Amory Blaine is a cocky young man from a wealthy family. But beneath that arrogant exterior lies a heart of gold (maybe not 24-carat, but still), and it doesn't take him long to realize that he can't be fulfilled by a superficial life. Once he gets to Princeton for university, he meets all kinds of new people and starts asking deep questions about the meaning of life. The downside of this "call" into deeper thinking, though, is that it makes Amory anxious and depressed. It turns out that he has no clue what the meaning of life is or what it would take to make his particular life worthwhile. So he sets out on a journey—or let's call it more of a wandering—to figure out the point of it all.
Amory tries all sorts of things to give his life meaning. He tries writing poetry, dating girls, and even fighting in World War I. But none of it brings him any closer to finding a higher calling in life. If anything, it all leaves him thinking there's not much point at all. As time goes on, he flunks a major class at Princeton, which guarantees that he'll never be a social powerhouse at the university. On top of that, his friend Burne becomes a political radical, which only reminds Amory of how little motivation or guts he has.
Arrival and Frustration
Amory finally seems to find a purpose when he starts dating Rosalind Connage. The two even get engaged, but Rosalind eventually dumps Amory because he can't offer her a good enough life. Or in other words, he's not enough of a big-shot moneybags. Amory tries to talk her out of the decision, but it's no use. She kicks him to the curb and Amory drowns his sorrows in alcohol for the next year or so.
The Final Ordeals
With Rosalind out of his life, Amory enters a self-destructive spiral of alcoholism. The only thing that slows down his disintegration is the criminalization of alcohol during Prohibition. But Amory still finds all kinds of ways to waste away. He does one nice thing: when he takes the rap for a friend who has hired a prostitute. But in the end, the only reason Amory does this is because he figures his life isn't worth protecting anymore. On top of all that, his mentor Monsignor Darcy dies. As far as final ordeals go, these are looking pretty freaking grim.
Ah, here we go. This is the part of the "Quest" narrative where the character overcomes his/her difficulties and reaches some new, happier state of being. But hold up a second… because that isn't what happens to Amory.
Yes, he gets into a car with an old rich dude and spews out his opinions about socialism and making the world better. But when he steps back out of the car, Amory doesn't have a better sense of where he's going. All he really knows is himself, and this will have to be enough for the time being. We don't know how things will work out for him because, quite frankly, neither does the author.