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Amory, Amory, Amory. Anything he wants, he gets… at least early on in the game. Amory is undeniably the spoiled product of his nervous, entitled mother Beatrice.
The book makes this as clear as possible when it says, "Amory Blaine inherited from his mother every trait, except the stray inexpressible few, that made him worthwhile" (1.1.1). Or in other words, everything we're going to like about Amory in this book will be stuff that he specifically didn't get from his mom. The book has no time for Beatrice and is basically peeved that Amory is her son.
From day one, Beatrice thinks of Amory as a little companion—kind of like how a stereotypical rich girl might think of a pet Chihuahua. As the book tells us,
When Amory was five he was already a delightful companion for her. He was an auburn-haired boy, with great, handsome eyes which he would grow up to in time, a facile imaginative mind and a taste for fancy dress. (1.1.4)
In fact, it's really Amory's handsomeness that gets him through his early life without becoming too much of an outcast. He's super awkward socially, but people look beyond it because he's just so dreamy.
As Amory gets older, he dreams about becoming a V.I.P. But while he's excited about the idea of becoming a big shot, but he doesn't want to actually be one. In other words, he likes the process of dreaming about getting something. But once he has that thing, he stops caring. As the narrator tells us,
It was always the becoming he dreamed of, never the being. This, too, was quite characteristic of Amory. (1.1.134)
This tendency will lead to certain problems down the road, because it's almost impossible for Amory to motivate himself once he realizes that he doesn't care about what happens after he has achieved his goals.
As you can imagine, Amory's teachers aren't big fans of his ego or his laziness. We find this out directly when we read, "He was resentful against all authority over him, and this, combined with a lazy indifference toward his work, exasperated every master in school" (1.1.228). So just to recap: Amory Blaine is an egotistical, lazy jerk who can't stand authority and who wants to succeed in life without really trying.
And yes, we're stuck with him as our protagonist.
As he grows older, Amory becomes aware of his huge ego and wonders how he could go about making himself a better person. He figures that he can become better if he devotes himself to a higher purpose. But religion doesn't really satisfy him and his flop of a romantic relationship with a girl named Rosalind leaves him feeling completely defeated. As the narrator tells us,
Tireless passion, fierce jealousy, longing to possess and crush—these alone were left of all his love for Rosalind; these remained to him as payment for the loss of his youth. (2.1.35)
In other words, Amory has lost his youthful innocence, and all he has left to show for it is jealousy, bitterness, and contempt for others. Talk about growing pains.
By the end of the book, Amory hasn't come any closer to figuring out what the purpose of his life will be. All he can say is, "I know myself […] but that is all" (2.5.251). Yikes. Let's hope that knowing himself is the first step toward becoming better and finding fulfillment, because, if not, Amory is destined to live a really sad life.
A bit of downer? Yes indeed. But this is classic Lost Generation stuff—the bleakity-bleak-bleak view that Fitzgerald and others took of life in the Western world after WWI. The 1920s, as far as Fitz & Co. were concerned, wasn't all flappers and cigarette holders and partying hard. It was also full of wasteful self-destruction… something that Amory embodies to a T.