I’ve gotten to like Uncle George Amberson (who offers this remark on the world) and am sorry that he seems to have left the novel for sunnier climes. Georgie, meanwhile, is in the storm now–in more mundane ways than Lear, perhaps (if this seems confusing, have a look at my conversation with Paul in comments on the last post), but no less real. And, as I predicted, it seems like Georgie is becoming a good fellow in rapid speed…rapid enough to marry Lucy, I should think, before the end of the book.
I’ll give Tarkington credit, in that the shift in Georgie to practicality is far more believable than I’d expected–necessity is the mother of invention, and the financial state he’s in is pretty dire. But it’s far too convenient. People don’t change their personalities simply because life is difficult–if poverty made us all saints, the world would be a very different place. Suddenly Georgie’s most prominent traits are generosity of spirit, practicality, a sense of family loyalty. Where was this man before? And where did his other traits go–25 years of condescension and arrogance can’t be swept away by two deaths in the family and financial ruin, or at least, I doubt they can. I can see them waking someone up to the fact that they, while normally a good person, have been behaving badly. But not someone who has never known what it meant to be selfless.
I’m struck by this–maybe you all think hardship works more wonders than I do (if you’ve seen it in real life, I’d find that a better reason to like Tarkington’s approach). But I think Tarkington’s trying to get his sappy ending, and won’t let the character’s actual personalities interfere with the goal.