This Side of Paradise, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Part XLVII
Every day on Daily Readers' Book Club we offer an article length section of a book until that book is done. We are currently reading F. Scott Fitzgerald's This Side of Paradise. This book will have 106 parts.
"Fine! I swear I think it'll be most entertaining. How do they feel up at Cap and Gown?"
"Wild, of course. Every one's been sitting and arguing and swearing and getting mad and getting sentimental and getting brutal. It's the same at all the clubs; I've been the rounds. They get one of the radicals in the corner and fire questions at him."
"How do the radicals stand up?"
"Oh, moderately well. Burne's a damn good talker, and so obviously sincere that you can't get anywhere with him. It's so evident that resigning from his club means so much more to him than preventing it does to us that I felt futile when I argued; finally took a position that was brilliantly neutral. In fact, I believe Burne thought for a while that he'd converted me."
"And you say almost a third of the junior class are going to resign?"
"Call it a fourth and be safe."
"Lord--who'd have thought it possible!"
There was a brisk knock at the door, and Burne himself came in. "Hello, Amory--hello, Tom."
"'Evening, Burne. Don't mind if I seem to rush; I'm going to Renwick's."
Burne turned to him quickly.
"You probably know what I want to talk to Tom about, and it isn't a bit private. I wish you'd stay."
"I'd be glad to." Amory sat down again, and as Burne perched on a table and launched into argument with Tom, he looked at this revolutionary more carefully than he ever had before. Broad-browed and strong-chinned, with a fineness in the honest gray eyes that were like Kerry's, Burne was a man who gave an immediate impression of bigness and security--stubborn, that was evident, but his stubbornness wore no stolidity, and when he had talked for five minutes Amory knew that this keen enthusiasm had in it no quality of dilettantism.
The intense power Amory felt later in Burne Holiday differed from the admiration he had had for Humbird. This time it began as purely a mental interest. With other men of whom he had thought as primarily first-class, he had been attracted first by their personalities, and in Burne he missed that immediate magnetism to which he usually swore allegiance. But that night Amory was struck by Burne's intense earnestness, a quality he was accustomed to associate only with the dread stupidity, and by the great enthusiasm that struck dead chords in his heart. Burne stood vaguely for a land Amory hoped he was drifting toward--and it was almost time that land was in sight. Tom and Amory and Alec had reached an impasse; never did they seem to have new experiences in common, for Tom and Alec had been as blindly busy with their committees and boards as Amory had been blindly idling, and the things they had for dissection--college, contemporary personality and the like--they had hashed and rehashed for many a frugal conversational meal.
That night they discussed the clubs until twelve, and, in the main, they agreed with Burne. To the roommates it did not seem such a vital subject as it had in the two years before, but the logic of Burne's objections to the social system dovetailed so completely with everything they had thought, that they questioned rather than argued, and envied the sanity that enabled this man to stand out so against all traditions.
Then Amory branched off and found that Burne was deep in other things as well. Economics had interested him and he was turning socialist. Pacifism played in the back of his mind, and he read The Masses and Lyoff Tolstoi faithfully.
"How about religion?" Amory asked him.
"Don't know. I'm in a muddle about a lot of things--I've just discovered that I've a mind, and I'm starting to read."
"Everything. I have to pick and choose, of course, but mostly things to make me think. I'm reading the four gospels now, and the 'Varieties of Religious Experience.'"
"What chiefly started you?"
"Wells, I guess, and Tolstoi, and a man named Edward Carpenter. I've been reading for over a year now--on a few lines, on what I consider the essential lines."
"Well, frankly, not what you call poetry, or for your reasons--you two write, of course, and look at things differently. Whitman is the man that attracts me."
"Yes; he's a definite ethical force."
"Well, I'm ashamed to say that I'm a blank on the subject of Whitman. How about you, Tom?"
Image courtesy of Peter Alfred Hess.