Appointment in Samarra Julian McHenry English

John O’Hara

Julian McHenry English

Julian is the thirty-year-old son of Dr. William Dilworth English. He is the protagonist of the novel and the character expected to attend the inevitable appointment with death announced in the title. Born into a life of privilege, Julian bears a family name that captures his entitlement to all things WASP. Although he claims not to have an issue with those who are perceived as inferior by the members of his social circle (non-Anglo-Saxons, Catholics, Jews, African Americans, and women), his snobbery and behavior reflect the prerogatives of someone who proudly belongs to the ruling class. He could have married a Polish woman he once loved, but he chose not to because of her lesser social status. A certain degree of prestige stems from the fact that Julian manages the local Cadillac dealership. However, Julian lacks the will and skills to be a successful businessman, and his career choice is perceived as a wasted opportunity for a doctor’s son. Another sign of Julian’s lack of self-worth is his marriage to Caroline, one of the most respected women in Gibbsville. Next to her, Julian often feels inadequate.

Although neither Julian himself nor other characters in the book describe Julian as an alcoholic, his drinking habits are those of an addict. He indulges in mixed drinks and Scotch at all hours of the day, including after he wakes up in the morning. He is a heavy smoker, and his mother criticizes him for not being in good shape. His relationship to his parents is distant. Despite these facts and his own internal self-doubt, Julian’s arrogance and self-destructive impulses lead him to act with bravado in front of those who are supposed to be beneath him, as well as in front of his peers.

Julian criticizes Froggy, his so-called best friend, for being a hypocrite and having hid for so long his aversion to Julian. However, Julian also acts hypocritically on many occasions, mainly in relation to Harry Reilly, who lent him money and ends up being the target of Julian’s anger and lack of self-control. It is said that Julian never broke Caroline’s trust during their years together, but his alleged sexual encounter with the torch singer at the Stage Coach shows Julian drifting away from his marital vows and precipitates his fall. Even though infidelity is socially accepted and even condoned in Gibbsville, Julian’s blatant flirting with the singer is considered distasteful and goes beyond what is tolerated. His unsuccessful attempt to seduce Miss Cartwright signals both his straying from moral values and his failure as a ladies’ man.

Julian’s feelings of guilt are implicit in the disappointment he caused his father when he was caught shoplifting as a child. It is also suggested that Julian carries guilt for not having fought in World War I. His endearing qualities come across in some moments of tenderness with Caroline and in his thoughts toward her: he can be kind, funny, and charming.