Tuesday, March 20, 2012

the magnificent Ambersons. (booth tarkington)themes

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Booth Tarkington was born in 186 in Indianapolis, a Mid-west State of the United States. In 187 as a result of the panic Tarkingtons family was forced to vacate their home and spent the next three years residing in hotels in less popular areas. Although Booth was very young at this time, this was significant as it gave him a glimpse at the social stigma, which befell much of the middle class during the industrial revolution. With the financial assistance of his uncle, the Tarkingtons were able to buy their own house in a middle class area . This may have been the inspiration behind the fate of the middle class family in The Magnificent Ambersons. It is also of importance to note that Tarkingtons father, John worked as a lawyer, and Booth also undertook a profession, in contrast to the wealthy middle class in the Magnificent Ambersons, particularly George who had never intended to take a profession, and was forced to only because of financial restraints.

Tarkington attended university, although he never graduated, this was however a conscious decision on his part rather than because of lack of talent. On his days at Princeton University he said No doubt I imbibed some education there, though it seems to me that I tried to avoid that as much as possible.

Tarkingtons lack of formally accredited education did little to impede his career as an author, and in 11 he won his first Pulitzer prize with The Magnificent Ambersons.

It is important to note that the Pulitzer prize is a highly regarded award, and that it only rewarded novels which best presented the whole atmosphere of American life, and the highest standard of American manners and manhood.

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Tarkingtons work is obviously regarded very highly, and even after ,more than eighty years, the good reviews keep coming, Historian, James Woodress stated that he thought Tarkington to be a first-rate chronicler of the social scene in urban middle America during the first quarter of the twentieth century.

This reflects Tarkingtons ability to clearly portray the social conditions of the time in which he set his book (116) and thus shows why his book is so acclaimed by modern historians.

The Magnificent Ambersons is popularly described as follows; [It is] a typical story of an American family and town--the great family that locally ruled the roost and vanished virtually in a day as the town spread and darkened into a city. This statement is true, but we are able to further explore the many themes which are contained in Tarkingtons book.

The major themes used in The Magnificent Ambersons are Social Class, an intertwining love affair, and technological advancement, other issues which are touched upon are social custom, environmentalism, family relations, fashion, and Negroes.

An important topic used by Tarkington is the rapid advancement of technology during the industrial era. During this period cities were booming as the technologies so recently invented undertook mass production. This created an influx of workers into urban America and swelled Cities past their capacity. Members of the local elite often congratulated themselves loudly when their cities grew, considering local growth to be a result of their unique entrepreneurial abilities. This however was not the case, as the urban frenzy gripped the country as people looked for a better life Americans, more than any other people, believed that their future was tied to the new technology .

Another result of the industrial revolution was the reclassification of the social system, as the middle class found themselves having difficulty sustaining their lifestyles, the suburbs populated by the lower classes boomed alongside the industrial revolution. The new availability for jobs meant the poor were flooding into urban centres . This meant overcrowding they were given a new social status, as they began to invade the middle class suburbs.

Tarkington shows us the population boom and social changes in the Magnificent Ambersons, through the voice of the lead character, George who says Up and down the street, the same transformation had taken place every big, comfortable old brick house now had two or three smaller frame neighbours crowding up to it on each side, cheap-looking neighbours, most of them needing paint and not clean-and yet, though they were cheap looking, they had cost as much to build as the big brick houses, whose former ample yards they occupied.

They say a lot of riffraff come to town every year nowadays and theres other riffraff that have always lived here, and have made a little money, and act as if they owned the place

Through passages such as these, Tarkington shows the reader the new importance which the lower classes had acquired, in part through the availability of jobs, and in part because of their penetration of the middle class suburbs. Historian, Leonard Reissman agrees with this view and he says it is strange but true that industrialisation turned attention away from the recognition of class and at the same time set the basis upon which class distinctions were to be made.

The Magnificent Ambersons is also an intertwining love story, with George and his mother falling in love (respectively) with father and daughter, Eugene and Lucy. Although this love story is integral to the storyline it does not serve much historical purpose, with perhaps the exception of informing us of the practices of courtship at this time, [George] crossed the room to where a girl sat waiting for his nobility to find time to fulfil his contract with her for this dance. . Also to some degree the novel shows us the relationship between middle class mother and son, as shown in the Chapter XXVIII, 45-51.

Another historical issue touched upon in this book is the fashion trends of the time, this becomes important historically as the cut and material of clothes help to define the class and wealth of the individual. For example in The Magnificent Ambersons, there is reference to all the women who wore silk or velvet knew all the other women who wore silk or velvet it is obvious that this refers to the middle and upper classes as the poor would not have afforded such luxuries.

Environmentalism was a theme common at this time, as the industrial revolution had brought with it a thick sooty air filled with noise and other unpleasant side effects. The more dirt, the more prosperity. They drew patriotic, optimistic breaths of the flying powdered filth of the streets, and took the foul and heavy smoke with gusto into the profundities of their lungs

Tarkington also touches lightly on the subject of American Negroes. Having gained their freedom in 1865, around fifty years earlier, through the Thirteenth Amendment, the Negroes had not risen too highly in their class status, Tarkington shows us this subtly by way of reference to a negro gardener and also by reference to a Negro Quarter in the novels city setting of Midland

Despite the number of different themes in The Magnificent Ambersons, there seems to be one that is most important, that is Technological advancement, this is because it was a key social issue at the time this book was written, and it also ties in to many of the other themes as well. For example, environmentalism came about as a result of the Industrial revolution, as did new social class and custom and changing fashion. The use of a love story to bring out these issues was also well placed as they too worked to show us the changing American society.

Booth Tarkington, � 000-00 Fictionwise, Inc http//www.fictionwise.com/eBooks/BoothTarkingtoneBooks.htm

Newton Booth Tarkington Hoosier Novelist Copyright 000 Indiana Historical Society

Joseph Pulitzer, Petri Liukkonen, September, 00, http//www.biblion.com/litweb/biogs/pulitzer_joseph.html

Tarkington, Booth; James Woodress, American National Biography Online, American Council of Learned Societies, Oxford University Press, February, 000, http//www.anb.org/articles/16/16-01607.html

1 Booth Tarkington eBooks, Copyright � 000-00 eBookMall, Inc, http//www.ebookmall.com/alpha-authors/Booth-Tarkington.htm

Monkkonen, Eric H., America Becomes Urban The development of U.S cities and towns 1780-180, University of California Press, 188, p 8

Brooke Hindle & Steven Lubar, Engines of change The American Industrial Revolution 170-1860, Smithsonian Institution, USA, 186p 50

Tarkington, Chapter XIII, 86

Tarkington, Booth, The Magnificent Ambersons, Doubleday, Page & Co., 118, New York, Bartleby.Com, 1 http//www.bartleby.com/160/ Chapter VII, 6

Reissman, Leonard, Class in American Society, The Free Press, USA, 15, p 5

Tarkington, Chapter VI, 80

Tarkington, Chapter I,

Tarkington, Chapter XXVIII, 16

Tarkington, Chapter XXVI,

Tarkington, Chapter XXVIII, 14

Tarkington, Chapter X, 4

Tarkington, Chapter XXVIII, 7



Tarkington, [Newton] Booth From Alexander Leitch, A Princeton Companion, copyright Princeton University Press (178). http//etc.princeton.edu/CampusWWW/Companion/tarkington_booth.html

the great idea finder, INVENTION FACTS AND MYTHS, automobile, revised September 6th, 00., http//www.ideafinder.com/history/inventions/story054.htm

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