Study Guide

This Side of Paradise Themes

  • Marriage

    Marriage is kind of a big deal in This Side of Paradise. For starters, Amory's mother and father married for convenience more than love, and this decision has a lasting impact on his life. Beatrice's lack of love in marriage leads her to devote herself completely to Amory, which ends up giving Amory a huge ego.

    On top of that, Amory decides after meeting Rosalind Connage that marrying her will solve all of his problems and bring fulfillment to his dreary life. But when Rosalind breaks things off, Amory spirals into a despair so deep that it looks like he'll never get out. In the end, marriage might not solve a person's problems. But Amory keeps thinking it will because he never gets the chance to find out otherwise.

    Questions About Marriage

    1. Do you think Amory could have had a happy marriage with Rosalind? Why or why not?
    2. Find a passage in the first few pages of the book where Fitzgerald describes the marriage between Amory's mother and father. What kind of marriage is it?
    3. How does Amory react when he finds out that Rosalind is going to marry some guy named Ryder? What does it tell us about him?
    4. Do you think Amory will ever love someone enough after Rosalind to marry her? Why or why not?

    Chew on This

    In This Side of Paradise, we learn that marriage might seem like a path to fulfillment… but it actually isn't.

    In This Side of Paradise, Fitzgerald leaves us thinking that Amory Blaine (or anyone, for that matter) could find fulfillment in life if only he could marry the person he loves.

  • Pride

    Amory's got pride. And when we say pride, we mean that the kid has been bred by his mother to be a complete egomaniac. At one point in the book, Amory eve suffers from a lack of energy because he spends all his strength trying to hide how superior he feels to other people.

    Over the course of This Side of Paradise, Amory learns to recognize his pride and to struggle with it. But he never quite reaches a state of modesty. It's just too difficult for him to stop thinking he's special, that he's deeper and more complex than all the fools around him. Good luck having a fulfilling life and thinking like that, pal.

    Questions About Pride

    1. Do you think Beatrice Blaine is solely responsible for Amory's ego, or does Amory need to share some of the blame?
    2. What is the best way for Amory to become more modest? Do you think he has a real chance at overcoming his pride?
    3. Do you think Amory's pride is the main cause of his misfortunes in this book? Why or why not?
    4. Would Amory have a better chance of appreciating the world around him if he were less proud? Why or why not?

    Chew on This

    In This Side of Paradise, F. Scott Fitzgerald reminds us that there is nothing that will stand in the way of fulfillment more than pride.

    This Side of Paradise shows us that no matter how much the world tries to beat us down into mediocrity, we should always stay proud and exceptional.

  • Family

    Paging Dr. Freud: Amory's early family life has a huge effect on his personality. For starters, his mom spoils him rotten and raises him to think he's a god among mortals. Yuck. In many cases, This Side of Paradise blames Amory's problems on his mother's influence.

    But, truth be told, there comes a time when Amory needs to take responsibility for his own destiny and stop blaming his family for his troubles. Along the way, he gains a valuable new "family" member in Monsignor Darcy, who becomes like a father. When Darcy dies, though, Amory is left all alone with no sense of direction, and it's tough to tell whether he'll ever find a new compass.

    Questions About Family

    1. Do you think Amory's family life has created most of his problems? Why or why not?
    2. How are Amory and Monsignor Darcy like family? How do they both benefit from their relationship?
    3. Do you think Amory would be fulfilled if he got married and had a family? Why or why not?

    Chew on This

    In This Side of Paradise, we learn that family can often cause more problems than it solves.

    In This Side of Paradise, Fitzgerald shows us that a person without a strong family will always feel lost in the world.

  • Alcohol and Drugs

    After Rosalind breaks his heart (and his engagement), Amory Blaine spirals into some pretty serious drunkity-drunk-drunk shenanigans. The only thing that saves him from liver failure is Prohibition.

    Now, you'd think that Amory's life would get better once he dried out and became healthier… but that's not the case at all. It turns out that Amory's alcoholism is just a symptom of a deeper problem. And it's Amory's preoccupation with the problems he drowns in alcohol that Fitzgerald mulls over in This Side of Paradise.

    Questions About Alcohol and Drugs

    1. How does Amory tend to act when he's drunk? Do you think drinking makes his pain even worse, or is he going to be in pain no matter what he does?
    2. Why does Amory stop drinking do much? How does his life change afterward?
    3. Do you think Amory is weak for turning to alcohol in his despair, or is it possible to sympathize with him? Why?

