The Late George Apley is a novel that revolves around the life of George, a member of the Boston upper class society. The history of the family is traced through the letters that George Apley’s father wrote to him as he was growing up and those that George writes to his children and friends when he is a family man.
1. George’s father is a staunch believer that as a Brahmin, the family must maintain its social status in the educational, residential, dating and marriage, friends and recreational life circles. Therefore, it only follows that naturally as the family head he predetermines the life that his children lead. George’s life is mainly in the Beacon Hill residence for the winters while the summers are spent in Milton, where the family estate is located. He is sent to Harvard school for his education, and traveling is always destined to Europe to visit an uncle or aunt. His marriage had to be arranged with a girl from their social caliber, with his required participation in the family business, civic duties and social clubs. George’s father had led this life when he was young and his duty was to ensure that his children followed in his footsteps and those of their grandfather (Marquand, 2004).
2. Elizabeth Apley, George’s mother plays her role of ensuring that her children are brought up in the best behavioral and grooming standards that separate them from the low and middle classes. She writes letters to her son while in Harvard encouraging him in his schoolwork and reveals her expectation of him dating a girl of his own level. She plays the modest role of women in her times of being a matchmaker and proposing that George should date Catherine Bosworth, as they have so much in common. She always sides with her husband as a way of showing her undivided support that a loyal wife should display. She out rightly opposes the intimate relationship that her son has with Mary Monahan, the Irish lady from South Boston and only gives a rest to the situation when George and Catherine are married off.
3. George’s sister Amelia has also been raised up in a socially strict environment requiring that she lead her life within their social status. However, she defies the rules and marries Roger who is from New York. George does not approve of the move on the simple fact that Roger is not from Boston. Amelia does not care so long as she is married to her love attributed to her acerbic personality even when her move scandalizes her as a member of the White Anglo-Saxon Protestant (WASP).
4. George is by default educated in Harvard following the mere fact that the family business is a law firm. As a son in the family, he has a compulsory mandate to learn the family’s business practice as a way of ensuring continuity and that the business is always managed by an Apley. The school is used as the leeway of separating George from Mary by sending him abroad where his parents believe that he will regain his senses and let go of the foreign relationship. Most likely, the father had sent him with the hope that law would open his eyes to the big mandate that he was expected to undertake as a male in the family. As a family man, George sends his son, John, to Harvard school both as a way of offering quality education and separating him from his forbidden love to Myrtle Dole who lives in Worcester and is of a lower social standing than that which they seek. John just like his father is being trained as a designated member of the family law firm (Marquand, 2004).
5. The rigid occupation that runs within the family line over the years is that of law practiced as a family enterprise. The law firm has run for a while with the male members taking turns in actively running it to ensure that it will never change hands in the sense of ownership and management. George Apley joins the firm after completing his studies in Harvard and the act of sending John to the same school just confirms his intention for his son to have part in the family business. It has been a tradition that has been upheld for a long time and that requires undivided attention and faithfulness with personal ventures or interests counting for nothing when compared to the worth of the family business.
6. George’ wife, Catherine was a woman cut from the old block just like all the women of her standing were required to. Her background is traced from a wealthy family of high social standing just what George needed. Although George falls in love with Mary at the time when Catherine was his fiancée she does not give up the hope for her marriage and with the help of her mother-in-law, she finally succeeds to becoming Mrs. George Apley. She plays her role as wife and mother in the same fashion that Elizabeth did and when Agnes Willing is heartbroken by her son, she consoles her by sharing her own experience. Catherine succeeds in getting John to marry Agnes after he is sent to Harvard school where she is convinced that he will come to his senses just as his father did (Marquand, 2004).
7. After Catherine and George are married, they live in the Apley house on the waterside of Beacon Street, overlooking Mount Vernon Street where George had been born. His financial and career life revolves around Milton which when he visits, he lives in the “Boston” hotels of New York. This provides a proximity to his working place. After John marries Agnes, he lives in his father’s shoes of keeping the family tradition by living in Boston and managing the family business.
