Study Guide

The Golden Gate

by Vikram Seth

The Golden Gate Summary

Summary (Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

The Golden Gate: A Novel in Verse comprises thirteen books, or chapters, totaling 590 sonnets modeled after Charles Johnston’s translation of Alexander Pushkin’s long narrative poem, Evgeny Onegin (1825-1832, 1833; Eugene Onegin, 1881). The lines are written in iambic tetrameter, with an additional unstressed syllable affixed to lines one and three, five and six, and nine and twelve, thereby creating double, feminine rhymes in those lines, such as “fearful” and “tearful,” “replying” and “crying,” and “tissue” and “reissue.” The rhyme scheme is ababccddefefgg.

The novel is set in Northern California in 1980. John Brown, a twenty-six-year-old computer engineer, lonely and set in his ways, calls an old girlfriend, Janet Hayakawa, to lament his loveless plight. The enterprising Jan, who plays drums for a band called Liquid Sheep, quickly advertises on John’s behalf in the personals column of the Bay Guardian, describing a “Well-rounded and well-meaning square/ Lusting for love.” This beguiling plea hooks Liz Dorati, a veteran of Stanford Law School, who answers, “If you flout my charms, you are a tasteless lout.” Liz’s charms are not flouted and the carnal pleasures are intense, marred for John only by his hatred of Liz’s cat, Charlemagne.

While Liz and John are enjoying their idyll, John’s old school chum, Phil Weiss, is plodding along with his son, Paul,...

(The entire section is 554 words.)