Tuesday, January 13, 2015

The Beautiful and Damned by F. Scott Fitzgerald

by Erica Williams

The Beautiful and Damned is a story of privilege, love, gluttony, and tragedy in the roaring 20’s. Set in New York City in what is now known as the Jazz Age, Fitzgerald tells the tale of a wealthy man named Anthony Patch. Although orphaned over the course of his childhood, he spends his early years travelling around Europe and eventually attends Harvard, where he is a successful student.

At the time that the story is set, Patch is 25 years old and living in the great city. He is idly waiting for the death of his rich grandfather, a businessman who made a fortune in the early railroad industry. Patch is the only living heir and moves to New York to await this amazing inheritance. Meanwhile, he has enough money to live comfortably and lacks the motivation to rcreate or do anything productive, despite his insistence that he is working on a historical novel about medieval Europe. He occupies much of his time socializing and drinking with fellow young elites living in the city.

He soon meets Gloria Gilbert, famous among New York’s upper social stratum as a woman so beautiful “men have desired since she was sixteen.” In a similar way to Anthony, she lives in a state of lavish, luxuriant boredom. Her main occupation in life is to be physically beautiful and to attract a rich, financially secure, upper-class young man as a husband. She accomplishes just that after Anthony courts and marries her. But can their marriage last after their attraction to each other is confirmed and acted upon, and they have nothing better to fill their time with than to stay out late every night and slowly become more alcoholic?

The Beautiful and Damned is a cautionary tale about the dangers that opulence brings to those who are over-accustomed to it, and especially to those who were given it, rather than earning it. Read the novel that first brought F. Scott Fitzgerald to popular recognition as he tells the tragic satire of his own early marriage, and what made it fall to pieces.

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