Summary (Magill's Survey of World Literature, Revised Edition)
In Tono-Bungay, George Ponderovo has decided to tell his life history in the form of a novel. He has grown up in Bladesover, a great country estate, which he describes as a metaphor for the state of English society. As a boy, George sees the world of the wealthy through the eyes of the servants, a comic collection of men and women whose stultifying conversation mirrors the rigidity and unimaginativeness of their plight. Drawing on his memories of Up Park, Wells portrays these lower-class characters with affection, although he shows that the clichés they find so comforting are precisely what prevent them from appreciating life to the fullest.
George’s own feelings, as those of a servant’s boy, are kept on a tight rein, but he is liberated from the life below the stairs by Beatrice Normandy, a beautiful young lady of the house who demands that George be allowed to play with her. Exhilarated by her attention, George is gradually able to express himself and to develop a strong sense of his own worth, but then he is banished from Bladesover when he gets into a fight with her half brother.
After a series of misadventures resembling Wells’s own youth, George finds refuge with his Uncle Edward Ponderovo, an ebullient country chemist who dreams of huge commercial success. Unfortunately, Uncle Edward’s first foray in the stock market is a dismal failure, and George discovers that his mother’s small but essential fund of savings has...
(The entire section is 992 words.)
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Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
George Ponderevo grows up in the shadow of Bladesover House, where his mother is the housekeeper. In that Edwardian atmosphere, the boy soon becomes aware of the wide distinctions between English social classes, for the neighborhood around Bladesover is England in miniature, a small world made up of the quality, the church, the village, the laborers, and the servants. Although George spends most of his time away at school, he returns to Bladesover for his vacations. During one of his vacations, he learns for the first time about the class of which he is a member—the servants.
His lesson comes as the result of the arrival at Bladesover House of the Honorable Beatrice Normandy, an eight-year-old child, and her snobbish young half brother, Archie Garvell. Twelve-year-old George Ponderevo falls in love with the little aristocrat that summer. Two years later, their childish romance ends abruptly when George and Archie fight each other. George is disillusioned because the Honorable Beatrice does not come to his aid. In fact, she betrays him, abandons him, and lies about him, depicting George as an assailant of his social betters.
When George refuses flatly to apologize to Archie Garvell, he is taken to Chatham and put to work in the bakery owned by his mother’s brother, Nicodemus Frapp. George finds his uncle’s family dull, cloddish, and overreligious. One night, in the room he shares with his two cousins, he tells them in confidence that he...
(The entire section is 1185 words.)