Theodore Dreiser’s absorbing Trilogy of Desire weaves a tale of twentieth-century American capitalism through the rise and fall of aspiring mogul, Frank Cowperwood.
Theodore Dreiser’s absorbing Trilogy of Desire weaves a tale of twentieth-century American capitalism through the rise and fall of aspiring mogul, Frank Cowperwood.The Financier: Frank’s story begins at an auction sale in Philadelphia, where an unassuming bid for seven cases of soap quickly makes him a large personal gain in just one day. Having grown up among the ruthlessness and glamour of the Gilded age, Frank finds he has a taste for turning a profit, no matter who gets in his way. Embarking on a life of callous stock brokering, shady political intrigue, sordid crimes, and passionate affairs, this first chapter in Frank Cowperwood’s life highlights Theodore Dreiser’s keen ability to merge drama with sharp historical insight.The Titan: Frank Cowperwood dives back into the stock market after the Panic of 1873, aiming to recover his lost fortune, and become a millionaire once more. This time, he has a new plan and sets out for Chicago with his mistress, Aileen. Using his brutal business sense to snuff out his opponents Frank has his eyes on the city’s street-railway system as his ticket back to the top. But as Frank knows, the past cannot remain buried forever, and it’s only a matter of time before his previous misdeeds come back to find him in his new home, threatening his stability—and more importantly, his money.The Stoic: Caught at a financial impasse and in an increasingly complicated love triangle, Frank heads across the sea to London, England for a chance to develop a new underground railway system. Though still married to his estranged wife, Aileen, he has found a new paramour in Berenice—among others. Doing what he does best, Frank puts his plans in motion to conquer London’s transportation market guaranteeing the lion’s share of the profits for himself. However, as his age begins to catch up with him, an illness makes it clear these are the last years of his life. In his final chapter, Frank must negotiate personal and financial challenges to make his lasting mark on the world.
The Indiana-born Dreiser (1871-1945) has never cut a dashing or romantic swath through American literature. He has no Pulitzer or Nobel Prize to signify his importance. Yet he remains for myriad reasons: his novels are often larger than life, rugged, and defy the norms of conventional morality and organized religion. They are unapologetic in their sexual candor--in fact, outrightly frank--and challenge even modern readers. The brooding force of Dreiser’s writing casts a dark shadow across American letters. Here in An American Tragedy, Dreiser shows us the flip side of The American Dream in a gathering storm that echoes with all of the power and force of Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment. Inspired by the writings of Balzac and the ideas of Spenser and Freud, Dreiser went on to become one of America’s best naturalist writers. An American Tragedy is testimony to the strength of Dreiser’s work: it retains all of its original intensity and force.
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