Author(s): Theodore DreiserDownload
Alternate cover edition of ISBN 9780452008250A master of literary naturalism, Dreiser is known for his great intensity and keen journalistic eye as he examines real-life subjects. This powerful novel explores the dynamics of the financial world during the Civil War and after the stock-market panic caused by the Great Chicago Fire. The first in a ”trilogy of desire,” The Financier tells the story of the ruthlessly dominating broker Frank Cowperwood as he climbs the ladder of success, his adoring mistress championing his every move. Based on the life of financier C. T. Yerkes, Dreiser’s cutting portrayal of the corrupt magnate Cowperwood illustrates the idea that wealth is often obtained by less than reputable means.
Some Reviews: 211 in Goodreads.com
I kept being fascinated by this trilogy throughout a large chunk of my childhood. Gosh! It was so engrossing! Like a window to the big world of the yet unknown things. I kept reading and rereading it multiple times.
Not sure I’ll like it as much these days if I do dare to reread.
The last part was, however, very different from the beginning, in terms of psychology. Considering it was published poshumously, one can’t help if the plot was highjacked by some shadow writer to get it ready for publishing. Then again, it could have been the idea of the writer that the things that have started trailblazingly could end without the trailblazer. Maybe it was supposed to have a sobering effect on the readers. Sadly, it did not sober me concerning the rat race.
This is the first book of a trilogy about the life of financier Frank Cowperwood, loosely based on the life of a Chicago streetcar tycoon. This first part of his story is set in post-civil-war Philadelphia. Frank rises quickly from middle-class beginnings to the financial heights due to his cleverness and disregard for legalities and regulations. Due to a miscalculation and a market plunge after the Chicago Fire, he is exposed (both financially and legally) and this book describes his trial, conviction, and re-entry into the world of high finance. (and his foray into adultery, where he betrays not only his wife but a business associate.)
It was interesting to me to note how often the descriptions of financial shenanigans sounded sadly current. It seems that Frank Cowperwood would feel pretty comfortable hanging out with today’s bankers. I found the detailed descriptions of the financial ins-and-outs, and the ease Frank has in gaming the system, really fascinating and historically relevant.
‘The Financier’ is the first book in a trilogy that looks a personalities through objective lenses based on Dreiser’s view of the world. In a sense it is an amorality play. It’s main character is covered from his youth through his rise in the financial industry to his downfall and imprisonment and his financial redemption. I paints a character in depth that pursues whatever he desires, and is seen as intelligent and precise and unruffled by anything that might block his path.
The reader is made to feel that in a way he deserves a comeupance and yet romanticises his skill at acquiring wealth.
The story line justifies his love affairs as long as they are bases on honorable attraction, which of course is defined by the characters own needs. It tries to paint societal expectations of appropriate behaviour as some enforcement of appearances of men far more flawed than the main character.
It was interesting to me as it sits on the very cusp of a startling change in morals that would be ushered in by the ‘Roaring 20s’. It is almost as though Dreiser was preparing the path for what was coming. A classic worth reading, and definitely not assigned by the nuns in my High School, so missed in early life.
One critic called it a look at the dark side…but that is always a relative thing. A man choosing to make money on the losses of others and who can break marriage vows can seem quaint as a view from the dark side given the brutality that the next wars would bring.
Even though the main character, Cowperwood, seemed a precursor to Ayn Rand, I found the novel compelling, not least the details of city life in era after the Civil War. The trolley lines were just forming and there was a rough, mad scramble to secure the best routes. The first penitentiary, based on Quaker ideas of solitary confinement had just been opened. Cowperwood’s morality may have been dubious but it was impossible not to keep reading. Sample quote:
“That thing conscience, which obsesses and rides some people to destruction, did not trouble him at all. He had no consciousness of what is currently known as sin. There were just two faces to the shield of life from the point of view of his peculiar mind-strength and weakness. Right and wrong? He did not know about those. They were bound up in metaphysical abstrusities about which he did not care to bother. Good and evil? Those were toys of clerics, by which they made money. And as for social favor or social ostracism which, on occasion, so quickly followed upon the heels of disaster of any kind, well, what was social ostracism? Had either he or his parents been of the best society as yet? And since not, and despite this present mix-up, might not the future hold social restoration and position for him? It might. Morality and immorality? He never considered them. But strength and weakness–oh, yes! If you had strength you could protect yourself always and be something. If you were weak–pass quickly to the rear and get out of the range of the guns.”
this is a very politically correct written book. It has love, betrayel, intrigue, atmosphere, good descriptions, nice ideas. However it lacks emotion. That is why 4 stars or 3,5 if I could. Everything is very clearly and soberly presented, even the emotions of the characters are so thoughly described, that they don’t produce any impact on the reader at all.
The whole financial stuff – I didn’t quite understood everything but it is not that important. You get into the story.
Because of the sober way of presenting the story, it was often quite boring, and the whole book seemed endless. But I still got to its end !