This Side of Paradise
is the debut
. Published in
, and taking its title from a
line of the Rupert Brooke
, the book examines the lives and morality of
post-World War I
youth. Its protagonist, Amory
Blaine, is an attractive Princeton University student who dabbles in literature and has the
book's theme of love warped by greed and
In the summer of 1919, 22-year-old Fitzgerald broke up with the
girl he had been courting, Zelda Sayre
After being drunk for much of the summer he returned to St. Paul,
Minnesota, where his family lived, to complete the novel, hoping
that if he became a successful novelist he could win Zelda back.
While at Princeton, Fitzgerald had written an unpublished novel
called The Romantic Egotist
and ultimately 80 pages of the
typescript of this earlier work ended up in This Side of
On September 4
, Fitzgerald gave the manuscript to a friend to
deliver to Maxwell Perkins
editor at Charles Scribner's
in New York. The book was nearly rejected by the editors
at Scribners, but Perkins insisted, and on September 16
it was officially accepted.
Fitzgerald begged for early publication—convinced that he would
become a celebrity and impress Zelda—but was told that the novel
would have to wait until the spring. Nevertheless, upon the
acceptance of his novel for publication he went and visited Zelda
and they resumed their courtship. His success imminent, she agreed
to marry him.
This Side of Paradise
was published on March 26
with a first
printing of 3,000 copies. The initial printing sold out in three
days, confirming his prediction of overnight fame. On March 30,
four days after publication and one day after selling out the first
printing, Scott wired for Zelda to come to New York and get married
that weekend. Barely a week after publication, Zelda and Scott
married in New York on April 3
The book went through 12 printings in 1920 and 1921, for a total of
49,075 copies. The novel itself did not provide a huge income for
Fitzgerald. Copies sold for $1.75 for which he earned 10 percent on
the first 5,000 copies and 15 percent beyond that. In total, in
1920 he earned $6,200 from the book. Its success, however, helped
the now-famous Fitzgerald earn much higher rates for his short
This book is written in three parts.
The Romantic Egotist"—the novel centers on Amory Blaine, a young
Midwesterner who, convinced that he has an exceptionally promising
future, attends boarding school and later Princeton
He leaves behind in the Midwest his
eccentric mother Beatrice and a priest who was a close family
friend, Monsignor Darcy. At Princeton he falls in love with
Isabelle Borgé, and despite his efforts to court her, he is
"Interlude"—Following their break-up, Amory is shipped overseas, to
serve in the army in World War I
Fitzgerald had been in the army himself, but the war ended while he
was still stationed on Long Island. Amory's experiences in the war
are not described, other than to say later in the book that he was
a bayonet instructor.
"Book Two: The Education of a Personage"—After the war, Amory
Blaine falls in love with a New York debutante named Rosalind
Connage. Because he is poor, however, this relationship collapses
as well; Rosalind decides to marry a wealthy man instead. A
devastated Amory, is further crushed to learn that his mentor
Monsignor Darcy has died. The book ends with Amory's iconic lament
"I know myself, but that is all-"
Most of the characters are drawn directly from Fitzgerald's own
- Amory Blaine—the protagonist of the book, is clearly based on
Fitzgerald. Both are from the Midwest, attended Princeton, had a
failed romance with a debutante, served in the army, then had a
failed romance with a second debutante (though after This Side
of Paradise's success, Scott won back Zelda).
- Beatrice Blaine—Blaine's mother was actually based on the
mother of one of Fitzgeralds' friends, rather than his own.
- Isabelle Borgé—Amory Blaine's first love is based on Scott's
first love, the Chicago debutante Ginevra
- Monsignor Darcy—Blaine's spiritual mentor is
based on a Monsignor Fay whom Fitzgerald was close to from Minneapolis.
- Rosalind Connage—Amory Blaine's second love is based on Scott's
second love, Zelda Sayre. Unlike Zelda,
Rosalind was from New York. Rosalind is also partially based on the
character Beatrice Normandy in H.G.
Wells' novel Tono-Bungay.
- Thomas Parke
D'Invilliers—one of Blaine's close friends (also the fictitious
author of the poem at the start of The Great Gatsby) was based on
Fitzgerald's friend and classmate, the poet John Peale Bishop.
This Side of Paradise
blends different styles of writing:
at times a fictional narrative, at times free verse, sometimes
narrative drama, interspersed with letters and poems from Amory. In
fact the novel's odd blend of styles was the result of Fitzgerald
cobbling his earlier attempt at a novel The Romantic
together with assorted short stories and poems that he
composed, but never published.
The book's critical success was driven in part by the enthusiasm of
reviewers. Burton Rascoe
"it bears the impress, it seems to me, of genius. It is the only
adequate study that we have had of the contemporary American in
adolescence and young manhood." H.
wrote that This Side of
was the "best American novel that I have seen of
One reader who was not entirely pleased, however, was John Grier Hibben
, the President of
Princeton University: "I cannot bear to think that our young men
are merely living four years in a country club and spending their
lives wholly in a spirit of calculation and snobbishness."