On the train to the training camp, Anthony sits next to a Sicilian man who doesn’t talk much. The men are told not to smoke, but a moment later this instruction is rescinded. Anthony smokes along with all the others. He reads a newspaper for a time. In the midst of an article about a debate in Shakespeareville, Kansas, over what to call the American troops, his mind wanders to Gloria and why she might have been late to the train station. He returns to the paper and reads that the Shakespeareville Chamber of Commerce settled on “Liberty Lads.”
Anthony is out of place among the other recruits and seems to follow along with whatever they are doing. Anthony’s difficulty fitting in, which he has always been able to pass off as a kind of superiority, seems as though it might cause problems at a military training camp. However, Fitzgerald also criticizes the military as a “patriotic” institution by emphasizing the arbitrariness of the rules and the names of the troops. They are only “Liberty Lads” insofar as everyone has agreed to call them by this name.
By the end of the train ride, everyone is overheated. Anthony doesn’t like the food but must get used to it. The camp smells of garbage, and Anthony must get used to an exhausting routine of physical examinations and drills. The only part of his daily routine he enjoys is calisthenics, when he feels he is doing something worthwhile. He thinks it is ridiculous that the blood pressure problem that prevented him from becoming an officer does not prevent him from being a private.
Now that he is confronted with the reality of the training camp, Anthony no longer glorifies the military lifestyle. The blood pressure problem that initially humiliated him now seems appealing, demonstrating that Anthony’s desire to be in the military has always been self-serving rather than born of any deep-seated patriotism.
After a week’s quarantine, Anthony is allowed to go into town. An officer yells at him to salute as he passes. Anthony hates the indignity of his position. A girl in a lilac dress and her friend witness the encounter and laugh. Anthony approaches her afterwards and walks both girls home. He is mesmerized by the girl in lilac, whose social status he can’t tell from her southern accent. He convinces her to go to a movie with him.
One of Anthony’s primary struggles with his military position is the expectation that he will defer to superior officers. He is drawn to the girl in lilac not simply because he finds her sexually attractive but, moreover, because she is of a mysterious social class. He seems determined both to find out her social class and to prove that he is of a higher standing than the officer she sees yell at Anthony.
The girl in lilac turns out to be named Dorothy Raycroft. Anthony embarks on an affair with her not because he finds her more captivating than Gloria but because she represents a rest from his daily routine at the training camp. After that first evening together, he kisses her. Reminded momentarily of his former passion for Gloria, he returns to the camp to write her a letter.
Despite the sour terms on which Anthony departed from Gloria, his infidelity is not motivated by his dissatisfaction in his marriage. Rather, he sees Dorothy as a diversion from the training camp. She is an opportunity to escape from the disciplined work that is finally being forced upon him. In fact, in Gloria’s absence, he begins to idealize her once more.
Dorothy Raycroft is nineteen. She graduated high school in the lowest quarter of her class two days before the death of her father, a relatively unsuccessful shop owner. Everyone in town knows the story of how she slept with a store clerk who immediately moved away to New York. She has since flung herself into affairs with two other men. She has kissed others but maintains a “trio” of past sexual partners. When she meets Anthony, he reminds her of her own tragedies. The first night they meet, she whispers, “Do you love me?” and he just kisses her.
Dorothy Raycroft’s social reputation mirrors Anthony’s, but she has gained hers from her low social standing and a series of missteps, whereas he has gained his from his high social standing and blind fall from grace. Their relationship echoes Anthony and Gloria’s early relationship, when Anthony professed his love and Gloria failed to respond. This time, Anthony is the one who fails to respond. Unable to see the ways in which they are similar, Anthony doesn’t seem to think of Dorothy as a person deserving of either his love or the respect of leaving her alone.
Anthony realizes that for the first time in his life, he is in the same ranks as the men who have always served him. He barely talks to any of them, and they are suspicious of him as a member of the leisure class on account of his profession being listed first as “author” and then as “student.” Each week he goes into town to get drunk. He feels that he is “pulling one over” on the government by doing so. As the weeks go by, he watches a few of the other men get on the captain’s bad side through such infractions as neglecting to shave often enough.
Anthony’s sudden realization that he is among the working class not only reveals his obliviousness to his own privilege, but it is also false. The class divisions beyond the training camp hold true enough that Anthony is isolated from the rest of the camp on account of his self-identification as an academic. What’s more, Anthony feels secure enough in his social position that he feels proud to frame his illicit drinking as a thwarting of authority, whereas others might be afraid of losing their jobs.
By December, Anthony and Gloria’s briefly passionate correspondence has dropped off. She updates him on such affairs as the lawsuit, which has been pushed back to spring again. Anthony reflects that he does not want Gloria to come South for a number of reasons, but mostly it is because of his attraction to Dorothy. He spends nearly every night with her. He likes that unlike Gloria, who is his equal, to her his caresses are a “boon.” She sometimes dreams that he will divorce Gloria. She has forgotten her former lovers and constantly tries to get him to profess his love to her. He never enunciates the phrase, “I love you.”
Dorothy is desirable to Anthony because he feels that he is desirable to her in a way that he is not to Gloria. However, Anthony and Dorothy seem to miscommunicate about their relationship in a way that recalls Anthony and Gloria’s many misunderstandings. While Anthony thinks he is living a dream, Dorothy dreams of a permanent life with Anthony. Anthony does not reciprocate the intensity of Dorothy’s feelings and fails to take them into account.
Anthony receives a promotion to corporal. He thinks about the fact that he is now a soldier instead of a civilian and realizes that the world is divided into two classes: “their own kind – and those without.” It has never occurred to him before that he is among a privileged class in every way. During this period, he continues to receive letters from Gloria that express more and more regret for how things have turned out. In June, she suddenly stops writing.
