The Beautiful and the Damned was a novel on my 2017 reading list. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Beautiful and the Damned is a story about a young, well-to-do man who is grappling with finding his identity and purpose. Anthony Patch lives off the wealth of his grandfather and grows up in New York where he parties with socialites, drinks and falls in love with a beautiful woman named Gloria. At first, it seems like Gloria and Anthony are a perfect couple. Gloria is beautiful, light-hearted and the envy of many girls in her social circle. She drinks in life and revels in her youth daily. Anthony is wealthy and has a world of opportunity at his feet. Yet, as time goes on, something happens that jeopardizes Anthony’s standing amongst New York’s well-to-do and elite and soon Gloria and Anthony begin to struggle to maintain their lifestyle and maintain their love for each other. The only thing that gives Anthony any purpose is his dream of writing.
Anthony grew up in a world of privilege and when his privilege begins to crumble and he struggles, he loses his footing and spirals down. Gloria is a woman, who was used to putting herself first, but when she marries Anthony, for the first time, she is forced to surrender to the reality that she may not always be able to put herself first. As a woman and a wife, Gloria has to grapple with the fact that not only does she have to take care of Anthony, but she must bear the consequences of his poor choices. Ultimately, Gloria is put into a subordinate position to her husband and her independent, free spirit withers with time.
Overall, it’s hard for me to completely like Anthony as a character. He seems over-privileged, entitled and sheltered. While Gloria comes off as vain, racist and superficial. Yet, it’s hard for me to completely dislike them as characters either. As life hits Anthony harder and harder, he is faced with the reality that for the first time in his life, he may have to try to earn his place in the world like everyone else. You almost feel sorry for him, as he fails constantly throughout the novel. Yet, part of me wants to slap him upside the head and tell him to get over himself, get a job just like everyone else, be a big boy and stop acting like he’s the center of the universe. As for Gloria, at times I wanted to grab her by the shoulders, shake her and tell her to come off her high horse. She comes off vain, but as her relationship with Anthony deteriorates, you realize she is a woman in a society where women have few choices.
Overall, I did enjoy the novel. It was a departure from the books that I usually read. A major criticism of the book is that the few people of color and minorities are stereotypical, then again the book was written in 1922. I can see why people rave about Fitzgerald and so many of his works are considered classics.