Two weeks later, Anthony and Gloria begin discussing marriage. Anthony insists that Gloria does not love him as much as he loves her. She responds by suggesting that their souls are made for each other, at which Anthony scoffs. They have a brief spat, which is resolved when both admit to having been mean. The narrator notes that Anthony “felt often like a scarcely tolerated guest at a party she was giving.” As the engagement continues, Anthony finds it irritating that Gloria does not get jealous the way he does, a fact about which she is proud. Whenever they disagree they apologize and become affectionate once more, but each takes a certain pleasure in goading the other.
Anthony and Gloria’s fairy tale romance leads naturally to the discussion of marriage. However, the prospect of marriage crystallizes the relationship into something real, which incites conflict. Gloria’s insistence that they are soulmates still does not include the statement, “I love you,” which Anthony begins to notice. There is a spirit of competition that animates their relationship. Anthony seems to wish the unpleasant experience of jealousy upon Gloria, and Gloria seems glad that Anthony is jealous because it allows her to demonstrate superiority over him.
One day, Anthony asks Gloria why she likes Muriel. She says she doesn’t much but socializes with her out of convenience. She likes men better because, she says, she has a man’s mind. Anthony says she has a mind like his, which is genderless. Gloria tells Anthony about meeting Bloeckman the first time when he was having luncheon with her father. He asked her to marry him within a month and wouldn’t take no for an answer. When she told him about her engagement to Anthony, she attempted to make him hate her to cushion the blow. Anthony reflects that Gloria’s main appeal is her indifference.
Gloria and Anthony both demonstrate derision toward women and treat Gloria as exceptional in contrast to women like Muriel, who are openly promiscuous and outwardly uninterested in intellectual pursuits. Anthony also thinks of himself as an exceptional man and considers himself and Gloria as existing somewhere outside the social constraints of gender roles. He is naïvely unable to see that he, Bloeckman, and Gloria are caught in a classic love triangle as coded by society’s gender roles.
On a later, sunny afternoon, Gloria and Anthony ride around on top of a bus. Anthony complains that the city is artificial. Gloria sees a police officer helping a woman cross the street and remarks what fools police officers must think people for being “frightened and inefficient and old.” Gloria abruptly tells Anthony that she should be getting home, to which he replies that he wishes they were married. The couple begins to daydream together about their life when they are married and have inherited Adam Patch’s fortune. They imagine a magnificent estate with private swimming pools. The narrator remarks that their sweetest moments are when some artificial barrier is keeping them apart from each other and from this future that is approaching in “Sixteen days now – fifteen – fourteen – ” The section ends mid-countdown.
Anthony claims dissatisfaction with the artificiality of modern consumerist society even while he spends the day as a consumer, not even working to make the money he spends on sightseeing bus rides. He also seems to gain a sense of superiority by positioning himself physically above the crowd and remarking on their artificiality. Likewise, Gloria separates herself from the reality of her own mortality by looking down upon other victims of mortality. The couple requires separation from reality to be content. By counting down to Anthony and Gloria’s wedding, the narrator imposes an impending expiration date on the daydream that sustains them during their courtship.
Anthony goes to Tarrytown to tell his grandfather he is getting married. He is insulted when Adam Patch expresses skepticism about his and Gloria’s ability to get by on their current income given Anthony’s foolish spending habits. As Anthony turns to leave, Adam asks him if he would like to get married there at the house, like Anthony’s father did. Anthony corrects Adam – in fact, his father got married in Boston. Adam Patch concedes that this was in fact the case. He tells his grandson that he has been thinking a great deal about the afterlife and that he thinks Anthony ought to think more about it himself. Anthony leaves the house feeling both elated and sorry for the forgetful old man.
Anthony’s elation when he leaves his grandfather seems due to the fact that Adam Patch is showing signs of age (a failing memory and preoccupation with death) that might mean Anthony will come into his inheritance soon. However, Anthony betrays his own youthful naïveté by celebrating his grandfather’s impending death while scoffing at Adam Patch’s concern about preparing for death. Anthony desires mortality insofar as it applies to his grandfather but is unable to reconcile himself with the fact that he is also aging and, indeed, running out of money.
