This was the only Fitzgerald novel I had not yet read and it is his first one. It was a fun read, although arduous at times because the electronic version I was reading did not display verse properly. It is clearly autobiographical but certainly not realistic in all respects. The way life at Princeton is described cannot be accurate (students surely have to do more work than Fitzgerald describes), but the way in which he approaches the rise of youthful friendships and opinions about life and ideals certainly seems typical of young privileged young men at that time.
Fitzgerald writes towards the end: “I was perhaps an egotist in youth, but I soon found it made me morbid to think too much about myself.” So the young man realizes the danger of taking himself too seriously.
“Life was a damned muddle… a football game with every on off-side and the referee gotten rid of – every one claiming the referee would have been on his side…” seems to refer to the discovery of the complexity of life and the ambiguity of social rules than may have previously seemed hard and fast.
So through this book Fitzgerald explores the challenges of growing up and coming of age in a drastically changing world, and the difficulties of handling a variety of relationships in the face of social and status differencials.