Sunday, August 7, 2016
George Apley's hang-ups and obsessions, and a question about Marquand
The privileged but beneath-the-veneer tortured life of The Late George Apley continues as we near the end of his life: He feels almost betrayed by his hon's leaving for NYC and for a NY law firm rather than the staid family firm Apley & Reid - there is behind this sense of betrayal a sense that NY is new money and a vibrant, aggressive, competitive legal and social circle, completely different from the caste-bound business culture of Boston - also a few hints that NY "has its Jews." But alongside Apley's many letters of advice to his son there some pleading, almost pathetic letters in which Apley protests too much: he's not a prude, he's heard course language, he understands that men will seek the comfort of women, and so forth, and even asking his son to take him to visit some speak-easies and to see some current Broadway plays - he's, in other words, drawn to and luridly fascinated by a life that he can't have. In a side story, he incredibly over-reacts when he learns that his daughter has visited, near Boston, one of these speak-easies - with a male friend no less! - banning the friend from their acquaintance, fearing his daughter is ruined. The ever-controlling Apley is very upset that his daughter turns down a proposal from a young architect - will everyone now think she's nothing but a flirt? (he wasn't nuts about the architect, but thinks he might be the best his daughter an do); then, he's extremely upset that his son, John, has married a divorcee! - but feels much better about that when he learns that she is from a prominent Connecticut family and has plenty of $. In other words, he constantly talks about freedom, independence, personal expression - but he's also bound by the ties (and the privileges) of his class. Toward the end he becomes involved in a political movement to end corruption in the police department, particularly re a scam some detectives are running to lure men into assignations w/ prostitutes and then busting them and blackmailing them - and then mysteriously finds himself charged in this ring. It's obviously a set-up - but we have to wonder why he's so interested in this particular example of corruption - there's something lurid about his fascination with prostitutes, right? Final note is that son, John, is part of the Algonquin round-table; I know nothing about Marquand's life but wonder of Marquand was a member and whether the story of Apley pere is in part autobiographical?