The whole story is a very straight-forward linear narrative, an unheroic account of an unfulfilled life. The protagonist is dull. The language is plain. A cup of lukewarm water, that was exactly how I felt. Yet somehow this lukewarm water blew me away. Reading this story is a look-in-the-mirror experience. Not that my life bears any resemblance to that of Stoner’s. There were moments I could feel all his pains(physically) and my eyes blurred in tears. It was so heartbreaking that I had to put the book aside and sighed, digesting the bitter life of a sublime spirit.
Born into a dirt-poor family in rural Missouri, Stoner was lucky to enter university and study agronomy. Later, he experienced an epiphany in the survey of English literature, which kindled his enthusiasm for literature. He then embraced a scholar’s life.
Stoner’s life, by worldly standards, was a failure. He married the wrong woman who spent all her life waging war against him, destroying all his happiness out of vindictiveness, estranging him from his parents and his very own daughter. He was frozen in rank because of his feud with Lomax, caused by struggle for academic integrity. He lost his true love Katherine under threat of scandal, which led to the rapid deterioration of health. He took asylum in university and dedicated all his passion to teaching, which, he believed, could define who he was as his life came to an end.
As the years passed by, the voice in the novel gained in strength and the lukewarm water was boiling in the preliminary oral. That was the sublime moment when Stoner became the person he was always supposed to be, a quixotic hero driven by literary idealism.
The whole story seems to be all about crushed illusion and bitter disappointment. Stoner, as his name suggested, received blows of fate like a stone. Yet his sufferings and pains, and above all, his dedication to reading and teaching, made me acutely aware of being alive.