Stover at Yale

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Stover at Yale
Author Owen Johnson
Country United States
Language English
Publisher Frederick A. Stokes
Publication date
Media type Print (hardcover)

Stover at Yale,[1] by Owen Johnson is a novel describing undergraduate life at Yale at the turn of the 20th century. The book was described by F. Scott Fitzgerald as the "textbook" of his generation.[2] Stover at Yale recounts Dink Stover's navigation through the social structure at Yale and his struggles with social pressure.

Plot summary[edit]

Setting the Stage (Chapters 1-3)[edit]

The story opens with a picture of Stover seating himself on a train bound for New Haven. We get a very short recap of Stover's background from his Lawrenceville days (recounted in The Varmint) where Stover overcame a poor start to distinguish himself on the gridiron and became a class leader. While Stover is poised in dress and bearing (Johnson a bit pokes fun at Stover's self-awareness of that), around him his classmates are more eager and juvenile. Stover listens to them talk around him and learns of the secret society system, which will be the main drama of the plot. Later, the tap ceremony for the Yale senior society Skull and Bones is vividly described.[3]

While on the train, Stover also meets Tom Regan, an older, physically imposing and more open classmate of his, as well as LeBaron, a leading sophomore who is already taking Stover under his wing.

Arriving at his campus lodgings, Stover meets several more characters who will play parts in the following chapters. With Tough McCarty, his rival became friend from Lawrenceville days, Stover has a joyous roughhouse. He also meets McNabb, who is the "partier" of the freshman class. With Hunter, who is reserved and poised for leadership, Stover instantly feels rivalry. A sophomore, Reynolds, "an undersized nervous fellow" but first in his class to "make the News", stops by to check on the Andover freshmen in the house. He evaluates each man and advises him on what to go after in terms of extracurriculars. Some comic relief is afforded when Rogers, a junior stops by, and the tone changes to Reynolds deferring while Rogers leads the group in antagonizing a group of sophomores by turning lights on and off.

The chapter concludes with Stover's dinner with LeBaron. LeBaron counsels Stover on the importance of winning election to a secret society. Stover is troubled by the seriousness of this social positioning. Back with Tough, Stover then tells Tough to "go slow" about making new friendships, nixing Tough's plan for a dining group to put the two of them with a more select bunch, but has a hard time explaining his motivation.

Establishing himself in the class (Chapters 4-27)[edit]

The action then shifts to the gridiron. Stover performs well at basic drills, but gets no praise and is not called on to scrimmage. Tompkins, one of the coaches, cautions him, "Stover, just one word for your good. You come up with a big prep school reputation. Don't make an ass of yourself."

Later, Stover meets Gimbal, who openly proclaims a plan to fight the society system. Gimbal is also open about looking for political leadership with his anti-society stance. The two shake hands, but Stover is uncertain what to make of Gimbal.

In the evening, Stover and his class take part in wrestling contests against the sophomores. When no one from his class will stand in as the middleweight, Stover volunteers, though he knows no wrestling. Stover uses his football tackling power to beat his opponent, despite the other man's better knowledge of wrestling. Dana, the football captain, and Tompkins, the coach, see Stover's incredible tackling power and recognize him for it, enthusiastically and sparingly. Stover is borne home by his classmates, having established himself as a name in the class.

Stover reconnects with Regan, who had avoided the wrestling match and the first week of practice, despite his huge size, preferring to concentrate on personal affairs and school. Stover also meets other members of the class: Bob Story, son of an influential judge, as well as Joe Hungerford, a "name known across the world for power in finance." Stover, with Hungerford's encouragement, persuades Regan to become the waiter for their dining club.

In football practice, Stover at first is disappointed that his wrestling heroics do not suddenly win him a place on the team, but eventually he gets placed as the end on the scrub team. He battles a senior, Bangs, who is the starting end, and outplays him dramatically. Bangs resents Stover's presence as threatening a position that he spent three years building toward.

Publication history[edit]

Stover at Yale was originally serialized in McClure's[4] in 1911. The copyright has expired and the work has passed into public domain.[5]

Commentary and reviews[edit]

There were varied reactions to the book.[2][6][7][8][9][10][11]


  1. ^ Johnson, Owen. "Formats and Editions of Stover at Yale". Retrieved 2011-12-22. 
  2. ^ a b "Colleges: An Endangered Species? by Andrew Delbanco | The New York Review of Books". Retrieved 2011-12-22. 
  3. ^ Yale Alumni Publications, Inc. "secret societies (Sept/Oct 04)". Yale Alumni Magazine. Retrieved 2011-12-22. 
  4. ^ "Memoir demonstrates Yalies have always been crazy | Feb 20, 1998". February 20, 1998. Retrieved 2011-12-22. 
  5. ^ "Stover at Yale, free online version". Retrieved 2011-12-22. 
  6. ^ "Owen Johnson : as a significant American author, his personalities and antecedents, as interpreter of the American boy [and] comments on "Stover at Yale". (Book, 1912) [Wo". Retrieved 2011-12-22. 
  7. ^ "[]". []. Retrieved 2011-12-22. 
  8. ^ "The college experience (Book, 1962)". []. Retrieved 2011-12-22. 
  9. ^ "The Endangered University by Andrew Delbanco | The New York Review of Books". March 24, 2005. Retrieved 2011-12-22. 
  10. ^ STOVER AT YALE. March 31, 1912, Sunday Page 14,
  11. ^ "New York Times, The; May 19, 1912, Sunday, Section: Review of Books, Page BR308, 2712 words, no author, OWEN JOHNSON ATTACKS HIS CRITICS; Says "Stover at Yale" Is a True Picture of College Life; Questions the Poll of Yale Students; and Condemns Novels "with a Purpose"". New York Times. May 19, 1912. Retrieved 2011-12-22. 

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