Anthony’s stamp collection represents the paralyzing effect of his fear of maturity and death. Anthony experienced the deaths of several family members at a young age, including both of his parents and his grandmother. Afterwards, living at his grandfather’s house, Anthony developed escapist habits to cope with the overwhelming feeling that death was waiting for him at every corner. One of these habits was collecting stamps, a hobby (or, at times, a compulsion) that has persisted into his adulthood. The stamps represent for him all the exotic places in the world to which he could travel to escape his own daily existence, though he never develops concrete plans to go to any of the destinations, apart from his brief travel in Europe after graduating from Harvard. What’s more, to go abroad would be unequivocally foolish given Anthony’s constantly dwindling finances. For the most part, it is enough for him to dwell on the stamps because when he is focusing on dreams of the far-away, his mind is set free from reality. Anthony keeps his stamp collection in his apartment. It does not make frequent appearances in the narrative, but it comes back at the climax of the novel. Home alone while Gloria hears the verdict of their lawsuit, Dorothy Raycroft, Anthony’s former mistress, shows up at the apartment. He attempts to throw a chair at her, but she makes her escape when he passes out drunk. When Gloria returns with Dick, Anthony has come to and pulled out his stamp collection on the bathroom floor. Incommunicative, Anthony has traveled through the stamp collection back to a preverbal, infantile state.
The timeline below shows where the symbol The Stamp Collection appears in The Beautiful and Damned. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
...death because of his parents’ and grandmother’s early demises. He habitually used books and his stamp collection as means of escape from his anxiety. Anthony’s anxiety led to isolation from his peers.... (full context)