After Many a Summer Dies the Swan Characters

Aldous Huxley

The Characters

(Critical Guide to British Fiction)

On one level, Jo Stoyte is simply another of the many satiric portraits of the self-made American businessman that appear frequently in British and American fiction of the 1920’s and 1930’s. He eagerly pursues money and relishes a lavish, tasteless display of the material things that money can buy, from the swimming pool on the terrace of his castle to the painting by Jan Vermeer in his elevator. He is grossly sensual in his desire for Virginia but is also gratified by her regarding him as a paternal benefactor. He sees no inconsistency in exploiting migrant workers by paying them the lowest wages possible, while at the same time sentimentally supporting a children’s hospital and donating large sums of money to Tarzana College for buildings that will bear his name. Yet Stoyte is not entirely a one-dimensional figure. His drive to achieve financial success stems from his experience of poverty as a child and his being ridiculed as a fat boy in school, and his love for Virginia, although limited in depth, is tender and genuine. In spite of the fact that Stoyte is a satiric figure, he invites some degree of compassion.

Virginia Maunciple and Peter Boone are less complex, although they, like Jo Stoyte, are treated with both satire and compassion. Virginia combines ingenuousness with sensuality, and though unintelligent, her sense of guilt over her affair with Obispo is intense. Peter is almost equally naive in his idealistic love of Virginia and in his...

(The entire section is 577 words.)

Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Jeremy Pordage

Jeremy Pordage, an Englishman hired to work for six months in California cataloging the Hauberk papers, twenty-seven crates of fragments of English history relating to the Hauberk family. He has blue eyes and a bald spot on the top of his head, and he wears spectacles; he looks the scholar and gentleman that he is. He is amazed by the vulgarity of California and of his employer, Jo Stoyte, a self-made millionaire. Pordage is a bachelor tied to an emotionally devouring mother. He is a civilized observer and, according to William Propter, a potential victim.

Jo Stoyte

Jo Stoyte, once the local fat boy called Jelly-Belly, now a California millionaire who lives in a castle. His numerous business holdings include farmland with orange groves on it and the Beverly Pantheon cemetery. He stands to make more millions buying land in the San Felipe Valley when he gets a tip that irrigation water is coming to the valley. A small, thickset man with a red face and a mass of snow-white hair, Stoyte is called Uncle Jo by the patients in his Home for Sick Children. He boasts that he had no education, and although he fills his castle with expensive European art works, he has a library with no books in it. At sixty years old, Stoyte has had a stroke and is terrified of death. Stoyte’s love for the curvaceous Ginny is a mixture of concupiscence and fatherly affection.

William Propter

William Propter, a large, broad-shouldered man with brown hair turning gray. He is a philosopher trying to make sense of the world. He is the author of Short Studies in the Counter Reformation, a book that Jeremy Pordage knows and respects. Propter talks to Jeremy and to Peter Boone about his ideas concerning reality and human behavior. A reformer, Propter puts his ideas into action, building cabins for the migrant workers working for Stoyte and using simple machines that will make him and the migrants self-sufficient. Propter knew Stoyte from his school days and befriended him then. Propter feels guilty that he might have contributed to Pete’s death, though he did not.

Virginia (Ginny) Maunciple

Virginia (Ginny) Maunciple, a twenty-two-year-old woman with auburn hair, wide-set eyes, and a small, impudent nose. Her most characteristic feature is her short upper lip, which gives her face a look of childlike innocence. Through much of the novel, as Stoyte’s mistress, she lives happily in the present with no long-range desires. She is fond of Stoyte and calls him Uncle Jo. She thinks herself virtuous because since she has been with him, she has not had sex with any other man, only with two female friends. A Catholic, Ginny has had Stoyte build a shrine to the Virgin Mary on the grounds of his estate. She also has a...

(The entire section is 1148 words.)