“The Titan”, a literary analysis of Theodore Dreiser’s novel

The second volume of the Trilogy of Desire was published in May, 1914. There Dreiser described the main Chicago period in the life of the talented financier – Frank Algernon Cowperwood.

Just as in the first novel, the external storyline of “The Titan” was based on the life events of the famous American millionaire Charles Tyson Yerkes. He served as inspiration for the protagonist of this novel: movement from Philadelphia to Chicago, divorce from his wife, wedding with young Mary Adelaide Moore / Aileen Butler according to the novel, opening of the grain and commission business, capture of the North Chicago railways / and even Western Chicago railways according to the novel, financing of construction of the world’s largest telescope and its observatory, difficult and dirty fight for the obtaining and extension of the street-railways franchise, failure to achieve a monopoly on all forms of the public transport within Chicago, movement to New York.

The title of the novel “The Titan” is symbolically associated with two principal characters of the work – the strong, bold, unbending Frank Cowperwood and “the angular young giant”, “raw Titan” among the cities – Chicago.

No wonder that the Philadelphian financier decides on this city. It has been rapidly developing during the last two decades of the XIX century and turns into the economic center of the Midwest. Chicago together with its incredible business potential, cheap workforce and dazzling luxury perfectly matches Cowperwood, whose main life purpose is the constant accumulation of capital funds by any means.

The ruthless character of Frank, formed in “The Financier”, reveals itself in “The Titan”, when the protagonist faces his three main life positions – money, women and art.

Cowperwood values his capital not so much on its volume, as on the opportunities it gives. “I haven’t seen many troubles in this world that money wouldn’t cure” says Frank to Aileen. Thereby he affirms the eternal power of money in America at the end of the nineteenth century. The life plans of Cowperwood are formed under the influence of his successful entrepreneurial activity, connected with the capture of the city railways in Chicago: “his art-collection, his new mansion, his growing prestige as a financier, his rehabilitation socially, and the celebration of his triumph by a union, morganatic or otherwise, with some one who would be worthy to share his throne”.

During twenty years of unceasing fight for the transport and power in Chicago Frank Cowperwood has been running for women’s beauty. Having married Aileen, he quickly realizes that he has made a mistake. The impeccable beauty of a girl cannot compensate for her being “so gaudy, so self-conscious, and so naïve”. The high world of Chicago avoids a little brash and crude Mrs. Cowperwood and Frank accordingly. Having realized that he needs “another type of woman – a harder type, one with keener artistic perceptions and a penchant for just the right social touch or note”. Cowperwood starts acting as a real Don Juan. He seduces all women he likes at least a little bit. Some of them (such as a “charming, tender, warm, colorful, delicate and hard” artist Rita Sohlberg or a “generous, nebulous, passionate, emotional, inexperienced, voiceless, and vainly curious” actress Stephanie Platow) enter Frank’s life for a long and leave a marked impression on it. Another (like, for example, a secretary Antoinette Nowak, the daughter of Cecily Haguenin, the Press owner, and Caroline Hand, the wife of a wealthy Chicago banker) become just small coins in the search of an ideal woman. According to Frank, the last his passion becomes a young, beautiful and poor aristocrat, Berenice Fleming. Cowperwood falls in love with a girl by her picture. He takes care of her during seven years and almost admits at the end the fact that the girl may refuse his offer.

The great businessman turns to be overcome by a person who is keenly aware of her own dignity. The red-haired pariah attracts Frank with her originality and individuality, expressed in the openness of the heart and her attitude to romance, art, philosophy and life. Berenice Fleming feels the importance of her position since childhood and when faces the real life she can easily realize its basic principles. The girl understands that her beauty is not eternal and the personality self alone “is not worth a lot”. At the end of the nineteenth century in America other things such as “name, wealth, the presence or absence of rumor, and of accident” were important. Berenice has a perfect name, lack of wealth and rumors – up to her neck due to the discreditable activity of her mother, a former owner of the house of assignation in Louisville, and the closest friendship with not a very popular Chicago millionaire. “But life could be lived” – concludes Berenice, and decides to do this with Frank, a strong, interesting and rich man.

In “The Titan”, as well as in the “Financier”, Dreiser proves himself to be a master of realistic descriptions. He provides readers with insight of the work of the Chicago stock exchange, banks, newspaper publications, construction and utility companies, local municipality, State legislature, small and large power brokers, from the aldermen on down to the mayor of Chicago and the Governor of Illinois. Describing the lives of large financial dealers, high world rakes and famous politicians, the writer doesn’t bring up the problems of the lower-status people.

In the novel the people does not appear before Cowperwood uses up the full range of his unfair business weapon – bribes, threats, bribery by high posts, and almost succeeds in obtaining a dangerous for the city monopoly on railway ownership. At this time there starts to grow up a feeling that “at the top there were a set of giants—Titans—who, without heart or soul, and without any understanding of or sympathy with the condition of the rank and file, were setting forth to enchain and enslave the people”. To the people Cowperwood has become “an astounding figure: his wealth fabulous, his heart iron, his intentions sinister—the acme of cruel, plotting deviltry”. Though Frank does not see people at all – they are just his tools for achieving the main aim of life.

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