Summary (Magill's Survey of American Literature, Revised Edition)
From the Terrace is representative of O’Hara’s later novels. The narrative covers a period from the protagonist’s birth in 1897 to the postwar 1940’s. From the Terrace is much longer than O’Hara’s first novel and presents power struggles at the highest levels of business and government against a background of sexual intrigue and violent death. Thus, it provided excellent material for a motion picture and eventually became a successful vehicle for the actor Paul Newman.
Some similarities between From the Terrace and Appointment in Samarra are discernible. Raymond Alfred Eaton, called Alfred, is, like Julian English, born into the upper economic and social stratum of a small Pennsylvania town, Port Johnson. Alfred’s father, Samuel Eaton, owns the local steel mill. Like Julian English, Alfred Eaton is deeply suspicious of himself, largely because of an occurrence during his boyhood over which he had no control. His elder brother, William, was the favorite son and was destined to succeed his father as the first citizen of Port Johnson until he died of meningitis at fourteen. Alfred’s father can never bring himself to show his surviving son the same attention he lavished upon William.
Two later events reinforce Alfred’s sense of himself as a sort of jinx to others. He quarrels with his first love, sixteen-year-old Victoria Dockwiler, forbidding her to go riding in a borrowed Stutz Bearcat. She...
(The entire section is 1011 words.)
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Summary (Masterplots II: American Fiction Series, Revised Edition)
Tightly packed with detail and characters as well as incident, From the Terrace chronicles roughly the first fifty years in the life of Raymond Alfred Eaton, known as Alfred, born during 1897 in the small mill town of Port Johnson, Pennsylvania. Throughout more than eight hundred pages of frequently dense narrative, O’Hara sifts through the various data of Alfred’s life, loves, friendships, and often brilliant career, attempting thus to account for Alfred’s rapid rise in the business world and his even more precipitous fall. When the novel ends, shortly before Alfred’s fiftieth birthday, he is shown leading a life of enforced idleness, his power and status irretrievably behind him.
The novel begins with an extended portrait of Alfred’s father, Samuel Eaton, supplemented by a description of the town of Port Johnson and culminating in an evocation of the town-wide revelry that greeted the birth in 1894 of William Eaton, Samuel and Martha Eaton’s first child. The birth of a second son some three years later passes virtually unnoticed until 1908, when William Eaton dies of meningitis. Alfred, accustomed to living in his brother’s shadow, is at first unprepared for the attention that he will receive as the surviving son of the town’s most prominent family. His father’s attention, however, will forever be denied him, reserved for William in death as in life.
William’s death, perhaps the first major trauma in Alfred’s...
(The entire section is 1046 words.)