The Beautiful and the Damned Summary

F. Scott Fitzgerald

The Beautiful and the Damned

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The Beautiful and the Damned Summary

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The Beautiful and the Damned by F. Scott Fitzgerald is a novel about excess and partying, much like Fitzgerald’s more famous novel, The Great Gatsby. Of course, the plot and characters are different, but Fitzgerald remains within his milieu for both novels. The Beautiful and the Damned, follows protagonist Anthony Patch, who is set to inherit a sizable fortune. The story follows his service in World War I, his courtship with his future wife Gloria Gilbert, their post-war life in New York, and his addiction to alcohol later in life. Because both Anthony and Gloria are selfish, they experience many difficulties during the course of their relationship.

Because Anthony stands to inherit a fortune from his grandfather, he possesses little inclination to work, though he tries his hand at several jobs. His friend, Richard Caramel, introduces him to Gloria, who is Richard’s cousin. Gloria is a socialite who wants to be an actress. She believes her beauty makes her more important than anyone else she meets. Both she and Anthony are unable to live in the present. Anthony lives for the money that will someday be his and Gloria lives for the first blossoming of her beauty. Richard is an author—as in The Great Gatsby, Fitzgerald inserts an author character. In The Great Gatsby, that character was Nick Caraway.

There are two other major characters in the novel—Mr. Bloeckman and Dorothy Raycroft. Bloeckman is a movie producer in love with Gloria. He wants her to leave Anthony and take up with him. They had a budding relationship before she met Anthony, which becomes a point of contention between Gloria and Anthony, who thinks the Gloria and Bloeckman are having an affair, all the while having an affair himself with Dorothy Raycroft. The affair not only breeds problems in Anthony’s marriage, but also negatively affects his mental state.

Fitzgerald uses Anthony and Gloria’s wasted lives to make a point about American society, and that point is a condemning one. Another theme, though more contested than Fitzgerald’s disdain for the post-World War I decadence in America, is the idea of young people rebelling against the status quo. World War I had been the war to end all wars and brought on a brief wave of prosperity. The reason some critics have pushed back against this theme isn’t that Gloria and Anthony don’t seem to rebel against anything, except perhaps actually working hard. Instead, the rebellion is in the surrounding atmosphere. What Anthony (and Fitzgerald) do rebel against together is capitalism, represented by Anthony’s grandfather, Adam Patch. On Anthony’s part, this rebellion is interesting because the fruits of Adam’s labor fuel Anthony’s lavish lifestyle.

The main theme, however, is brought to mind by the way that the characters waste their lives. Anthony and Gloria believe that life itself is meaningless. This belief points to their lack of morals—hence their being beautiful and “damned.” By filling their lives with empty pleasures like parties, Anthony and Gloria ignore opportunities to make their lives meaningful. The characters have some sense of the fact that they are wasting their lives, as they dread approaching the dreadful age of thirty. Reaching thirty signals the death of youth, and for characters like Anthony and his friend Maury Noble, life might as well be over once youth has fled.

The cause of all of these character flaws, according to The Beautiful and the Damned, is inherited wealth. Possessing money without working for it creates a sense of entitlement that breeds idleness. That idleness leads to waste. For Anthony, Gloria, and the socialites they represent, this causes alcohol abuse and irresponsibility. This novel is a cautionary tale for how not to live, and the consequences one might expect for living in this fashion. Though Anthony is the story’s protagonist, he is not a hero. Protagonists who aren’t heroes can be tough to sell to readers, but Fitzgerald’s success as an author despite this speaks to his ability to craft compelling characters. He does the same in The Great Gatsby, creating the charming Jay Gatsby who isn’t all he seems. He lies to get ahead in society and draw the attention of the woman he loves—and stalks—a girl just as shallow as everyone else.

Yet, despite the grim ending of The Great Gatsby, Jay remains an optimistic character. In The Beautiful and the Damned, Anthony is pessimistic, which darkens the book’s tone.