Frequency Score: 7.7 Synchronometer: 9.0
This Side of Paradise was written by renowned American author F. Scott Fitzgerald. Published in 1919, it preceded his most famous work, The Great Gatsby, by six years. In This Side of Paradise readers will glimpse flashes of Fitzgerald’s literary prowess that is more fully on display in The Great Gatsby.
The main character in This Side of Paradise is the intelligent, egotistic, and often misguided Amory Blaine. This story traces his development through his relationships and major life events. Amory is a unique character, he always seems to be caught up in an attempt to please others. Usually this is a romantic interest, but at other times he is trying to gain approval from his mother, his mentor, or one of his college friends. In this way, Amory is reliant on the judgement of outside actors to confirm his inner worth. Fitzgerald develops this dynamic with tact, forcing readers to think about their own lives and to consider if their happiness is dependent upon others.
Amory becomes romantically involved with several women. These relationships are characterized by tremendous emotional swings with intense initial yearning always followed by a falling out that leaves Amory completely devastated. I found the character of Amory Blaine to be perplexing. I still don’t know whether I liked him or disliked him. However, I certainly enjoyed reading about him.
Interestingly, many events in Amory’s life mirror events in Fitzgerald’s life. Amory attends Princeton, fights in World War I, and suffers heartbreak. Fitzgerald graduated from Princeton University in 1914, famously broke up with his first love in 1915, and enlisted in the army in 1917. The similarities between Fitzgerald and Amory’s life make This Side of Paradise quasi-autobiographical. If Amory wasn’t based directly off Fitzgerald, he certainly shared many similar qualities with the author.
Fitzgerald fails in the plot development of this novel. The plot seems disjointed throughout as there isn’t a big point of conflict or even a common collective series of conflicts. Personally, the lack of coherence in the plot caused me to become distracted while reading.
Overall, there was a lot to enjoy in Fitzgerald’s first novel. This Side of Paradise contains the elegant rhetoric that Fitzgerald further develops in later works. Amory Blaine is a unique literary figure who is worth getting to know. Amory’s relationships and inner dialogue raise intriguing questions that may aid readers in reflecting upon their own lives. Fans of The Great Gatsby should definitely check out Fitzgerald’s formative novel.
C Score: 3.6
This Side of Paradise, the novel that broke F. Scott Fitzgerald onto the literary scene, is a truly unique book. I first discovered the work after reading The Great Gatsby in my junior year English class. I enjoyed reading The Great Gatsby so much that I was left quite enamored with Fitzgerald, and decided to seek out more of his writing in hopes of reciprocating the reading experience. This Side of Paradise, although very different in premise and style, fully delivered on my lofty expectations, and cemented Fitzgerald as one of my all-time favorite authors.
The novel, set in early 20th century America, details the life of one Amory Blaine and his search to discover himself in the midst of a tumultuous, extrinsically-driven world. Although there is hardly any semblance of a plot, (calling the book episodic would even be a stretch) Fitzgerald’s writing style fully immerses the reader in the struggles Amory faces on his quest to find his place in the world. Fitzgerald does this masterfully, as he exhibits an uncanny ability to make the mundane seem interesting.
The development of Amory’s character, however, is the true essence of the novel. At once overflowing with confidence yet afflicted by a paralyzing self doubt, Amory makes quite a curious protagonist. Although he can be frustrating at times, Amory’s evolution is admirable, and presents a theme that resonates with any reader. The decisions he makes, and what prompts them, provide insight into why we are who we are, and make a profound statement on the fluidity of identity.
It’s not often that a novel that has no overarching storyline or significant action is as compelling as This Side of Paradise. Inquisitive and thought provoking, the novel calls into question many flaws with society and an individual’s perception of him or herself that are still evident today. While it does not quite reach the same level as The Great Gatsby, This Side of Paradise is enjoyable and intellectually stimulating, and is more than worth a read.