Late George Apley

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Novel by J. P. Marquand, published in 1937 and awarded a Pulitzer Prize. A dramatization by Marquand and George S. Kaufman was produced in 1944 and published in 1945.

Mr. Willing, contemporary and friend of the late George Apley, is requested by Apley's son John to describe his life in a book so that the conventional public eulogy may be amplified and humanized. The biography by Willing, based on family letters, adheres to the conventional attitudes it describes. It opens with Apley's birth in 1866 to a wealthy and socially prominent Boston family. His childhood is secure and serene, as he learns to move with the right people” and to accept a family tradition of protective unity, as well as familial financial, charitable, and cultural responsibility. Apley displays a certain erratic strain” of rebellion in school and at Harvard, but generally the essential, undeviating discipline of background” prevails. He is taken into his father's club, works for a summer in the Apley textile mills, is admitted to the Law School, and emerges socially unscathed from an affection for a girl from Central Square” by bowing to his father's opposition. He marries Catharine Bosworth, the girl of his family's choice, and becomes the father of John and Eleanor Apley. As they develop, his advice to and expectations of them increasingly resemble those of his father toward him. Personal inclinations are more and more subdued by a Puritan sense of duty, and even the desire to escape convention takes a conventional form as his retreat of Pequod Island becomes an exclusive resort. Apley's idealism leads him to attack civic corruption, but social prudence makes him accept a compromise when he is falsely implicated in a scandal. World War I and the Depression alter the tenor of American life and widen the gulf between Apley and his children, but he continues to find refuge in insularity as in a safe harbour.”

Subjects: Literature.

Reference entries

John P. Marquand (1893—1960)

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