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Did Amory Ruin Tom’s Literary Career By Exposing Him to the Social World of Princeton in This Side of Paradise by F. Scott Fitzgerald?
As Aristotle so famously wrote in his Politics, “man is by nature a social animal”. As such, he’s destined to be influenced by people around him and mostly by those he regards most dear. By such natural process, so was Tom conventionalized by Amory in Fitzgerald’s first novel This Side of Paradise, unfortunately at the expense of his possibly successful literary career.
Before the two met, Tom was already well known poet at Princeton. He was immersed in writing, making it the cornerstone of his identity, and totally indifferent to social conventions. After only a short time of his and Amory’s friendship, narrator already states that there is “a new Tom, clothed by Brooks, shod by Franks (…) adapting (himself) to the local snobbishness” (Fitzgerald).
After recognizing that Tom truly did change, it’s important to notice the direction of that change – which is towards becoming more like Amory, who’s constantly searching for his socially accepted spot and is often attributing more care to his style than substance.
The contraposition between literary career and conventionalism is stated directly in the book through Amory’s words, in the same chapter that introduces Tom and most deals with Tom’s change: “I can’t decide whether to cultivate my mind and be a great dramatist, or to thumb my nose at the Golden Treasury and be a Princeton slicker” (Fitzgerald).
In conclusion, as a social being and inevitably influenced by dearest friends, one never has the sole control of his life. The book itself gives distinct indications that Amory’s influence on Tom truly did harm his literary career. But, unlike the characters in somebody else’s book, what we do have (and always will) is the choice – of friends and personages that so inevitably influence our lives.
Fitzgerald, F. Scott. This Side of Paradise. New York: Scribner’s, 1920.