    Chew on This

    In This Side of Paradise, we learn that turning to alcohol will only make our problems worse.

    In This Side of Paradise, we see that alcohol is usually just a symptom (and not the cause) of a deeper problem.

  • Youth

    Amory spends much of his youth (and, consequently, most of This Side of Paradise) thinking that he's the greatest thing since sliced bread. But once he hits prep school and university, he realizes he might not be as special as his mom has raised him to think he is.

    In fact, he eventually resent the loss of his youth because he doesn't like the changes that the world has created in him. He claims that he misses his lost innocence, but it seems more likely that what he really misses is the fantasy that he is the most important person in the world.

    Questions About Youth

    1. What general things does Amory associate with youth in this book? Do they tend to be positive or negative things?
    2. What is the biggest difference you find in Amory before and after he leaves home to go to school? Is it a good difference?
    3. By the end of the book, what does Amory think of young people? Does he envy them or resent them? Why?

    Chew on This

    In This Side of Paradise, Fitzgerald shows us that losing our youth usually means losing the fantasy that we are somehow special or unique.

    In This Side of Paradise, we learn that even though the transition from youth to adulthood is tough, it's all for the best in the long run.

  • Education

    There are lots of different ways to get an education—going to a fancy prep school and fancier university is just one of them. In fact, it's hard to tell whether Amory learns more from his life inside school or his life outside of it.

    We definitely don't see him using the stuff he's learned in a classroom on a daily basis. No, Amory's education in This Side of Paradise consists mostly of the things he learns by hanging out with other people. He also gets a painful education through his love life, which sometimes looks like an endless series of disappointments.

    Questions About Education

    1. Why does Amory ask his mother to go away to a prep school in Connecticut? Please use specific evidence from the text to support your answer.
    2. What kind of education does Amory get from Monsignor Darcy? What's the most important thing Darcy teaches him?
    3. Does Amory appreciate the education he gets at Princeton? How so? How not so?

    Chew on This

    In This Side of Paradise, Fitzgerald shows us that an awesome university education can be a good thing; but we need to be prepared for some harsh truths.

    This Side of Paradise shows us that the main reason people go to schools like Princeton is for status and social connections, rather than a good education.

  • Appearances

    One of the first things we learn about Amory Blaine is that he's a total hottie. In fact, it's his good looks that get him through most of his young life without becoming a total outcast. Amory is a socially awkward guy, but people are always willing to make excuses for him because he's sooo pretty.

    As he gets older, Amory realizes how much he's benefited from this superficial thinking and he hates himself for it. Even more so, he hates the world for being so superficial, because now that he's older, money matters more than good looks. And he has no plans to work hard for money anytime soon… at least that we see in the timeline of This Side of Paradise.

    Questions About Appearances

    1. How much do Amory's good looks influence the development of his personality? What evidence can you show for your opinion?
    2. What's the first thing Amory likes about Isabelle, Rosalind, and Eleanor? Does the pattern suggest that he's a superficial dude?
    3. How often does Amory size someone up just by looking at them? Is this usually a reliable way to judge a person's character?

    Chew on This

    In This Side of Paradise, we learn that people often judge a book by its cover… and they're usually right.

    This Side of Paradise reminds us that it's hard to develop a deep personality when the world is constantly rewarding you for your good looks.

  • Love

    Amory looks for all kinds of ways to make his life more fulfilling. And being a romantic, he decides that love is one of his best options. Little does he know that love will turn out to be way more of a disappointment than he ever imagined.

    As a handsome young guy, he's used to having his way in relationships. But that all changes when his fiancée Rosalind rejects him for not having enough money or prospects. This is the sort of thing that never would have happened when he was younger. But now it's time for the adult world, Amory, where love doesn't always conquer. Life (and This Side of Paradise) is pretty dang brutal.

    Questions About Love

    1. Do you think that love will eventually give Amory a sense of fulfillment if he just sticks with it and doesn't give up? Why?
    2. How does love fail to fix Amory's basic problem with the world? What is this problem anyway?
    3. Why does Rosalind dump Amory? Is it an easy decision for her? Why or why not?
    4. List the characters in this book whom Amory truly loves. What happens to them by the end?

    Chew on This

    In This Side of Paradise, we learn that love can't solve all our problems.

    This Side of Paradise shows us that even though love can be tough, we have to stick with it and have faith.