Wedding plans are interrupted by the debut of Dick’s novel and the attention he receives from it. He remains an usher in the wedding party, but Anthony and Gloria decide he is a bore. They are also unsatisfied with many of the gifts they receive, especially the check for $5000 from Adam Patch. Mrs. Gilbert plans the arrangement of a hypothetical house for Anthony and Gloria. Adam Patch does not warm to Gloria or her mother, but he moves ahead in having his house prepared for the wedding. Again, the section ends mid-countdown, this time at three days left to go.
Anthony and Gloria demonstrate that they are not satisfied with marriage to one another, but rather desire a showy wedding. In fact, they treat their wedding as a source of income, a job not to be overshadowed by Dick’s career advancement. Mrs. Gilbert condones Gloria and Anthony’s daydreaming by daydreaming a future on their behalf. Adam Patch, the social reformer, is wary of such fantasies but allows the wedding to proceed anyway. Again, the narrator counts down to let the reader know that Anthony and Gloria’s romance is on the clock.
Alone in her room, Gloria pores over her diary, reminiscing about the list of men who are now in her past. She rereads the entries of April, during her courtship with Anthony. In one entry, she has enumerated the four different types of husbands: the one who stays in, has no vices, and works; the “atavistic master,” “the worshipper,” “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.” Gloria also looks back at old entries, dating back to her first kiss at sixteen. Remembering the smells of rain, flowers, and damp grass that accompanied the kiss, she begins weeping and writes, at the end of the diary, “FINIS.”
This scene is a rare moment in which the reader witnesses Gloria alone, not as an object of beauty but simply a character. Gloria’s diary shows that her desire to marry Anthony is paradoxical, born out of an impulse to render permanent the temporariness of their love affair. She reflects on the sensory experience of her sexual awakening. On the brink of marriage, she does not feel as though she is beginning a life with Anthony, but rather as though the story of her life is over. Her own narrative of herself contrasts with Dick’s notion of a woman’s biography, starting with “the first kiss that counts” and ending with motherhood.
Alone in his apartment after the bridal dinner, Anthony climbs into bed, “feeling impersonal and fragile as a piece of china waiting on a serving table.” He reflects that his youth was hollow and that he did not realize that his soul’s union with Gloria’s awaited him. He begins listening to the city and hears a woman’s laughter mixed with a man’s low voice. He gets out of bed and goes to the window, suddenly feeling horrified and disgusted by life for the first time in four months. He wishes he were outside, elevated above and detached from the city, able to live in the corners of his mind. He yells, “Oh, my God!” then buries his face in the pillows and rehearses details of the wedding tomorrow.
Anthony’s moment alone starkly contrasts with Gloria’s. Unlike her, he feels that his relationship with Gloria is the start of a new phase of life. However, his emotions are volatile, and his compulsion to compare himself to the rest of the world results in his thinking more about his detachment from society than about his impending marriage. He even feels like a “piece of china,” or an object of social ritual which might either function as intended or be dropped or thrown by those who would use it. The idea of the wedding becomes a touchstone he must force his mind to dwell upon instead of his social anxiety.
Anthony wakes up early and envies that unlike Gloria, he cannot cover up his tired face with makeup. Looking at Gloria’s wedding ring and their honeymoon tickets to California, he worries that he might have underestimated how much it will cost to constantly buy the gifts Gloria expects. Soon, however, he is distracted from his thoughts by the thought of how soon he will be married.
Anthony again shows his vanity, which Fitzgerald genders feminine by associating it with Gloria. Fitzgerald also suggests that vanity and beauty are tied up in consumer culture by referring to Gloria’s makeup, which covers up her flaws at a monetary cost. Anthony is aware that Gloria expects him to support her financially and that he does not have the means to do so in the long term, but he pushes off consideration of this reality by once again dwelling on his idealized dream of marriage.
