Eugene Gant, a young Southerner, just graduated from the State University and on his way to Harvard for advanced study. He is eager to leave the drab world of his childhood: his jealous family, the dreary boarding house run by his mother. But he finds Harvard disappointing; the famous drama class of Professor Hatcher is disillusioning, for the students are intellectual frauds. In Boston, he meets his eccentric uncle, Bascom Pentland, and has a brief love affair with a commonplace girl. He finds one good friend, however, in Francis Starwick, Hatcher’s assistant. Starwick’s sophistication fascinates Eugene, yet it somehow seems unreal. After a winter at Harvard and a summer of hoping that his play will be produced, Eugene goes to New York as an instructor at a city university. There, he renews his acquaintance with his hometown friend Robert Weaver and with Joel Pierce from Harvard. Weaver, with his drunkenness, causes only trouble; Pierce, with his vast wealth, is fascinating but disillusioning. During his vacation, Eugene goes first to England, which he detests, and then to Paris, where he meets Starwick, who is with two young Boston women, Elinor, a divorcée, and Ann. After a drunken summer in Paris, Eugene realizes the tragic situation: that he loves Ann but that she loves Starwick, and that Starwick is a homosexual. Breaking away from the doomed trio, Eugene goes to Orleans. After a fantastic experience with two French noblewomen, he returns to America. On the ship, he sees a woman named Esther and knows that she is to be his fate....
(The entire section is 644 words.)