(Critical Survey of Literature for Students)
The Magnificent Ambersons cover image

Major Amberson creates the family fortune in the 1870’s. When Isabel, his daughter, is about twenty years old, she is courted by two men: Wilbur Minafer, a quiet businessman, and Eugene Morgan, a debt-ridden lawyer. Morgan destroys his chances in a drinking incident on the Amberson estate. Isabel marries Wilbur, and their only child is George Amberson Minafer. Isabel spoils her wild boy. George treats others with contempt and was once expelled from a prep school for his bad behavior. The townspeople hope to see George get his comeuppance.

When George is an eighteen-year-old college student, a ball is held in his honor at the Amberson mansion. Here George meets Eugene Morgan, his mother’s former suitor, and falls in love with his nineteen-year-old daughter, Lucy. Eugene had left town at the time Isabel dismissed him, become an inventor, and returned to town twenty years later to manufacture horseless carriages.

George informs Lucy that he has no career plans. During their sleigh ride the next day, George attempts to embarrass the inventor by racing his sleigh past Morgan’s inoperative horseless carriage. George’s sleigh crashes, and he and Lucy have to hitch a ride back into town on the new vehicle. After George returns home for summer vacation, he renews his relationship with Lucy. When she and her father attend one of the Major’s weekly Sunday dinners, the latter reveals that Isabel and Eugene had once been engaged. On the night before George returns to college, Isabel tells him of Wilbur’s declining health. His father is deeply worried because he and George’s uncle, George Amberson, have tied up much of the family’s assets in a company owned by their friends, an investment that is turning sour.

During the following summer, George proposes to Lucy when he hears a false rumor that she is engaged to Fred Kinney. Though she declines to say either yes or no at that time, she promises to settle the matter before he returns to school. On George’s final night before returning to college, Lucy still leaves their relationship unsettled. She tells him that...

(The entire section is 860 words.)