Fitzgerald uses the format of a scene in a play to present a conversation among six ushers in the wedding, including Dick and Maury. The men are all drinking in Adam Patch’s library and jump quickly from one topic to the next. They discuss Dick’s book, their surprise that Anthony’s prohibitionist grandfather would host a wedding with alcohol, and Muriel Kane’s inappropriate social conduct before asking each other trivia questions about biology. Their conversation halts when organ music begins in the background.
This scene, which gives readers a glimpse into Anthony’s social circle in his absence, shows that although Anthony is a flawed character, his propensity to sit around drinking all day, his tendency to judge others, and his short attention span are all rooted in a social scene that normalizes such behaviors. Fitzgerald’s choice to format the scene like a play emphasizes the building drama leading up to Anthony and Gloria’s wedding. It also marks Fitzgerald’s work as part of the modernist tradition, which experimented with mixing generic forms such as the novel and theater.
During the wedding, Anthony has trouble being excited and focuses more on the clergyman’s gold teeth than on Gloria. He finally gets excited at the end of the wedding, when the weight of marriage settles upon him. Gloria, meanwhile, feels the importance of the wedding throughout. She looks at her weeping mother and feels that finally she is safe and secure. The narrator flashes forward to a night on the honeymoon when the clerk refuses to admit the young couple to their hotel because “He did not think that anything so beautiful as Gloria could be moral.”
After all the dramatic buildup to the wedding, the moment itself lets down Anthony, Gloria, and the reader by failing to resolve all of the couple’s problems and being anticlimactic in general. As usual, Anthony is easily distracted by his compulsion to judge others. Gloria’s focus on her mother, who is technically secure but also unhappy in her marriage, foreshadows Gloria’s own future unhappiness. In fact, she might not even expect happiness in marriage. Even Gloria’s feeling that marriage will make her safe and secure proves false by the vignette in which the hotel clerk refuses to believe that she is married. Her beauty curses her to a lifetime of social insecurity.
Over the course of the honeymoon and during the first few months of marriage, Anthony and Gloria find themselves less enamored of each other the more they get to know one another. Anthony begins talking to Dick more again, and Gloria finds herself attracted to other men. Anthony turns out to be a coward, which perplexes the fearless Gloria. One night in California, he jumps out of bed and phones the front desk because he is convinced he has heard a noise. Gloria pretends not to notice because she is ashamed. She placates herself by dwelling on his occasional recklessness, which she finds dashing.
Anthony and Gloria’s expectations for marriage are disappointed once their marriage transitions from far-off dream to reality, demonstrating that both of them have trouble realistically conceptualizing what they want and putting work into achieving it. Anthony’s rekindled friendship with Dick shows that his initial all-consuming fascination with Gloria has worn off. Even as Anthony shows sides of himself Gloria does not like, she continues trying to convince herself that he is the unique husband she wants. She is purposefully deluding herself.
Meanwhile, Anthony finds that Gloria has a temper. For example, she throws a tantrum at a restaurant over the fact that she has been served chicken, which she has decided she does not want. She yells for several minutes and then, without warning, begins calmly eating. Anthony does not react. In another instance, when he confronts her about the fact that he is always the one to send the laundry out, she distracts him by asking to go to dinner. Later, when confronted again about the laundry, Gloria angrily begins shoving items in the laundry bag. Anthony again does not react but finds that similar occurrences begin happening with increasing frequency.
Anthony is likewise dissatisfied with Gloria for her temper. Mirroring her self-delusion about him, he fails to confront her. It seems that he hopes she will eventually get over her temper, but he has no realistic idea of how this will happen and no long-term plan for dealing with the frustration her temper ignites in him. Anthony’s dissatisfaction with Gloria’s failure to be demure in the restaurant and to willingly take care of the laundry shows that he has an image of the perfect wife, and that Gloria does not match this image as well as he thought she would.
