The victors belong to the spoils.—ANTHONY PATCH
This quote is the epigraph to the novel and appears before the first chapter. Its attribution to Anthony Patch suggests that the quote comes after the events of the novel, once he has found himself victorious over his trials, tribulations, and enemies.
In the context of the novel, the quote is an inversion of the old proverb “to the victor belong the spoils.” Anthony and Gloria are obviously the victors, and the spoils are likely the $30 million he and Gloria won in their lawsuit against Shuttleworth to retain his grandfather’s estate. But the spoils come at an incredibly heavy cost. Anthony and Gloria wasted five years of their youth and their lives fighting a nearly impossible lawsuit to preserve the income they felt they deserved. During that time, Gloria’s ever-important beauty declined, and Anthony spun out into hard alcoholism. It is noted that at the end of the novel the thirty-three-year-old Anthony looks much more like forty. To the spoils goes the victor indeed. Anthony’s triumph only masks his meaningless, pointless existence.
THE VOICE: […] You will be known during your fifteen years as a ragtime kid, a flapper, a jazz-baby, and a baby vamp. You will dance new dances neither more nor less gracefully than you danced the old ones.
BEAUTY: (In a whisper) Will I be paid?
THE VOICE: Yes, as usual—in love.
This exchange takes place during the last section of Book I Chapter 1 when Fitzgerald shifts into the genre of drama. Fitzgerald takes this opportunity to introduce the concept of beauty made flesh, and this brief character stands in for Gloria, who will be introduced in the next chapter.
In telling Beauty that she will be paid in love for her time as a jazz-baby, the Voice, an omnipotent being, signals that Beauty is to function at the upper echelons of society. Society girls are known and regarded for their splendid beauty. This beauty alone is the only merit they have. As such, Gloria Gilbert will traverse the world using only her beauty. She will have many suitors, and this society girl will enjoy her status until the day her beauty inevitably fades. The quote serves as both a heightened metaphor and a bit of foreshadowing for the spoiled jazz-baby who is about to enter the narrative.
‘Millions of people,’ she said, ‘swarming like rats […] For one really exquisite palace […] full of pictures from the Old World and exquisite things [...] I'd sacrifice a hundred thousand of them, a million of them.’ She raised her hand feebly and snapped her fingers. ‘I care nothing for them—understand me?’
This passage appears in Book III Chapter 2 in a scene entitled “Odi Profanum Vulgus.” This short flash of a scene shows Gloria in the throes of fever-induced madness as she battles a case of influenza.
This speech is unprompted, and her nurse brushes it off as nonsense. But Gloria’s words carry the cynical weight of what she feels she deserves. If Gloria had it her way, she would sacrifice millions of New Yorkers much less deserving than her for a single palace. But Gloria’s idea of “deserving” is tied to class and her fading beauty. She grew up a society girl, and at the age of 29, her fading beauty signifies that she can no longer remain one. The financial difficulties she and Anthony have endured place extra weight on Gloria’s expectations. Their income dwindles at the same rate as her beauty. Only in this mad fever dream can Gloria verbalize the injustice she feels she has been subjected to.
‘See here,’ said Anthony softly, ‘you two get out—now, both of you. Or else I'll tell my grandfather.’ He held up a handful of stamps and let them come drifting down about him like leaves, varicolored and bright, turning and fluttering gaudily upon the sunny air: stamps of England and Ecuador, Venezuela and Spain—Italy....
This quote appears in Book III, Chapter 3, in a scene called “The Encounter.” Here, Gloria and Richard find Anthony in a crazed state poring over his childhood stamp collection.
The air smells of perfume, signifying that the Dorothy which Anthony encountered was indeed real and not a figment of his imagination. Meanwhile, Gloria and Richard’s good news pales in contrast to Anthony’s newly childlike persona. As Gloria looks on in horror, Anthony holds up a handful of stamps and lets them fall like leaves from a tree. This is Anthony at his nadir. He has worn down his mind and body through excessive drinking, and this fugue state is the direct result of a blackout after an encounter with Dorothy. He will recover from this particular state, but he will remain an eccentric rich recluse by the end of the novel.