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Paperback Jukebox: This Side of Paradise by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Kendra Marie Busby


Amory Blaine, the protagonist of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s semi-autobiographical This Side of Paradise, is the societal definition of a privileged, high-class gentleman.  The kid grew up with money, landed in prep school, and later went on to Princeton.  He is good-looking, charming, intelligent, the epitome of a hopeless romantic. It has been said that Fitzgerald based the character on himself, and we all know that Fitzgerald has been regarded as one of the greatest writers within the world of American literature.

But beyond the basics, reading about Amory Blaine is like reading about the private school asshole we all love to hate.  He’s disgustingly egotistical, arrogant, foolish, and falls in love with women primarily because of their looks.  The beauty of his romanticism is shattered when every woman he loves, as anyone who has ever read This Side of Paradise can tell you, is painfully shallow and annoying. 

He says things like this: "It's essentially cleaner to be corrupt and rich than it is to be innocent and poor." What a prick!

So why then? Why do we put a character like Amory Blaine—and an actual human being like Fitzgerald—on such a pedestal? On paper, Blaine is both a dream and a nightmare.




But it is the paper that really matters.  We are not reading a high school essay or a bad magazine article about the douche of the century.  We are reading F. Scott Fitzgerald’s work of the century.  We are reading the words of a literary genius. This is the man who supposedly coined the phrase “The Jazz Age,” whose name is recognized by practically everyone even in a society who believes that their entertainment options in film and television far outweigh those in literature.

This offers up two possible explanations: first, that we love Fitzgerald’s Amory Blaine because of the beauty of the writing, in the effortlessly fluid description of his character and the depiction of his actions.  We follow this guy’s life for over 250 pages regardless of his tendency to be a complete and utter asshole because the writing is truly that fantastic.

The other explanation is that we know This Side of Paradise is practically the life of Fitzgerald, meaning that he is Amory Blaine.  We don’t want to believe that this God of American literature could really be the douche within the story.  We can’t accept it, so instead we take a blind eye to the bad traits and focus on the good.  Amory Blaine, and Fitzgerald for that matter, is quintessential Jazz Age.  He is handsome. He is charming.  He makes us think, how cool, how amazing, how fabulous.

In any case, we look at that prep school asshole in sort of an idealistic way, atop a pedestal, as if he ever needed to be put there to see himself on it.  We don’t necessarily want to be like him, but we want to know him. We want to go to his parties. We want to hear his stories. We want to date him. We want him to take us out. We want him to want us.  He has been put there and will always remain there not as the prick in the khaki pants and Ralph Lauren polo, but as the privileged, high-class gentleman.  And for that, I blame F. Scott Fitzgerald.


Kendra Busby is a junior at the University of Pittsburgh studying Nonfiction English Writing, Religious Studies, and Film Studies.  She is currently an intern at The New Yinzer.