Apparently, the story of a poor prep school senior from Oregon on a merit scholarship to New England can teach boys what they need to know for college. This teaching is done outside college. Apparently, college is not as important to a young man as being a man. College embellishes the conventional opinions. The boys are either rich or poor, of good or bad pedigree, with or without important friends. The schedules, rules of conduct, & scholarly requirements tell them what is what.
Our protagonist – people forget his name, his home state, or that he is in the room. His peers mock him; his faculty contemns him. He works in the school library. Come Thanksgiving, he takes a job tending to an acrimonious old man. He insists on calling the veteran by his rank. It takes him a while to get it right. The lt.col. terrifies him with sergeant talk & throws him out summarily. He then orders him around. But sooner rather than later he calls him son, as men sometimes do younger men.
The boy does not know who he is. If courage is knowledge of what to fear & what not to fear, he lacks courage. Now, moderation is something like self-restraint with regard to pleasure & to pain. & justice may be said to be obeying the laws. The sequence of the three virtues is this: the boy starts as lacking in courage. Then he is accused officially in the school. Then he accompanies a woefully immoderate old man; apparently, he had never before been tested. Then he has to show the courage to stand up to the old man. Finally, he faces judgment. Courage & justice change their meaning as they turn around moderation.
Moderation, however, appears throughout the movie: the boy works for a living & looks for jobs; he lives within his means & worries about money & calculates. He does not seek excessive pleasures. He is bashful, which looks like cowardice, but is proper in a boy. He puts things politely & behaves gently to people. He is anxious to behave with propriety whenever circumstances surprise him. He does not even like fast driving.
Our protagonist eventually mocks the old man. You may call it sarcasm, but it is not. It is neither nasty nor petty. It is insolent, however. He mockingly promises the old man the happiness he desires, but it seems he means it is not impossible. The old man laughs. – The boy notices quite astutely that he is a good-looking guy, fun to be with, compassionate, a great traveling companion, & sensitive. This is the only list of virtues mentioned in the story; it only covers the gentle virtues.
One of the best movies about young men. See it.