The Last Puritan: A dutiful attempt at a novel

The Last Puritan: A Memoir in the Form of a Novel—the only novel written by philosopher George Santayana*—is a better novel than you’d expect a philosopher to write.

Unfortunately, there’s too much of it.


The Last Puritan by George Santayana

Charles Scribner’s, 1936. 602 p. 1936 bestseller #2 My grade: B-.


The last puritan is Oliver Alden, son and heir of a wealthy New England couple who should never have married.

Oliver’s father abandons Oliver to be brought up by his mother.

Oliver’s mother abandons him to be brought up by a governess.

At 17, Oliver joins his father for a cruise.

Oliver is bewildered by his father’s unconventional ideas and appalled by his drug use. Oliver is, however, is drawn to Jim Darnley, the yacht’s skipper, despite Jim’s womanizing and gambling.

Oliver does his duty, whether that’s being civil to mother, studying philosophy, playing football for his school, or proposing to Jim’s impoverished sister.

People who enjoy life, like his European cousin Mario, are incomprehensible to Oliver.

When America enters the war, Oliver does his duty and enlists.

He’s killed in a road accident after the armistice.

Santayana rattles on about the opposing philosophies with which Oliver struggles.

Underneath the torrent of words, there’s a sad story about a pathetic little kid who got big without getting hugged or growing up.

*Jorge Agustín Nicolás Ruiz de Santayana y Borrás

© 2016 Linda Gorton Aragoni

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Linda Aragoni

I'm passionate about helping people learn through the medium of nonfiction writing. Although I occasionally have an idea of my own, I mostly build education tools by recycling and repurposing other folks' ideas.

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