• -Thomas

SToner - an exploration of the mundane

Stoner is incredibly mundane. In fact, it might be the most mundane book ever written. It openly admits so, as part of the first page reads: "An occasional student who comes upon the name may wonder idly who William Stoner was, but she seldom pursues his curiosity beyond a casual question. Stoner's colleagues, who held him in no particular esteem when he was alive, speak of him rarely now; to the older ones, his name is a reminder of the end that awaits them all, and to the younger ones it is merely a sound which evokes no sense of the past and no identity with which they can associate themselves or their careers." William Stoner himself is mundanity given physical form. All the exciting events quickly end, much like his own life. The office politics and passive aggressive feuds with coworkers, it all ends rather fast. It is the same with the occasional disagreement with his wife.

William meets a few women who have a particular impact upon his life, one who becomes his wife, and one who becomes his lover on the side. During and before the honeymoon with his wife, things seem great, before they settle down and become mundane once again, with nothing having particularly changed. He still goes to work, same as always, and does the same things he always does. His affair goes much the same, as it ends with his lover departing from the University and city before any real controversy can occur. One must also look at the environments William Stoner finds himself in - or rather, the lack thereof. There is the farm where his parents raised him, the University where he works, the apartment he and his wife Edith first moved into, the house they eventually buy, the apartment of his lover and one could even count the bar he and two of his coworkers visit at a few points. And that is that.


And yet, to claim that Stoner made no impact upon anyone would be incorrect, his wife may not love him but he provided for her and the child they had together, at a point in time, albeit a rather short one they genuinely cared for each other, and one may even claim that staying together regardless of one's own feelings may in fact be one way to care for each other, societal expectations and such are always out to get others, their agreement may be one way to pacify such things. Stoner certainly made an impact upon Katherine, the woman he has an affair with later on, and as opposed to his wife, the two of them genuinely bond and enjoy each others company.


For the central theme of Stoner is: "if a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?" William Stoner certainly fells a few trees with others around to hear it, it is states that there are rumours about his affair, however it never becomes anything large. One can assume that the few who ever heard of the rumour in the first place quickly forget of it after Stoner himself dies. In the end, no one is there to tell of the trees he fell, and the ones who can, don't want to. Stoner is who we are all afraid to be, and yet he is also who we are all most likely to be. We make impacts, often large ones on the people around us. We cause change in our interpersonal relationships, but we never do anything particularly large. In the end, Stoner left a wife he didn't love for most of his life, a daughter, and got a page in the book his secret lover wrote, in which it simply said "Dedicated to W. S."


William Stoner is rather timid and not at all proactive, one may wonder how his life may have turned out had his qualities been different. Stoner settled for too little, that much is for certain, we all deserve happiness, however we must ask ourselves, whether Stoner ever even desired happiness. He has few qualms living with Edith, and the issues they do have with each other, are ignored. They may be questioned once, then never again. They go on for a while, then eventually end. That is, except for the premise of their relationship, doomed for failure from the second they moved in together. Why did their relationship fail? Did they not have any chemistry together, were they simply not meant to be? On the topic of chemistry, one could ask themselves whether Stoner and Edith ever had the chance to "have chemistry" with anyone else?


Both of them, elements which are incapable of reacting to anything else at all. One may counteract this notation with the observation that Stoner indeed did have a, "successful," relationship with Katherine, however Stoner was too timid, not proactive enough to make it happen. If he could have divorced Edith and moved in together with Katherine, would his happiness have increased? Perhaps their relationship was only exciting to due to the nature of the affair, if they were to marry, perhaps it would have become as mundane as it his precious relationship. Most likely it would.


Stoner uses its titular character to explain the mundane, or rather the fear of being so. It is an introspection into human thought, and while I choose to think most of us will experience happiness more long lasting than honey moons, bar visits, jabs at passive aggressive coworkers and passing affairs, there is the thought that maybe that is what it will end up being. It is a scary thought, although it may also, in a sense, be reassuring. That nothing will go wrong, it will all come to pass. Stoner's affair never gets exposed at large, while his wife knows she does not care, one can assume as long as it never becomes public knowledge, something which it never does. Things will be alright, and momentary happiness shall occur. It is just as easy to take comfort in the mundane, as it is to fear it.


Perhaps I will end up going to work for eight hours every day for the rest of my life. In fact, I most likely will. Although knowing there will be schedule and planning, the reassuring feeling that it won't go terribly wrong, perhaps that isn't all too bad. Or at a second glance, maybe that thought in itself, is even scarier. Reassured by the mundane, accepting in that which is commonplace, rejecting that which is wholly uncommon and unknowable.

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