The Plastic Age
Hugh wasn't troubled only by religion and sex; the whole college was disturbing
his peace of mind: all of his illusions were being ruthlessly shattered. He had
supposed that all professors were wise men, that their knowledge was almost
limitless, and he was finding that many of the undergraduates were frankly
contemptuous of the majority of their teachers and that he himself was finding
inspiration from only a few of them. He went to his classes because he felt that
he had to, but in most of them he was confused or bored. He learned more in the
bull sessions than he did in the class-room, and men like Ross and Burbank
were teaching him more than his instructors.
Further, Nu Delta was proving a keen disappointment. More and more he found
himself thinking of Malcolm Graham's talk to him during the rushing season of his
freshman year. He often wished that Graham were still in college so that he could
go to him for advice. The fraternity was not the brotherhood that he had dreamed
about; it was composed of several cliques warring with each other, never
coalescing into a single group except to contest the control of a student activity
with some other fraternity. There were a few "brothers" that Hugh liked, but most
of them were not his kind at all. Many of them were athletes taken into the
fraternity because they were athletes and for no other reason, and although
Hugh liked two of the athletes—they were really splendid fellows—he was forced
to admit that three of them were hardly better than thugs, cheap muckers with
fine bodies. Then there were the snobs, usually prep school men with more
money than they could handle wisely, utterly contemptuous of any man not
belonging to a fraternity or of one belonging to any of the lesser fraternities.
These were the "smooth boys," interested primarily in clothes and "parties,"
passing their courses by the aid of tutors or fraternity brothers who happened to
Hugh felt that he ought to like all of his fraternity brothers, but, try as he would, he
disliked the majority of them. Early in his sophomore year he knew that he ought
to have "gone" Delta Sigma Delta, that that fraternity contained a group of men
whom he liked and respected, most of them, at least. They weren't prominent in
student activities, but they were earnest lads as a whole, trying hard to get
something out of college.
The Nu Delta meetings every Monday night were a revelation to him. The
brothers were openly bored; they paid little or no attention to the business before
them. The president was constantly calling for order and not getting it. During the
rushing season in the second term, interest picked up. Freshmen were being
discussed. Four questions were inevitably asked. Did the freshman have money?
Was he an athlete? Had he gone to a prep school? What was his family like?
Hugh had been very much attracted by a lad named Parker. He was a charming
youngster with a good mind and beautiful manners. In general, only bad manners
were au fait at Sanford; so Parker was naturally conspicuous. Hugh proposed his
name for membership to Nu Delta.