and Gloria continue to go out together, until Gloria determines that she really likes the rich free lifestyle that Anthony is living. She wants to be a part of it. The parties, theatre and speakeasies make her come alive in the story; as if this was her lifestyle prior to her meeting Anthony. I think that Gloria and Anthony are compatible, for the most part, because both Anthony and Gloria are both very self absorbed in themselves. They both want glory and success, but they are unable to go beyond their own self absorbed atmosphere to obtain it. Anthony is waiting on his grandfather to die, so that he can take over the large inheritance, and he refuses to step out of that realm of thinking. Anthony is afraid to take the next step to obtain anything, much less a job. Gloria is so self- absorbed, and stuck up. She could have had any man, as she stated in the novel “If I wanted anything, then I would just take it.”

The lives of Anthony and Gloria quickly went downhill because of their attitudes. This is ironic because the life of Fitzgerald, as this is not a biography, between the appearance of his first novel, This Side of Paradise, in the spring of 1920 and his second Novel, The Beautiful and damned, two years later, was almost as self destructive as that of Anthony Patch Gloria in the novel (Eble, 1999). I think the New York Press Stated it best “The novel is full of that kind of pseudo-realism which results from shutting one’s eyes to all that is good in human nature, and looking only upon that which is small and mean-a view quite as false as its extreme opposite, which, reversing the process, results in what we have learned to classify as “glad” books” (Field, 1922).

The most contributing factor to Anthony’s mental curiosity and his gradual degeneration was his constant consumption of alcohol. When Anthony and Gloria left their apartment in New York, and moved to their “Gray House” in Marietta, they continued to host elaborate parties; even thought there budget would not permit it. Anthony’s alcohol consumption became worse over time. He began to drink in the morning. He would go to restaurants with his friends at lunch and drink more alcohol. Dinner would also include alcohol. It soon became apparent that Anthony was an intolerable bore without it. It was, as if, Anthony and Gloria were living there day to day lives without much meaning.

There is irony in the fact that Fitzgerald was also known by his friends to have a serious drinking problem. Fitzgerald liked to live the free life as well. “First there were the drunken sprees that seemed to be a celebration of youth and vitality, late followed by the bitter, abusive drunkenness that many of Fitzgerald’s friends had come to regard as sheer self destruction” (Irwin, 1987). Was Fitzgerald really resonating his personal feeling in his writings? I think he was. In fact, most critics strongly believe that “the Beautiful and the Damned is thus an exploration of life’s meaningless and of the decay of character that results from such a point of view” (Pelzer 53).

When Anthony’s grandfather dies, he is shocked to find out that his grandfather, out of utter disgust towards Anthony, fails to leave him any of the inheritance. For years Anthony waited, with high hopes that he would receive the inheritance, and he expected it because he was the first grandson. He had no desire to get a job, or better himself, because he just knew that he would someday be rich from the money handed down. Anthony refused to give up and he decided to bring the matter before the courts. This might have been the only time in the story that Anthony actually asserted himself at anything. Gloria, who is by now utterly frustrated with Anthony’s constant drinking and bickering, withdraws from him.

Days before the inheritance, their money dries up. Anthony goes out to pawn some watches, but comes back later drunk and beaten up by one of his former colleagues. His friends, Maury in particular, sees Anthony turning into a drunk, and he refuses to help Anthony. When Anthony returns to his apartment later that evening, he is met by Gloria, who informs him that he won the inheritance. It was too late. The money didn’t matter anymore. Anthony was mentally and physically tore down by the effects of alcohol, that he would never be able to enjoy the money, as he dreamed when he was young.

The story ends with Anthony sitting in a wheelchair and looking out at the docks; waiting on a ship to take him to England; where he will live the rest of his life. Anthony mentions during the last page in the book that he did not give up, despite what people thought of him.

Even thought Fitzgerald did not earn a lot of credibility with this novel, he did an excellent job of portraying a love story; that is eventually ruined by greed and despair. It is easy to see how this could have happened during the reckless times of the 1920’s.


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