Sherry's Reviews > The Beautiful and Damned

The Beautiful and Damned by F. Scott Fitzgerald
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Sep 17, 2008

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Recommended for: classic lovers
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Set in high society New York during the late 1920s, The Beautiful and Damnedby F. Scott Fitzgerald is a historical fiction novel that tells the life toils of the New York elite, Anthony Patch and his wife, Gloria, who struggle with themselves as well as with society for their pursuit of happiness. The story begins with the life of the protagonist, Anthony Patch, the high standing grandson of the millionaire Adam Patch, who lacks purpose in life. Anthony temporarily finds happiness when he recklessly marries Gloria, but their marriage gradually declines as it becomes fueled by alcohol and greed. The novel goes in detail of their married life, and traces their marriage from the prime of their love to its decline as a result of the couple’s squander and recklessness. Fitzgerald captures the breath taking, glamorous jazz age within the very pages of this novel, and gives reader a vivid image of the upper class society during that time.
The antagonists of the novel are the protagonists themselves, and society. Gloria and Anthony’s misery in their marital life is a result of their careless extravagance. Their indulgences in alcohol and Parties cause them to loose their fortune. Society is also an antagonist because as their economic stature deteriorates they become “disowned” by the upper class New York society. Within the novel, former friends such as Maury Noble and many others forsake the Patch family when they loose their social standing. The couple tries to over come this by gaining back the money. Some supporting characters are Muriel and Dick. These two remain loyal to the Patch family despite the family’s social decline.
Throughout the novel, Gloria and Anthony constantly ponder over the meaning of their existence and finding that lack, they turn to materialism to fill that vacancy. Even before their loss of fortune, Anthony experiences a sense of lack. Anthony immerses himself with material things to fill this lack. Although he finds that material things do give him temporal satisfaction, he knows that his relationship with Geraldine, his literary pursuits, and his obsession with material things, are merely a cover to divert him self from a lack of purpose in life. Although Gloria did not directly sense this lack, her premarital life was just as empty as Anthony’s. Despite the fact that Gloria days were extremely compact, full of dates, balls, parties, and men, she never really settled with anyone; she was constantly switching from one suitor to another. All her time spent was idle and purposeless. Both characters used material possessions to hide their inner void.
Gloria and Anthony both feel the real impact of this lack of purpose when they start to loose their material position. As their material cover is blown away, the feeling of the meaninglessness of life becomes irrepressible. Their happy days become less frequent, and they constantly quarrel. They grow to despise the cruel world in which they live and even become suicidal. Desperate for a means to go on, they once again seek materialism to meet their lack. Gloria and Anthony hold outrageous parties, pour their money in the water, and become alcohol- induced party animals. Near the end of the novel their only hope for a better future is to receive Adam Patch’s money. Money, they believed would solve all their problems. I believe this is a major theme of the novel, the seeking of material possession to cover inner dissatisfaction.
I chose this book because I enjoy reading classic novels, and also because we are supposed to read The Great Gatsby. I thought reading this novel would be a nice introduction to Fitzgerald’s writing.
I found that Fitzgerald has a very distinct writing style. One peculiarity is that often times within the novel, conversations with other characters are written in a play format that includes the character name in front of the character’s speech with an addition of a descriptive detail of the character, “Maury: Oh, yes. (Silence, and then:)” (Fitzgerald 21). Another distinction to Fitzgerald’s writing is change of point of views. The narrator sometimes focuses on different characters as the novel progresses from chapter to chapter. I also find that Fitzgerald is a great character developer. Although the characters are two dimensional in the beginning of the novel, later on, Fitzgerald does a wonderful job in portraying them three dimensionally. He often includes various traits and aspirations of characters in such a way that they become comprehensible on a personal level. Fitzgerald also accentuates certain words through italicization. The prose is also very distinct. It is at times lyrical and even poetic. There is some stirringly beautiful language in this novel.
I generally like this novel. It was tedious reading in the beginning, but as the story began to unfold I really enjoyed it. This novel is very deep. It probes in a lot of common literary themes and motifs, such as man vs. society, the degradation of the American Dream, the meaning of life, and the transience of happiness. I find this novel a good introduction into Fitzgerald. It is full of style and I believe it gives a thorough understanding of Fitzgerald himself. Many characters such as Anthony Patch, Maury, and Dick embody Fitzgerald all reveal certain personal aspects of Fitzgerald. Patch portrays Fitzgerald as a man, someone who has alcoholic and social problems. Maury portrays Fitzgerald as the philosopher, while Dick portrays Fitzgerald as an aspiring author, someone struggling to retain the originality of his work. I liked the plot. The love struggles that Gloria and Anthony go through, and the problems that the couple faces are seem so real; they give me a sense of what adult life can be like. The novel also does a great job in portraying the colorful American culture, from night parties, to societal norms. All in all, it is a good novel. I would recommend it to anyone who is interested in the lavish, high society social stories of the wealthy, because this book thoroughly portrays the elite during the out burst of culture of the Jazz age.

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