8. The Apley family uses leisure as a way of breaking monotony and relaxation from their highly structured and busy lifestyles. George enjoys watching birds and has formed the habit of watching them in the park that neighbors his home. George also enjoys his wife’s thanksgiving nights that are dotted with pumpkins and snap dragons. The Apley clubs are used both as relaxation areas as well discussion centers for informal matters. To discuss the engagement of John and Myrtle, George invites Julian Dole at the Apley’s exclusive men’s club for the chat. Eleanor and Howard play in the snow as a way of enjoying each other’s company and having a romantic experience. George attends the Tuesday Afternoon Club, Wednesday Night Club and the Blue Hill Bird Watchers Society as his leisure spots.
9. The Apley family uses the Boston Waif Society, a family charity to give back to the society. The charities are used to build a strong and positive name for the family and it is more of an obligation that is kept over the years as a mere tradition and nothing more. When Catherine complains to her husband about it, he explains to her that is a tradition that was started by his grandfather and passed down the successive generations. The other charity that they hold is the Save Boston Society. The charities act as a source of pride like in the case of Uncle William who donated a Rembrandts raft to the museum (Marquand, 2004).
10. George and other members of the Apley family act as board members in the societal projects because their wealth acts as a guarantee for the different endeavors. The sense of identity and importance that these obligations bring their way act as the motivating factor behind their unrelenting support. They act as the trustees in the Boston Waif’s Society and Save Boston Society. George is happy with the assistance that they put up for the citizens in such projects although his wife begs to differ by pointing out that the help amounts to small things that neither compliment nor insulate the family’s status.
11. The Apley family has a religious affiliation in the conservative tradition of the English Protestants whose faith is founded in the congregational polity. This manner of arrangement gives a level of autonomy to each church gathering. The congregation is administered by a hierarchy of religious authorities. However, the family does not show any interests in holding and running religious positions and matters for the church like is evident with the board and charity positions.
12. George was more interested with the leisure time he spent on bird watching and enjoying the thanksgiving dinners that his wife organized as opposed to social and political matters. However, personal interests are overruled by the duty of what is right or desirable for a man of his status leaving him no choice with the matter of politics. He therefore balances his time between his board meetings, charities, club activities and political discussion with his circle of intelligent friends and acquaintances. This is the only association that he has with political involvement.
13. The children are brought up in the strictest manner that teaches them how to handle and maintain their statuses. They have managed to follow their parents’ example in all that they are taught except in one area: love. George marries Catherine as a way of upholding the duty is required of him by his social class. He spends the rest of his life in regret as to why he did not marry Mary. Amelia marries Roger a New Yorker that scandalizes her name. Eleanor falls in love with Howard, a lecturer from Harvard and they end up getting a lot of opposition from her parents. John like his sister falls in love with a non-Bostonian, Myrtle and faces opposition from his parents as they insist that he has to marry from his class. Eleanor stands her ground and marries her man but John gives up on his love after her father refuses the union and he ends up marrying his cousin Agnes, running the family business and traditions, as a Brahmin is required to (Marquand, 2004).
14. Before George’s demise, he writes a letter to his son admitting that their traditions and systems have held them as prisoners denying them life’s joy. When Roger talks to George concerning his lost love, he relents the harshness that he has treated his children with and allows them to choose their marriage partners as opposed to the values that they had held of matchmaking. He asserts that the practices had been made in ages past to maintain constancy and inheritance but they had succeeded in going a little too far. However, when Dole disagrees to give his daughter’s hand in marriage, George reverts to his old traditions. Eleanor breaks from the old practices but she is sure that her brother will carry on the legacy of their family from what he can see from his status.
Marquand, J. P. (2004). The late George Apley: a novel in the form of a memoir. Boston, MA: Little, Brown and Company.