On their way home from the honeymoon, Anthony and Gloria stop in Washington and visit General Lee’s old home in Arlington. The place has been turned into a tourist destination. Gloria has an outburst about how she doesn’t want a renovated, up-kept version of the historical site. She would prefer to walk on the same gravel as Lee, weathered by the intervening years. “There’s no beauty without poignancy,” she says, “and there’s no poignancy without the feeling that it’s going – men, names, books, houses – bound for dust – mortal –” And a young boy appears and throws a handful of banana peels into the Potomac.
Gloria again demonstrates that for her, beauty’s poignancy depends on its ephemerality. This feeling is a problem for her character because she longs to be beautiful forever, something that is impossible if beauty depends on impermanence. Gloria’s philosophy of beauty also seems at odds with the cultural context in which she exists. Modern society as Fitzgerald shows it believes that everything can be renewed through endless consumption, and individual beauty is thus as disposable as the banana peels the boy throws into the river.
Anthony finds that discussions with Gloria are difficult because they have been educated differently based on their gender, and Gloria is not used to being challenged on her viewpoints. However, when she finds an interesting subject, she tires of it less easily than Anthony. They are equally matched at making each other sentimental. One day Gloria laments that they will never return to the two little beds in which they had been sleeping in Coronado on their honeymoon. They will always share a bed, but never again these beds. Later, Anthony returns to the hotel to find Gloria curled up with one of his shoes. Anthony interprets these two moments as signs that he and Gloria are “somewhere near the heart of love.”
Anthony’s former belief that he and Gloria both have genderless minds proves false. Rather, it seems, they have both been more conditioned by their social upbringings than he would like to believe. However, he frames their trouble reconciling arguments as entirely Gloria’s fault for being a woman. Fitzgerald emphasizes Anthony’s shortsightedness in this assumption by showing the sentimentality of both Anthony and Gloria, which feminizes Anthony, marking his gendered distinctions false.
At twenty-three and twenty-six, Gloria and Anthony are beginning to be like the organ grinder who, at thirty, becomes “a more or less moth-eaten man who grinds an organ.” They dream of what they ought to do and where they ought to live. The narrator writes that, “It was vaguely understood between them that on some misty day he would enter a sort of glorified diplomatic service and be envied by princes and prime ministers for his beautiful wife.” At Dick’s suggestion, they look at houses in the country. Gloria insists that they must have one, but they are too expensive. Anthony decides they will purchase a car, so they can look further out in the country at cheaper houses. The couple gets into a fight when Gloria insists on driving recklessly. She crashes the car into a fire hydrant near a town called Marietta.
Anthony and Gloria’s youthful dreaming quickly becomes a habit, so that they seem not to be working toward any particular future except more youthful dreaming. They both expect a glorious future but have no concept of how they will reach it. Additionally, they are unable to see that time is passing them by. They are still young, but there is nothing to stop them from becoming old without accomplishing anything should they continue in their current pattern. Despite knowing that he cannot afford it, Anthony caves easily to the pressure from society and from Gloria to find a country house to rent. The couple’s fight on the way to look at houses demonstrates that they can daydream together but fall into conflict as soon as they must carry out the work of bringing a daydream to fruition.
Immediately after having the car towed, Anthony and Gloria see a realtor’s sign at the garage. They rent a little gray house in Marietta. They envision Anthony working on his history book there in between trips to the golf club and kisses with Gloria. They will have a servant to prepare tomato sandwiches and lemonade. They argue over how often they will have guests. Gloria thinks Anthony’s desire to host guests indicates boredom with her. Anthony wants a dog, but Gloria wants a cat. They fall asleep without reaching an agreement but wake up thinking only of the house before their “dazzled eyes.”
Anthony and Gloria demonstrate their inability to make thoughtful, responsible decisions together by renting the house in Marietta on impulse; they only manage to realize this dream when it falls into their laps. Additionally, their means of resolving arguments about owning the house is to fall asleep and forget their disagreements. They consistently fail to understand how to act as mature, married adults by avoiding every conflict until it disappears—at least temporarily.