Anthony’s realization of social stratification arrives late, but it emphasizes the fact that his promotion to corporal is the first concrete advancement Anthony has ever achieved through all of his false career starts. He takes the promotion as confirmation that he is indeed one of “their own kind,” deserving of all the privilege he has. He even takes for granted that Gloria will always be there, sending letters, until she abruptly withdraws.
As spring passes into summer, Anthony continues enjoying his days with Dorothy while other men fare far worse at the camp. The Sicilian who Anthony initially sat next to on the train is tasked with fitting shoes to horses, despite his great fear of horses. The captain does nothing to help him, and the Sicilian eventually has his skull crushed by a rearing stallion.
Anthony has carved out a space of exception for himself even at the training camp, where all the recruits are supposed to learn to conform to military standards. The death of the Sicilian represents not only Anthony’s avoidance of commonness but also of death. In this instance, commonness and death are conflated as inextricable threats to his sense of superiority.
In mid-July, Anthony must tell Dorothy that the camp is being relocated to Mississippi and that he is leaving. She breaks down in tears, accusing him of returning to Gloria and telling him that she will die if he leaves. Her tone frightens him, and he invites her to come with him when he leaves.
Dorothy’s reaction to the news that Anthony’s camp is relocating shatters the illusion under which Anthony has been operating. His relationship with her threatens to have real ramifications for him should he dissolve it.
Mid-September at Camp Boone, Mississippi, Anthony tries and fails to write a letter to Gloria. He worries about her silence and wonders if she, like him, has found a new lover. He remembers her remark that if she ever wanted something she would simply take it, but comforts himself by recalling that she eventually realized her own capacity for jealousy regarding him. Having applied and been denied for a furlough to go see her, he is attempting to write her to come visit him.
Anthony’s interest in Gloria is renewed now that he has realized that Dorothy does not offer the uncomplicated relationship about which he has fantasized. But in a way, his current relationship with Gloria is more of a fantasy than his relationship with Dorothy, because they have not seen each other, have ignored each other’s letters, and seem unlikely to see each other again any time soon. Anthony’s worries about Gloria’s fidelity betray his guilt about his own infidelity.
Meanwhile, Anthony has been keeping Dorothy in a boarding house in town. In the midst of his letter writing, he eagerly takes a phone call that he hopes is Gloria but that turns out to be Dorothy. She tells him she must see him and threatens suicide if he does not come immediately. He rushes off to the boarding house and stays with her for a few hours. Upon his late return, which he knows is forbidden, he gives a fake name to the guard so that his record will not be marred. However, the guard recognizes him a few days later. He is stripped of the rank of corporal and sentenced to three weeks in the guard-house.
Anthony’s pursuit of Dorothy as an escape from camp and from his relationship with Gloria fully backfires in this scene. He is now spending extra money he does not have on her housing and he must deal with her suicide threats. The resultant loss of his rank is not only an inconvenience but also robs him of the advanced standing he so coveted. Again, Anthony’s renewed interest in Gloria is directly related to his disenchantment with Dorothy.
During his sentence in the guard-house, Anthony has an increasingly paranoid sense that he is being watched. He attempts to exhaust himself with the physical labor of spreading gravel so he can just fall asleep at the end of the day. He grows physically weaker and eventually collapses. When he comes to, he finds a terse letter from Gloria asking him to come to New York for the trial in November, along with a tear-stained, incoherent letter from Dorothy. At noon, he is sent to the hospital with influenza. He recovers just in time for the regiment to go to New York in November.
The fact that Anthony’s punishment makes him physically ill underscores how unsuited he is to the military. His physical weakness recalls his feminization in relation to Gloria and his infantilization in relation to Tanalahaka. He has completely lost control of the course of his life, strung along by Gloria, Dorothy, and the regiment wherever they will have him go.
By the time the regiment reaches Long Island, an armistice is imminent. However, troops are still being sent to France. The thought of being shipped to France as a replacement sickens Anthony, and he tries immediately to get a furlough to go see Gloria in the city. He is disappointed to learn that no private is allowed to leave the camp on account of influenza quarantine. However, within a day, the regiment is disbanded as Germany surrenders. After the captain’s lecture about how the troops shouldn’t count the war as over yet, Anthony runs off base, clicking his heels.
Anthony’s desire for Gloria appears to be at its height when reaching her would mean abandonment of another commitment. Although Fitzgerald has demonstrated skepticism about the military’s project, it also appears that Anthony’s fear of death and feeling that he should be exempt from common obstacles makes him unpatriotic and a poor citizen.
It seems to take years to get through the city and back to the apartment where Anthony hopes to find Gloria. She is out at the Armistice Ball when he arrives. He rifles through her things for a sign that she is having an affair and breaks down in sentimental tears when he discovers a pile of his own letters tied together with a blue ribbon. “I’m not fit to touch her,” he says. “I’m not fit to touch her little hand.” He leaves the apartment for the Astor, where the ball is being held. He sees her across the room and makes his way through the crowd to her. They reunite with a kiss.
While Anthony is touched to realize that the indifference he imagined on Gloria’s part was a false assumption, finding the letters does not snap him back to reality so much as allow him to spin a new fantasy in which Gloria is the perfect wife. Indeed, Anthony sets his fantasy up to fizzle out by claiming that Gloria is intangibly perfect, then rushing off to touch her anyway. The chapter ends triumphantly, but Fitzgerald includes two more chapters to spoil this potential “happy ending.”