Saturday, April 03, 2021


William Stoner grows up on a farm in rural Missouri. He is expected to continue working there. However, his father things it will be valuable for him to study agriculture at the university. He goes off to school does acceptable in his classes, but then takes the required English class. He struggles in the class. However, he eventually comes to appreciate the liberal arts and begins his life in academia.

World War I leads many students to enlist in the military. Two of Stoner's best "friends" enlist. Stoner, does not feel the call and instead desires to stay teaching on campus. One of the friends dies in battle. The other is able to supercharge is career by taking classes at Columbia.

He lives a life as a rather unremarkable academic. He gets married, but his wife is fairly distant. They do have a brief spurt of intense intimacy to have a child. However, his wife is initially uninterested in raising her. Stoner's father dies, but his mother just wants to remain on the farm with the hired help. His wife changes after his father commits suicide. She tries to "claim" their daughter and seeks to express herself with artistic friends. This further distances Stoner from his family and leads him to dedicate more to his work. He engages in an affair with an instructor who had audited one of his classes. This actually improved the relationship with his wife. However, it created conflicts in the department, and they ended the relationship. She would move away and later dedicate her book to him.

Stoner gets involved with academic political conflict. He flunks a student who is a "pet" PhD candidate of another professor. He later denies passing this student in the PhD orals. The professor goes nuclear on him for this. This professor becomes department head, making life miserable for Stoner by giving him a spaced out schedule of Freshman classes. Stoner eventually started teaching his graduate class content to Freshman, helping him to "win" a good schedule.

His life ended in a mediocre fashion. His daughter got pregnant. She married the boy and moved off with his parents. He enlisted in the military and died shortly after. She became an alcoholic and did not spend much time with her parents. Shortly before he reached retirement age, he discovered he had cancer. He was able to retire and then died shortly thereafter. His personal and professional lives were both a sad case of might have beens. 

As he is approaching retirement age, Stoner discovers he has cancer. 

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