42 pages 1 hour read

William Styron

Sophie's Choice

Fiction | Novel | Adult | Published in 1979

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Chapters 1-3Chapter Summaries & Analyses

Chapter 1 Summary

Stingo is a 22-year-old transplanted Southerner who has come to make his fortune in New York in 1947, having survived a stint in the Marine Corps during World War II. He has ambitions to become a writer of literary fiction. Toward that end, he has taken a job as a junior editor at the McGraw-Hill Publishing Company. During the post-war years, McGraw-Hill specializes in technical manuals and nonfiction, so Stingo is generally forced to read substandard fiction manuscripts. His youth and arrogance combine to make him write scathing critiques of these works. In retrospect, Stingo thinks to himself, “Oh, clever, supercilious young man! How I gloated and chuckled as I eviscerated these helpless, underprivileged, subliterary lambkins” (6).

Stingo is paid a pittance, which forces him to take a bleak apartment and subsist on meager rations. Months of thankless toil leave him demoralized and unable to write. When a new editor-in-chief, whom he nicknames “the Weasel” (17), tells Stingo that he doesn’t fit the profile of a McGraw-Hill editor, the young man quits. Before he leaves, Stingo says goodbye to a fellow employee, named Farrell, who befriended him. Farrell tearfully recounts the death of his own son during the war.

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