Marjorie Morningstar Author:Herman Wouk Marjorie Morgenstern is a New York Jewish girl in the 1930s who longs to become an actress. She is very beautiful and popular, with lots of boyfriends. — She translates "Morgenstern" to "Morningstar" and begins her quest to become a star. First she auditions for her school's (Hunter College) production of "The Mikado", and lands the title role. T... more »his introduces her to Marsha Zelenko, who will become her best friend (for a while). Marsha encourages Marjorie in her quest, and helps her land a job as a dramatic counselor at the summer camp where Marsha teaches arts and crafts.
During the summer Marsha persuades Marjorie to accompany her on an illicit excursion to South Wind, an exclusive Jewish resort. There Marjorie meets Wally Wronken, a young wannabe playwright, and Noel Airman, who has won some fame as a composer.
Marjorie and Noel begin an affair that really determines the course of Marjorie's life. The novel explores Marjorie's determination to break out of the mold of a proper Jewish daughter and wife vs. Noel, who abandoned both his Jewish faith and culture. Noel tells Marjorie that she's a "Shirley": a stereotypical Jewish-American princess, who will end up as a respectable suburbanite in the end, while he will always be a free-spirited bohemian.
Marjorie's pursuit of Noel takes her to Paris, where Noel finally breaks down and proposes. Marjorie realizes that her romance with Noel is a girlish fantasy, and that she actually wants her life to go in the direction into which her parents have tried to push her. She returns to New York and begins her search for a husband.
She considers Wally Wronken, who has always had a crush on her, but realizes that Wally also wants a traditional Jewish wife and a "good girl." Marjorie knows that her affair with Noel would crush Wally should he learn about it, so she elects to stand him up for a date they had arranged. After that, they will not see each other for several years.
Marjorie marries Milton Schwartz and happily settles into the role of wife and mother. She has become Shirley at last. Wally, now a successful playwright, goes to visit her and recalls the bright-eyed girl he once knew. You could not write about her, he marvels.
The end of the novel is somewhat disappointing to most contemporary readers. Marjorie begins as the idealistic, intelligent young woman who determinedly pursues her dreams in the era before real feminism but, in the end, her aspirations acquiesce to her parents' narrow expectations« less