Synopses & Reviews
First published in 1920, This Side of Paradise marks the beginning of the career of one of the greatest writers of the first half of the twentieth century. In this remarkable achievement, F. Scott Fitzgeralddisplays his unparalleled wit and keen social insight in his portrayal of college life through the struggles and doubts of Amory Blaine, a self-proclaimed genius with a love of knowledge and a penchant for the romantic. AsAmory journeys into adulthood and leaves the aristocratic egotism of his youth behind, he becomes painfully aware of his lost innocence and the new sense of responsibility and regret that has taken its place.
Clever and wonderfully written, This Side of Paradise is a fascinating novel about the changes of the Jazz Age and their effects on the individual. It is a complex portrait of a versatile mind in a restlessgeneration that reveals rich ideas crucial to an understanding of the 1920s and timeless truths about the human need for--and fear of--change.
"A very enlivening book indeed, a book really brilliant andglamorous, making as agreeable reading as could be asked . . . There are clever things, keen and searching things, amusingly young and mistaken things, beautiful things and pretty things . . . and truly inspired andelevated things, an astonishing abundance of each, in THIS SIDE OF PARADISE. You could call it the youthful Byronism that is normal in a man of the author's type, working out through a well-furnished intellect of unusualcritical force."
--The Evening Post, 1920
"An astonishing and refreshing book . . . Mr. Fitzgerald has recorded with a good deal of felicity and a disarming frankness the adventures anddevelopments of a curious and fortunate American youth. . . . [It is] delightful and encouraging to find a novel which gives us in the accurate terms of intellectual honesty a reflection of American undergraduate life. Atlast the revelation has come. We have the constant young American occupation--the 'petting party'--frankly and humorously in our literature."
--The New Republic, 1920
"From the Paperback edition."
The story of the privileged, aimless and self-absorbed Amory Blaine and his journey from prep school to Princeton to the First World War is an exuberant pastiche of literary styles that intimates Fitzgerald's lyrical genius while calling attention to his breathtaking social insight.
This Side of Paradise
is the book that established F. Scott Fitzgerald as the prophet and golden boy of the newly dawned Jazz Age. Published in 1920, when he was just twenty-three, the novel catapulted him to instant fame and financial success. The story of Amory Blaine, a privileged, aimless, and self-absorbed Princeton student, This Side of Paradise
closely reflects Fitzgerald's own experiences as an undergraduate. Amory Blaine's journey from prep school to college to the First World War is an account of "the lost generation." The young "romantic egotist" symbolizes what Fitzgerald so memorably described as "a new generation grown up to find all Gods dead, all wars fought, all faiths in man shaken." A pastiche of literary styles, this dazzling chronicle of youth remains bitingly relevant decades later.
"This Side of Paradise commits almost every sin that a novel can possibly commit," wrote Edmund Wilson. "But it does not commit the unpardonable sin: it does not fail to live. The whole preposterous farrago is animated with life."
About the Author
Susan Orlean is the author of The Bullfighter Checks Her Makeup, The Orchid Thief, and Saturday Night. She has been a staff writer at The New Yorker since 1992. She lives in New York City.
Reading Group Guide
1. In her introduction, Susan Orlean says that, like everything else Fitzgerald wrote, This Side of Paradise is “a treatise about class.” Do you agree? How does Fitzgeralds preoccupation with class inform his writing? Why is Amory so obsessed with social status?
2. Many critics have dismissed the novels episodic structure. What do you think of Fitzgeralds organization of plot and theme? Does his arrangement, or lack thereof, in any way effectively convey the restlessness of Amory and his contemporaries? What did you ultimately come away with at the novels conclusion?
3. Discuss the importance of all things romantic in the novel. Are the romantic pursuits of Amory and his friends primarily satisfying or disillusioning? How does money, or the lack of it, play a part in the pursuit of love? Would you characterize Amory as cynical about love?
4. When first published, This Side of Paradise defined and catalyzed the youth movement of the 1920s. How does Fitzgeralds forthrightness on the vagaries of youth in 1920 strike you as a reader today?
5. At the conclusion of the novel, Fitzgerald describes a new generation “grown up to find all Gods dead, all wars fought, all faiths in man shaken.” To what extent is this true? What part does World War I play in the consciousness and actions of Fitzgeralds characters?
6. Discuss the significance of religion in the novel. Amory often raises questions of faith, good versus evil, and sacrifice. What does he conclude? What role does Monsignor Darcy play in Amorys developing moral identity? What is Amorys vocation?
7. Is This Side of Paradise in any way a tragic novel? How does it attempt to explain tragedy or loss? Do you think Fitzgerald intended a mournful or ultimately hopeful perspective? Why or why not?