F. Scott Fitzgerald has always been one of my favorite authors. His way of making a glitzy and glamorous reality show it’s true colors and his disillusionment with society have always intrigued me, especially with his flowery, ethereal way of describing it all. The Beautiful and the Damned is almost a sort of autobiography of Fitzgerald’s, telling of the rise, slow plateau, and steep into alcoholism of Anthony Patch, along with his wife Gloria. Much of the story mirrors what happened to Fitzgerald and his wife Zelda: after The Great Gatsby gained Scott a massive amount of wealth, they spent it like all flappers would- frivolously and without hesitation. Their partying was short-lived, for Zelda soon developed schizophrenia and Scott developed an alcohol problem. Most of the story focuses on the good times of Anthony and Gloria, even if Anthony was reluctant on meeting her in the first place. They have a strange, modern relationship and live life very spontaneously. Sometimes they don’t seem in love but “knowing they had the best of love, they clung to what remained. Love lingered- by way of long conversations at night into those stark hours when the mind things and sharpens and the borrowings from dreams become the stuff of life, by way of deep intimate kindness they developed toward each other, by way of their laughing at the same absurdities and thinking the same things noble and the same things sad.” Fitzgerald has a way of making the mundane actions of married life a little more describable, and even more desirable. However, their shining happiness is cut short- Gloria tries to run away from home, Anthony is drafted into the war, and you start to wonder if they even like each other at all anymore. Their once infamous, irresistible romance now seems disillusioned- much like the whole universe Fitzgerald creates within his novels. The couple soon runs into financial troubles and Anthony starts drinking at work, getting him into some trouble. During the time of Prohibition, this was especially problematic, even though people seemed to flaunt it all the time. The reader at this point is almost as depressed as the two supposed lovers. But things turn around for them as they win a lawsuit and become millionaires.
The story shows the obsession with materialism, the absence of a deep, romantic love, and a disillusionment with society. The couple is always out spending money and having fun, never worrying about going broke or missing out on the latest party. However, this enjoyment is only on the surface, just like their love seems to be. The reader always seems to be wondering if they really love each other or if it’s all just a passing fancy. Like the book says, “there was nothing, it seemed, that grew stale so soon as pleasure.” And as always, in practically every Fitzgerald novel, their is a disillusionment with society: nothing is really ever all it’s cracked up to be and all things once bright and beautiful will soon dull and fade. While this can be sad to some people, it can also be comforting- beauty and glory will always pass but sometimes lackluster things can be the strongest and last the longest. Maybe Fitzgerald was going somewhere with disillusionment thing and there could be deeper meaning behind it.
The novel’s dialogue structure was easier to follow than previous novels. It was almost like a play, a back-and-forth sort of format where you had to follow who was saying what. This sounds complicated but it made the novel flow much more quickly and changed the pace of certain parts. Overall, it was a beautiful piece of literary work, as should be expected of Fitzgerald, and one I will definitely read again soon.