On the Seemingly Vain Things We Do: In F. Scott Fitzgerald’s This Side of Paradise

To reach the highest point of something is to expose oneself to the atrocities of what exists on the other side. That, too, is often self-possessing and leaves a person insecure to the dreariness of living. Does this struggle make us desolate and alone, or will we die knowing we thoroughly testified against the trial that ran its course throughout our lifetime?

The truth about our ego is to look at the world within the limits of our own perspective of it. This, as much distinct and unnerving, is an invitation to what we’d like to become. And not our matter of being.

Just like in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s This Side of Paradise — the chapter Snapshots of the Young Egotist, Fitzgerald writes:

“It was always the becoming he dreamed of, never the becoming. This, too, was quite characteristic of Amory.”

He also wrote a striking reflection of the character which we see much of everywhere in the light of betrayal and domination:

“Amory kept his temper with difficulty. He became aware that he had not an ounce of real affection for Isabelle, but her coldness piqued him. He wanted to kiss her, kiss her a lot, because then he knew he could leave in the morning and not care. On the contrary, if he didn’t kiss her, it would worry him… It would interfere vaguely with his idea of himself as a conqueror. It wasn’t dignified to come off second best, pleading, with a doughty warrior like Isabelle.”

This passage examines a person mastering something that feels chaotic and passive, but in fact, is opposed to such remarks. Given our tiring limits of existence, can we unravel the drudgery of our actions? Such magnetism toward one’s own cause and consequence is sure to keep one awake at night. And this is greater than fear… which is greater than my humility. But what I feel and how I feel exists as only mirrors to what others have made me out to be. So, if I were to tear the unsanctified pages of my relationship with what’s between me and others, as a means to an end — what would I be? An egotist, reasonable of doubt, and a captive to my own feelings and emotions.

So, would there be a difference between my character and Amory’s? In the understanding of this thought, I felt as if my surety in my own self was finally defeated. That I’m as capable of translating judgment and conceit in my thoughts as in my actions toward others. We all are. And that gives us leverage; a peek into myriad characters we resonate with in books, movies, and music. And will continue to do so. At last, when I return to my lonely bed at night, there’s no dishonour in dismissing what I am — for what I want to become tomorrow is the only self-serving advantage I am granted.