Despite their many moments of disagreement, Anthony and Gloria also share serene moments. One night, they lie awake speaking of the men Gloria has kissed. Anthony says he would only be jealous if Gloria had done more than kiss them. He marvels that Gloria is not jealous on account of his relationship history. She says that just as the men she has kissed have left no mark on her, Anthony has never lived with another woman for a long period of time. Gloria changes the subject to ask for water with a “little” piece of ice. Anthony finds it endearing that she often uses the word “little” when asking for favors to make them seem less cumbersome.
Anthony and Gloria do seem to find some of each other’s flaws endearing. However, they still notice each other’s flaws, and Fitzgerald seems to be setting up possible points of frustration that may arise for the couple later on. The discussion of jealousy in particular foreshadows Anthony and Gloria’s difficulty with fidelity later on in their marriage.
One day, Anthony and Gloria begin joking about their disparate parts that could combine to make up their hypothetical baby or babies. Gloria cries when Anthony teases her about her short neck. He immediately backtracks, and she stops crying. He presents two possibilities: the “best” baby, with Gloria’s body and intelligence, and Anthony’s eyes and mind, or the “worst” baby, with Anthony’s body and irresolution, and Gloria’s disposition. Gloria says she likes the worst baby. Anthony goes on to propose two sets of triplets, raised in different countries and brought together at age twenty-three. Gloria jokes that they should all have her neck.
Gloria has stated that she does not want children, but she seems to waver in this conviction when discussion turns to the perpetuation of her beauty in a child. Anthony is insensitive both to Gloria’s prior stated maternal ambivalence and to her sensitivity about her physical appearance, despite his own vanity. The couple seems to dream of children who would satisfy their own vanity or intellectual curiosity—they don’t discuss any desire to actually care for children. Anthony’s idea of having triplets raised in different countries even pushes off the responsibility of parenthood onto abstract, far-away people. Both Anthony and Gloria thus fail to understand the real implications of parenthood.
Social life in Marietta is disappointing. Gloria vents to Anthony about how simultaneously boring and anxiety-inducing it is to visit other young married women who all seem to be having children. There are few other social activities available, especially since neither enjoys golfing at the country club. Anthony is annoyed when Muriel Kane comes to visit, and Gloria is annoyed when Dick comes to visit. Anthony is relieved to hear Dick discuss his own trouble with motivation to continue writing after his early success. The novel’s epigraph can be found in this scene, when Anthony advises Dick, “Don’t let the victor belong to the spoils.”
Gloria proves to have conflicting desires: on the one hand, she doesn’t really want to be a mother, but on the other, she feels displaced from her social circle because she doesn’t have children. Isolated in Marietta, Gloria and Anthony are unsatisfied with only each other’s company. Dick’s warning to Anthony proves too little too late as Anthony, born a privilege “victor,” appears already to have been taken by the “spoils” by desiring his friend’s and even his wife’s unhappiness so that he can appear comparatively successful in life.
In November, Anthony and Gloria move back to Anthony’s apartment in the city, where their social life is much more exciting. Anthony manages to complete a chapter of his history, and they are planning to go abroad when Mrs. Gilbert suddenly dies. Anthony and Gloria travel instead to Kansas City for the funeral. Gloria is inconsolable. Likewise, Mr. Gilbert is made entirely pathetic by the loss of the woman whose character he has broken for the purpose of waiting upon his body and mind.
Temporarily giving up the disappointing dream of the country house, Anthony and Gloria have a brief period of success—Anthony even completes some work. However, their ability to lead life as adults is derailed by the death of Gloria’s mother, which reinstates her childlike anxiety at separation from her mother. Mr. Gilbert serves as a mirror for Anthony, who might become dangerously dependent on Gloria should he “break” her into the mold of the ideal wife as he seems to want to do. Fitzgerald ensures that the reader sees this reflection, but it isn’t clear that Anthony does.