An archetypal approach to literature assumes that there is a collection of symbols, images, characters, and motifs that evokes basically the same response in all people. According to the psychologist Carl Jung, mankind possesses a “collective unconscious” that contains these archetypes and that is common to all of humanity. When an author uses the archetypal approach, he selects a universal theme through which to tell his story. F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “This Side of Paradise” uses the dynamics of the mother-son relationship throughout the novel to develop Amory Blaine’s character with all its foibles and weaknesses. Love is underlying universal theme. Amory is also a rebellious teenager who is contemptuous of the traditions and cultural norms of nineteenth century America – an archetype universally known and understood by all. Amory is the protagonist of the novel. His early years are spent in the company of his mother and there is little mention of his father who seems to have had very little influence on Amory. They are wealthy and live an unusual life traveling around the country and moving in elite circles.
Amory does not attend school in his younger years but is educated by private tutors. He develops into an unusual young man, and his sophisticated education and adult behavior sets him apart from his peers. After his mother Beatrice, suffers a nervous breakdown, Amory spends two years with an aunt and uncle in Minneapolis. Amory falls in love often and the reader is surprised by both his attraction and repulsion to the young ladies in question. He hates kissing Myra: “Sudden revulsion seized Amory, disgust, loathing for the whole incident. He desired frantically to be away, never to see Myra again, never to kiss any one; he became conscious of his face and hers, of their clinging hands, and he wanted to creep out of his body.” And later, “He collected locks of hair from many girls. He wore the rings of several.” To some extent his mother Beatrice is his natural antagonist but the reader quickly discovers that Amory is his own antagonist.
When he visits her at Lake Geneva, he snickers under his breath and grunts impolitely when she ridicules his clothes. He is somewhat mocking of her speech and behavior and wonders how her words would have sounded to his friend Froggy Parker. “Amory thought how superficial was the recent overlay of his own generation. Aside from a minute shyness, he felt that the old cynical kinship with his mother had not been one bit broken.” One of the main themes in the novel is the generational gap that begins to emerge during this century. Amory rebels against convention and up to his arrival at Princeton, spends much of his time outside of it. At school, Amory tries hard to fit in and to conform to convention. He recognizes that being successful in athletics would increase his popularity and throws himself into football.
He realizes too, that he must distance himself from the distracting influence of his mother if he wants to be conventional. He makes the distinction between the “slicker,” and the “big man” who achieves success but has no time for convention. He decides to become the “big man” but finds no fulfillment in so doing. Monsignor Darcy’s death appears to finally bring enlightenment to Amory. He appears to have discovered that he is who he is and that love, money and convention cannot change who he intrinsically is.
Turnbull, A. (1965, May 2). Young man with a style. Retrieved February 13, 2009, from The New York Times Web site: http://www.nytimes.com/books/00/12/24/specials/fitzgerald-apprentice.html Lapidos, J. (2008, December 23 ). Yale, Harvard or Princeton? Benjamin Button and how F. Scott Fitzgerald decided where to send his characters to college. Retrieved February 12, 2009, from the Slate Web site: http://www.slate.com/id/2207291/