William Stoner starts out as a farmer, later on discovers his passion for the written word and begins pursuing a career in academics. We are taken on the journey that is his life – with its ups and downs, his triumphs and the things that were tragically left unsaid.
Unfortunately, Stoner is cursed with kindness and integrity. I say cursed, because every bit of misfortune which he has to put up with is caused by the fact that he’s too easily taken advantage of. And this did get very frustrating at times, when I felt like strangling a character or two because they were unable to see his good intentions and just be kind to him for once. However, I do not think that Stoner led a sad and unfulfilling life. He is luckier than many – he’s passionate about his job, there are a couple of very happy periods in his life, at one point he finds pure and true love. However, he’s a loner, and a dreamer and this is why he must suffer.
After reading this book, I decided on pursuing a career in academics. The part where Dave Masters, the closest friend Stoner will ever have (except for Katherine Driscoll, I suppose), talks about the university really got to me, even though the things he said were already very familiar. I already knew that the world out there is a dining table for the wolves – cruel and unjust, a place where only the strongest get to places, even if they are not the ones who deserve it the most.
And here is what the university is, according to Masters:
“And so providence, or society, or fate, or whatever name you want to give it, has created this hovel for us, so that we can go in out of the storm. It’s for us that the University exists, for the dispossessed of the world; not for the students, not for the selfless pursuit of knowledge, not for any of the reasons that you hear. We give out the reasons, and we let a few of the ordinary ones in, those that would do in the world; but that’s just protective coloration. Like the church in the Middle Ages, which didn’t give a damn about the laity or even about God, we have our pretenses in order to survive. And we shall survive- because we have to.”
And according to Masters, Stoner belongs there because he is a dreamer, who would be chewed up by the outside world. It is nice to think that I too am a dreamer and it is also nice to think that the University really is an asylum- I know that it is not exactly so. Stoner knows as well. There is a reason he could not rise above the rank of assistant professor after all- and it was not because of his incompetence.
There is something strange about this book, and about Mr. Stoner. At first you think he’s a dull and ordinary man, but then he begins growing on you, you start seeing through his quietness and at some point you realize that you have become friends somehow. The book grows on you in the same way- it’s straightforward throughout, but it sticks with you even after you finish it. I’m glad I got to know Mr. Stoner and can only hope that I will not let him down by letting the world in to his asylum.