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Anthony rides south in a crowded troop train. Everyone smokes, so the air is foul. Anthony manages to tolerate the awful food. They rattle southward for two days and two nights. At Camp Hooker, Anthony’s life consists of interminable drilling with occasional harangues by officers. He goes into town the first chance he gets. Anthony finds the place surprisingly pleasant. He meets two girls and strolls around with them, enjoying the soft, warm night. He walks home with one of the girls, Dorothy “Dot” Raycroft.
Anthony begins an affair with Dot. He kisses her on their first date and then writes a passionate love letter to Gloria. Dot, who is nineteen, has a bad reputation in her town. There have already been three men in her life. On Anthony and Dot’s second date, they sit on her porch and kiss. Dot asks Anthony if he loves her.
For the first time in his life, Anthony spends his time with the working classes—the kind of people who had always touched their caps to him. He tells them he was a bank clerk. Anthony aligns himself with them in judging their officers. He writes less often to Gloria and sees Dot almost every night. Dot imagines that Anthony has a loveless marriage to an older wife.
Captain Dunning, who considers himself a good judge of character, promotes Anthony to corporal. Anthony marvels that he now considers himself a soldier. In Europe, American troops are pouring into the trenches. Anthony starts recognizing names on the casualty lists. Gloria stops writing about coming south to join him.
Anthony spends a dreamlike spring with Dot, enchanted by the South. July brings scorching heat and rumors that Anthony’s regiment is to change camp. When Anthony tells Dot he might be leaving, she cries that she will die without him. He tells her she’ll soon forget him and starts talking about his own losses. Anthony’s self-absorption hurts Dot, but she accepts his apology, and he comes back to her arms.
In September, in Camp Boone, Mississippi, Anthony tries to write to Gloria. He hasn’t heard from her for two weeks. Gloria isn’t answering night letters or wires. Anthony has set up Dot in a boardinghouse, but he’s tired of her company. One night he gets an urgent summons from Dot, in which she seems to be threatening suicide. Anthony rushes to her side to find it was a ruse just to get him there. He gets back to camp after curfew and gives a false name to gain entry. Two days later, Anthony is arrested, stripped of his rank, and confined for a month.
Anthony spends his confinement at hard physical labor, building a road. He thinks he’s being watched and starts hearing voices. When he’s finally released, he reads letters from Gloria and Dot before collapsing with influenza. He recovers in time to move with his regiment to Long Island, New York. Anthony looks for a telephone as soon as they arrive. He hears cries saying Germany has surrendered.
Anthony evades the military police and catches a train into New York City. He walks through the crowds celebrating the victory, up to his apartment. There’s no one at home. The phone rings, and he learns from the male caller that Gloria is at the Armistice Ball at the Astor. He gets there when the dance is going full blast. He spots Gloria, makes his way across to her, and melts in her kiss.
This chapter explores a new theme of reality versus delusion. Before he goes to training camp, Anthony idealizes military service in part because the rise of the War has made military service fashionable. Anthony overestimates his ability to serve his country, which is especially absurd given that he has done nothing with his life. When Anthony finally greets the grim realities of military service, however, his delusions are made apparent. Rather than being a glamorous experience that makes him lauded in society, Anthony experiences his time with the military as an affront to his social standing. Instead of being skilled as he assumed he would be, Anthony is immediately disqualified from high rank within the military by his physical limitations. What’s more, Anthony’s belief that he is suddenly among the common people reveals his obliviousness both to his privilege and to the fact that his social status has been in decline long before he ever went into the military. Though he wants to be above the others in training, in many ways, the training camp is the first time his outward circumstances have matched the social status he has earned. As someone who has squandered his money for years on booze and petty trifles and avoided the idea of work, he has done nothing to earn an elevated place in society.
Anthony’s inability to skate by on fantasy and his evasion of responsibility comes to a head when he attempts to present a false name when he’s caught breaking the rules. He smugly thinks he can get away with it until he’s caught a few days later, stripped of his rank, and imprisoned for a month of hard labor. The military is a stark confrontation with reality that flies in the face of Anthony’s fantastic and impractical view of the world.
Anthony’s pursuit of Dorothy and its ensuing fallout reveals his obliviousness in romantic affairs. In the same way Anthony viewed Gloria as an object of beauty, he sees Dorothy as simply an opportunity to distract himself from his time in the military and Gloria’s absence. His seemingly inconsequential extramarital relationship implodes as Dorothy starts to fall madly in love with him. He is incapable of acknowledging her feelings or returning her affection. Anthony’s relationship with Dorothy mirrors the early days of his relationship with Gloria. Whereas Anthony found himself madly, wildly in love with a non-committal Gloria in earlier chapters, Anthony can’t stand to be around Dorothy once she professes her love for him. However, his experience on the other side of this dynamic does nothing to give him empathy for Dorothy. Unable to see Dorothy as a person and committed, once again, to having no commitments, Anthony wants no part of Dorothy’s love.
Fitzgerald uses Anthony and Gloria’s separation in this chapter to develop a fantasy ideal of their relationship. Gloria’s indifference to Anthony during their separation echoes her emotional distance at the beginning of their relationship. He writes to her, but she hardly reciprocates and eventually stops writing back entirely. However, Fitzgerald uses this chapter to make Anthony’s heart grow fonder in Gloria’s absence. He recalls her beauty, which is also the one symbolic trait that Fitzgerald constantly returns to. Gloria is again objectified for her beauty by the men in her life and is hardly seen as a person. Fitzgerald momentarily allows the reader to indulge in the fantasy version of their relationship. However, this is a feint that ignores both the trajectory of the story thus far as well as the fact that it is not over. Reality will soon reassert itself.