Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)


*Boston. Massachusetts city in which the Apley family has lived since the seventeenth century. The novel’s title character, George Apley, is born in his grandfather’s house on Beacon Hill in 1866 and dies in his own Beacon Street house in 1933. Except for a few trips to Europe and occasional sojourns to New York City, he rarely leaves New England during his nearly seventy years. His life is characterized by an adherence to a worldview espoused by his peers, the rarified few with Puritan forebears and inherited wealth, sometimes referred to as Boston Brahmins. These self-styled patricians inhabit a world of strictly structured social etiquette, private schools, men’s clubs with severely restricted membership, and a dogmatic devotion to tradition. This small minority of the city’s population believe themselves to be the social arbiters of the country. Despite their commitment to financial generosity to pet charities, they shield themselves from those outside their narrowly confined world, especially their immigrant neighbors. George Apley and his neighbors and friends are, because of their mind-set, as parochial and restricted by their outlook as anyone in a small village or town.

*Beacon Hill

*Beacon Hill. Residential enclave in Boston that is synonymous with wealth and privilege. This neighborhood, which is characterized by an abundance of Charles Bulfinch-designed federal style residences, is the...

(The entire section is 562 words.)

Literary Techniques

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

Marquand uses irony to convey his satire and point of view. In The Late George Apley the letters of the protagonist, undercut by the...

(The entire section is 139 words.)

Social Concerns

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

In The Late George Apley, Marquand's portrayal of the stultified protagonist demonstrates how early twentieth-century Boston's caste...

(The entire section is 158 words.)

Literary Precedents

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

The Late George Apley is most often linked with George Santayana's The Last Puritan, subtitled A Novel in the Form of a...

(The entire section is 89 words.)


(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

A number of Marquand's novels have become films and plays. George S. Kaufman and Marquand worked together to adapt The Late George...

(The entire section is 108 words.)


(Great Characters in Literature)

Bell, Millicent. Marquand: An American Life. Boston: Little, Brown, 1979. Analyzes The Late George Apley as an accurate depiction and study of the Bostonian world its author loved and resented. Summarizes the mainly hostile reviews in Boston periodicals.

Gross, John J. John P. Marquand. New York: Twayne, 1963. Sees the novel as concerned with the increasing atomization of contemporary society and as depicting old New England values, including frugality and charity, taken too far. Commends Marquand for having an insensitive narrator.

Kazin, Alfred. “John P. Marquand and the American Failure.” Atlantic Monthly 202 (November, 1958): 152-154, 156. Sees Marquand, a genteel satirist, ideally positioned in The Late George Apley as an observer. Regards Apley’s abandoning his Irish girlfriend as representing the dilemma of many Americans—wishing to defy conventions but finding it difficult to do.

Marquand, John P. “Apley, Wickford Point, and Pulham: My Early Struggles.” Atlantic Monthly 198 (September, 1956): 71-74. Comments on his decision to parody the epistolary novel by having a preposterous, pompous, obtuse, conceited biographer as narrator.

Tuttleton, James W. The Novel of Manners in America. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1972. Shows in a thumbnail biography of Marquand the importance of social influences on his writings. Sees The Late George Apley as an exposure of the Boston Brahman caste system and the tragedy of its perpetuation.