Anson Hunter, the rich boy for whom the story is named, aptly portrays F. Scott Fitzgerald’s fascination with an analysis of the rich asdifferent from you and me. They possess and enjoy early, . . . [which] makes them soft where we are hard, and cynical where we are trustful. They think, deep in their hearts, that they are better than we are because we had to discover the compensations and refuges of life for ourselves.
As a child, Anson is cared for by a governess and is secluded from contact with his social peers. His fraternizing with the local town children helps instill his feeling of superiority. His education is completed at Yale, where he makes connections in the business and social worlds. He establishes himself in a New York brokerage firm, joins the appropriate clubs, and commences to maintain an extravagant lifestyle, arrogantly frowning on excessive behavior in others that he finds acceptable for himself.
Anson serves in the Navy but is not changed by the experience. While in Florida at a training base, he meets Paula Legendre, a woman of his class and social standing. As he himself admits, their relationship is superficial, based on common upbringing and expectations. Paula and her mother accompany him north, and while there he arrives at their hotel one evening, inebriated. Paula and her mother react negatively to this improper behavior, but Anson never apologizes. Later, when he becomes drunk and fails to keep a date with Paula, she breaks the engagement. Anson, however, continues to believe that he has control over Paula, that she will, in fact, wait for him forever. When he and Paula meet again, his arrogance prevents him from recognizing Paula’s weakening attraction and patience toward him: “He need say no more, commit their destinies to no practical enigma. Why should he, when he might hold her so, biding his own time, for another year—forever?” Because of this attitude, Anson loses her. He receives word that she will marry someone else.
His loss of Paula shocks him, but he continues his wild life and becomes involved with Dolly Karger. His relationship with Dolly is gamelike; when she tries to make him jealous, he purposely wins her back, only to show her who is in control, and then promptly rejects her. When she accompanies him to the country for the weekend, he goes to her in her bedroom, but at the last minute, the image of Paula...