The Beautiful and Damned by F. Scott Fitzgerald

by Catherine Chiu

  •  He felt that if he had a love he would have hung her picture just facing the tub so that, lost in the soothing steamings of the hot water, he might lie and look up at her and muse warmly and sensuously on her beauty.
  • The notion of sitting down and conjuring up, not only words in which to clothe thoughts but thoughts worthy of being clothed — the whole thing was absurdly beyond his desires.
  • DICK: (Pompously) Art isn’t meaningless.
    MAURY: It is in itself. It isn’t in that it tries to make life less so.
    ANTHONY: In other words, Dick, you’re playing before a grand stand peopled with ghosts.
    MAURY: Give a good show anyhow.
    ANTHONY: (To MAURY) On the contrary, I’d feel that it being a meaningless world, why write? The very attempt to give it purpose is purposeless.
  • Oh, God! one minute it’s my world, and the next I’m the world’s fool. To-day it’s my world and everything’s easy, easy. Even Nothing is easy!
  • “Then you don’t think the artist works from his intelligence?”
    “No. He goes on improving, if he can, what he imitates in the way of style, and choosing from his own interpretation of the things around him what constitutes material.”
  • One must understand all — else one must take all for granted.
  • He found in himself a growing horror and loneliness. The idea of eating alone frightened him; in preference he dined often with men he detested. Travel, which had once charmed him, seemed, at length, unendurable, a business of color without substance, a phantom chase after his own dream’s shadow.
  • I detest reformers, especially the sort who try to reform me.
  • But he says the biography of every woman begins with the first kiss that counts, and ends when her last child is laid in her arms.
  • He says unloved women have no biographies — they have histories.
  • Self-expression had never seemed at once so desirable and so impossible.
  • Just that I’m not a realist. No, only the romanticist preserves the things worth preserving.
  • There was one of his loneliness coming, one of those times when he walked the streets or sat, aimless and depressed, biting a pencil at his desk. It was a self-absorption with no comfort, a demand for expression with no outlet, a sense of time rushing by, ceaselessly and wastefully — assuaged only by that conviction that there was nothing to waste, because all efforts and attainments were equally valueless.
  • The growth of intimacy is like that. First one gives off his best picture, the bright and finished product mended with bluff and falsehood and humor. Then more details are required and one paints a second portrait, and a third — before long the best lines cancel out — and the secret is exposed at last; the planes of the pictures have intermingled and given us away, and though we paint and paint we can no longer sell a picture. We must be satisfied with hoping that such a fatuous accounts of ourselves as we make to our wives and children and business associates are accepted as true.
  • So he built hope desperately and tenaciously out of the stuff of his dream, a hope flimsy enough, to be sure, a hope that was cracked and dissipated a dozen times a day, a hope mothered by mockery, but, nevertheless, a hope that would be brawn and sinew to his self-respect.
  • “All women are birds,” he ventured.
    “What kind am I?” — quick and eager.
    “A swallow, I think, and sometimes a bird of paradise. Most girls are sparrows, of course — see that row of nurse-maids over there? They’re sparrows — or are they magpies? And of course you’ve met canary girls — and robin girls.”
    “And swan girls and parrot girls. All grown women are hawks, I think, or owls.”
  • Mother says that two souls are sometimes created together and — and in love before they’re born.
  • I want to marry Anthony, because husbands are so often ‘husbands’ and I must marry a lover.There are four general types of husbands.(1) The husband who always want to stay in in the evening, has no vices and works for a salary. Totally undesirable!
    (2) The atavistic master whose mistress one is, to wait on his pleasure. This sort always considers every pretty woman ‘shallow’, a sort of peacock with arrested development.
    (3) Next comes the worshipper, the idolater of his wife and all that is his, to the utter oblivion of everything else. This sort demands an emotional actress for a wife. God! it must be an exertion to be thought righteous.
    (4) And Anthony — a temporarily passionate lover with wisdom enough to realize when it has flown and that it must fly. And I want to get married to Anthony.
  • Love lingered — by way of long conversations at night into those stark hours when the mind thins and sharpens and the borrowing from dreams become the stuff of all life, by way of deep and intimate kindnesses they developed toward each other, by way of their laughing at the same absurdities and thinking the same things noble and the same things sad.
  • Beautiful things grow to a certain height and they they fail and fade off, breathing out memories as they decay.
