The Beautiful and Damned  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

The Beautiful and Damned, first published by Scribner's in 1922, is F. Scott Fitzgerald's second novel.

It tells the story of Anthony Patch (a 1920s socialite and presumptive heir to a tycoon's fortune), the relationship with his wife Gloria, his service in the army, and alcoholism. The novel provides an excellent portrait of the Eastern elite as the Jazz Age begins its ascent, engulfing all classes into what will soon be known as Café Society. As with all of his other novels, it is a brilliant character study and is also an early account of the complexities of marriage and intimacy that were further explored in Tender Is the Night. The book is believed to be largely based on Fitzgerald's relationship and marriage with Zelda Fitzgerald.

Toward the end of the novel, Fitzgerald references himself via a character who is a novelist:

"You know these new novels make me tired. My God! Everywhere I go some silly girl asks me if I've read 'This Side of Paradise.' Are our girls really like that? If it's true to life, which I don't believe, the next generation is going to the dogs. I'm sick of all this shoddy realism."

A 1922 film adaptation, directed by William A. Seiter, starred Kenneth Harlan as Anthony Patch and Marie Prevost as Gloria. In 2004, the book lent its title to a musical based on the Fitzgeralds' marriage. A modern adaptation of the novel has been made recently by Australian filmmaker Richard Wolstencroft starring Ross Ditcham, Kristen Condon, Norman Yemm, Jenny Seedsman, Keith Potger, Peter Lesley and Frank Howson. It is due for release in 2008.


Themes

As is typical of Fitzgerald, The Beautiful and Damned is at once a gripping morality tale, a rueful meditation on love, money and decadence, and an acute social document. This thematic dualism is created and sustained by an overarching consistency of tone and delivery. There exists a rare balance between Anthony's poetic commentary and immediate circumstances, and the wider context of the novel, creating two equally significant levels to the text that complement each other synergistically. Were it not for the intensity of Anthony and Gloria's fall we would not find ourselves sufficiently discouraged from complacency, and moral laxity as for the novel to have any great effect; were it not for the all-encompassing despondency—the sheer breadth of depravity exposed in the novel—we would not be able to comprehend the extent to which a society may be steeped in such a transparent vice. Ultimately, it becomes apparent that the novel concerns the lurches of a lethargic society, trying desperately to find a cause for which to progress. Indeed, it is significant that the only diligent reformer of the novel—the only man who has found a cause to which he may commit—is Anthony's grandfather, who belongs to the previous generation, which has now been replaced by the present directionless one. Equally, and on a more personal level, the novel is about the ephemerality of all life. It concerns characters' disproportionate appreciation of their past; an inaccuracy of interpretation that invariably consumes them in the present.




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "The Beautiful and Damned" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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