After Many a Summer Dies the Swan opens with the arrival of Jeremy Pordage in Southern California. He has been hired by Jo Stoyte to catalog the Hauberk papers, a collection of miscellaneous materials recently purchased by Stoyte which had accumulated for centuries on an English estate. Although he is less directly involved in the principal events of the novel than most of the other characters, Pordage serves an important function as an observer of the social milieu and of the actions of the other characters, thus helping tie together the sometimes disparate materials that Huxley includes in the novel.
Pordage’s drive from the railway station to Stoyte’s residence gives him his first taste of the culture of Southern California—an incongruous mixture of slums, billboards, cocktail lounges, hamburger stands, and extravagant Hollywood mansions in a clutter of architectural styles. His chauffeur also takes him to the Beverly Pantheon, a cemetery owned by Stoyte, where the fact of death appears to be disguised by sensual sculpture, eclectic art reproductions, and Wurlitzer organ music. They also pass a carload of migrant workers from the Oklahoma Dust Bowl and offer a ride to William Propter, a scholar who knew Stoyte as a young boy and who lives on a small farm near him.
Stoyte’s castle, perched on the top of a mountain, is a grotesque combination of architectural styles and is decorated with an astonishing variety of art objects purchased by Stoyte’s agents in Europe. Stoyte himself is an uneducated multimillionaire whose personality combines elements of sentimentality, sensuality, ostentation, and greed. Members of his household include Virginia Maunciple, his ingenuous and intellectually vacuous mistress who refers to him as Uncle Jo; Sigmund Obispo, his...
(The entire section is 733 words.)