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This Side of Paradise

F. Scott Fitzgerald

Book II, Chapter 4: The Supercilious Sacrifice

Book II, Chapter 3: Young Irony

Book II, Chapter 5: The Egotist Becomes a Personage

Summary

We next find Amory in Atlantic City watching the sea, where Alec Connage, with several girls, discovers him. With the deaths of their mutual friends on his mind, Amory does not want to socialize, but agrees to stay with Alec at his hotel. Amory heads to the room, lamenting the loss of his youth and the loss of Rosalind, and falls asleep.

He awakes to discover Alec and one of the girls from the party quite frantic, since house detectives were banging on all the doors of the hotel looking for an unmarried man and woman sleeping together. Amory reflects on the impersonality of sacrifice and remembers how one man in college took the blame for cheating for another man and eventually killed himself for the way it ruined his life. Amory also realizes that if he decides to help, Alec might secretly hate him afterward, though never knowing why.

Amory decides to help, reasoning that Alec would be hurt worse by scandal since he has a family, and proceeds to straighten everything out. He sends Alec to sleep on the bed and goes into the bathroom with the girl. The authorities catch them, but agree not to press charges for this crime that would have sent them to prison. Instead, to protect the hotel's own anonymity, they agree only to write a line in the newspaper describing how a young couple had gotten into trouble. Amory maintains his dignity and asks the officer to remove his hat in the presence of the lady. The new couple eat breakfast together, and the girl asks whether Alec is "more important" than Amory is. He laughs, saying that it remains to be seen who will be more important.

Back in New York, Amory discovers the short newspaper alert concerning himself and the young girl. Just above it he sees a longer paragraph announcing the engagement of Rosalind and Dawson Ryder, and Amory reflects morosely on how the girl he most loved is now essentially dead. The next day he learns that his family's investments have gone very badly, and he can expect no more money from them. Soon afterward, a telegram informs him that Monsignor Darcy has passed away.

Commentary

We find Amory wholly dejected from his romances, pining for his lost love, and uninterested in parties. Ironically, it is through the brother of Rosalind, the girl who so hurt him, that Amory achieves some form of salvation. Waking up in the hotel room to the crisis, Amory experiences a moment of clarity. With great insight, he recognizes that his sacrifice for Alec will mysteriously sour their friendship, but agrees to help anyway. The fact that Amory considers his lack of family in his decision to help reveals that the more Amory loses, the more he is inclined to help another person. He exhibits a total lack of concern for his own reputation in agreeing to help Alec.

Yet his true realization is that in helping, he is acting selfishly, superciliously. Despite the great good he does for Alec, he acts out of a sense of his own nobility, out of an impersonal desire to do something for someone else. The irony grows even stronger when the girl Amory helps assumes that he has intervened because Alec is more important than he is. Amory believes that his success lies in the future and that their relative importance will only be decided later. Yet Amory does not boast how important he is, as he might have done earlier in the novel. He seems humbler, though his answer does suggest that he sees great things for himself in the future.

Following this incident, Amory sees that Rosalind has been engaged to the rich Dawson Ryder. Amory had harbored some hope that he could still win her love back, but now he concludes that the girl that he loved died at the moment she chose to marry for wealth and not love.

The last of Amory's connections, Monsignor Darcy, passes away at the end of the chapter; Amory's family finances expire as well. The chapter ends leaving Amory effectively alone, all of his supports stripped. It is in this lonely and helpless position that Amory is finally poised to achieve some self-knowledge and peace.

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