  • There’s no beauty without poignancy and there’s no poignancy without the feeling that it’s going, men, names, books, houses — bound for dust — mortal —
  • There’d be all the little intimacies remembered — and they’d dull that freshness that after all is the most precious part of love.
  • How I feel is that if I wanted anything I’d take it. That’s what I’ve always thought all my life. But it happens that I want you, and so I just haven’t room for any other desires.
  • “Women soil easily,” she said, “far more easily than men. Unless a girl’s very young and brave it’s almost impossible for her to go down-hill without a certain hysterical animality, the cunning, dirty sort of animality. A man’s different — and I suppose that’s why one of the commonest characters of romance is a man going gallantly to the devil.
  • I learned a little of beauty — enough to know that it had nothing to do with truth.
    MAURY: What is a gentleman, anyway?
    ANTHONY: A man who never has pins under his coat lapel.
    MAURY: Nonsense! A man’s social rank is determined by the amount of bread he eats in a sandwich.
    DICK: He’s a man who prefers the first edition of a book to the last edition of a newspaper.
    RACHAEL: A man who never gives an impersonation of a dope-fiend.
    MAURY: An American who can fool an English butler into thinking he’s one.
    MURIEL: A man who comes from a good family and went to Yale or Harvard or Princeton, and has money and dances well, and all that.
    MAURY: At last — the perfect definition! Cardinal Newman’s is now a back number.
    PARAMORE: I think we ought to look on the question more broad-mindedly. Was it Abraham Lincoln who said that a gentleman is one who never inflicts pain?
    MAURY: It’s attributed, I believe, to General Ludendorff.
    PARAMORE: Surely you’re joking.
  • He had been futile in longing to drift and dream; no one drifted except to maelstroms, no one dreamed, without his dreams becoming fantastic nightmares of indecision and regret.
  • “It was such a cold night,” he continued, perversely, keeping his voice upon a melancholy note. “I guess it expected kindness from somebody, and it got only pain–“
  • “I’ve heard you and Maury, and every one else for whose intellect I have the slightest respect, agree that life as it appears in utterly meaningless. But it’s always seemed to me that if I were unconsciously learning something here it might not be so meaningless.”
    “You’re not learning anything — you’re just getting tired.”
  • I don’t care about truth. I want some happiness.
  • Life plays the same lovely and agonizing joke on all of us.
  • “So damned hard, so damned hard,” he repeated aimlessly; “it just hurts people and hurts people, until finally it hurts them so that they can’t be hurt ever any more. That’s the last and worst thing it does.”
  • Things are sweeter when they’re lost. I know — because once I wanted something and got it. It was the only thing I ever wanted badly, Dot. And when I got it it turned to dust in my hands.
  • And that taught me you can’t have anything, you can’t have anything at all. Because desire just cheats you. It’s like a sunbeam skipping here and there about a room. It stops and gilds some inconsequential object, and we poor fools try to grasp it — but when we do the sunbeam moves on to something else, and you’ve got the inconsequential part, but the glitter that made you want it is gone —
  • What’s death to me is just a lot of words to you. You put ’em together so pretty.
  • Perceiving that a certain fastidiousness would restrain her, he had grown lax in preserving the completeness of her love — which, after all, was the keystone of he entire structure.
  • Now my job isn’t to make a success of you, because every man is born a success, he makes himself a failure.
  • Just as he still cared more for her than for any other creature, so did he more intensely and frequently hate her.
  • … remote and uncertain as heaven.
  • Beauty is only to be admired, only to be loved — to be harvested carefully and then flung at a chosen lover like a gift of roses.
  • All she wanted to be was a little girl, to be efficiently taken care of by some yielding but superior power, stupider and steadier than herself. It seemed that the only lover she had ever wanted was a lover in a dream.
  • But he hated to be sober. It made him conscious of the people around him, of that air of struggle, of greedy ambition, of hope more sordid than despair, of incessant passage up or down, which in every metropolis is most in evidence through the unstable middle class.
  • There was nothing, it seemed, that grew stale so soon as pleasure.
  • The failure and the success both believe in their hearts that they have accurately balanced points of view, the success because he’s succeeded, and the failure because he’s failed. The successful man tells his son to profit by his father’s good fortune, and the failure tells his son to profit by his father’s mistakes.

 

 

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