1 Paste your critical analysis in here (maximum 2500 words)
"THE TURMOIL"- A Historic Reflection or Future Prediction
"Just a matter of gossip: Just as a matter of gossip it may be interesting to note that we have never printed a novel in our magazine (Harpers) which attracted as much attention , in our own home office, as this one of Tarkington's. Everybody
who dared was hugging advance proofs and these were passed from hand to hand until ragged and worn out. It was the same way with the authors: they went out of their ways and broke long habits of silence to write and say how great they thought "The Turmoi
l" was. Mrs. Margaret Deland, Mr. Rupert Hughes, Basil King (author of "The Inner Shrine"), Mrs. Maude Radford Warren, Irving Bacheller- the list could be extended indefinitely; they all recognized here a master hand, an unusual, an enduring work of abso
rbing interest. It seems really the most delicately, daintily beautiful love story, the most poetic love making ever put on paper- and all in the guise of business."
This is very high praise for a novel that was written in only 60 days. Of course, those 60 days were filled with almost non-stop intensive writing on the part of Mr. Tarkington. Tarkington felt so strongly the desire to tell this story that he only sto
pped writing long enough to eat and sleep. Tarkington's previous works had been novels with a comic tone. The Turmoil was an attempt to branch out into a new direction and make a strong statement on how he felt about the change sweeping the nation. Th
is story while making a statement portrays the ravaging effects of big business while also depicting a love story. Mr. Tarkington meant for The Turmoil to be an indictment of big business, while at the same time acknowledging that the industrial revolut
ion was an integral part of the country's growth; although one might see it as a necessary evil. Tarkington was aware of the importance of industrialism and capitalism, he just went against the "illnesses" that were spawned from them. It is interesting
that Mr. Tarkington was able to write a novel that would appeal to such a broad audience. Mr. Tarkington was quite adroit in the many literary genres. He wrote novels for children and adolescents (Penrod & Seventeen), comic novels (The Fighting Little
s), and novels that appealed to young women (Alice Adams), as well as his serious novels, i.e. The Turmoil.
The Turmoil was the first in a series of novels, including The Magnificent Ambersons, Alice Adams, and The Midlander ,that was considered Mr. Tarkington's major phase. These novels were and still are considered his best works and two of them, (The Magn
ificent Ambersons and Alice Adams) won Pulitzer prizes.
Mr. Tarkington started writing in the tradition of his admired colleague W.D. Howells. W.D. Howell's is considered the pioneer of literary realism. It was Howell's use of "literary" or "commonplace" realism that Mr. Tarkington strove to imitate and d
id so with great success. Mr. Howell's was very impressed with The Turmoil and he wrote an analysis of it in the May 1915 issue of Harpers, in a column called the "Editor's Easy Chair". In this essay, Howells wrote the following to praise Mr. Tarkington
's work :"beautifully painted", "The story so powerful in expression abounds in subtle intimations", "triumphant characterization" and "he means for the reader's imagination to complete the work". Mr. Tarkington later said that Mr. Howell's praise meant
more to him than the novel's commercial success and vast popularity. He said Mr. Howells was the only critic alive worth pleasing.
James Woodress wrote in his biography of Mr. Tarkington that The Turmoil was "Tarkington's first important novel embodying the creed of literary realism." A review in the NAR, Mar. 1916, best puts into words the essence of Tarkington's novel: "And on
the other hand, one would like to bring out as forcibly as possible the fact that there is in Mr. Tarkington's novels - and in especially in this latest one, The Turmoil-a freshness and reality of interest such as it is within the power of few writers to
produce...To write a novel of contemporary life with its scene in an unbeautiful American manufacturing city; to portray with adequate realism, and in full daylight, the smoke, the dirt, and the people; to refrain from romanticizing scene or psychology; t
o deal with elemental, vital motives, such as love and jealousy and the driving power of modern business ambition; and through it all never to be commonplace or depressing, but always preserve a sense of the joy and interest of life, even enhancing the re
ader's sense of life's richness, livableness, worthwhileness-this would seem to be a task unmistakably requiring fertility of mind, buoyancy of temperament, that healthy and highly developed imagination that works wonders in fiction and in life." I found
this to be one of the most beautiful and flattering book reviews that I have ever read, I can't imagine that Mr. Tarkington would not have felt the same way. It is clear to see from this review why "The Turmoil" was the number one bestseller in fiction
for that time.
The Turmoil is a chronicle of an Indianapolis family that is riding the coattails of the new Industrial revolution that is sweeping across the country. Tarkington wrote "The Turmoil" in response to his growing feelings of dismay at what was happening t
o his beloved city, Indianapolis. After several years of living in Dayton, Ohio, Mr. Tarkington had come back home to Indianapolis to find that his quiet, beautiful hometown was now on the fringe of a hastily growing industrial center. He felt that the c
ity was becoming extremely noisy, overcrowded, and very dirty. James Woodress wrote that "Tarkington was profoundly shaken by the haste, waste, and insensitivity of the society that he came back to". Mr. Tarkington blamed commercialism and greed for th
e downfall of his beloved city. Mr. Tarkington wrote a letter to a friend and explained, "Commercialism is the savage of the world; it's that stinking dirty brute I'm after, with what entrails I have, in "The Turmoil". Mr. Tarkington especially took exc
eption to the smoke and soot that was ravaging the city. Woodress writes that "the choking, corrupting, and defiling smoke became the dominant symbol in The Turmoil. Tarkington describes this epidemic of smoke as, "leprous enclosures of besooted bare ea
rth where lingered a few patches of sparse grass not yet slain by the acids in the smoke."
Booth Tarkington was often compared to his contemporary, Winston Churchill. The two authors had many differences, but both wrote often of the same themes. In 1915, both writers, according to William Lyon Phelps, produced "an indictment of modern Ame
rican conditions in the commercial life of big cities". So of course, Tarkington's The Turmoil would be compared with Churchill's A Far Country. William Lyon Phelp's though that The Turmoil had more humanity. He states that "The Turmoil proves that he
(Mr. Tarkington) is growing in spiritual grace". Some felt that The Turmoil was similar in content to W.D Howell's The Rise of Silas Lapham. Both of these novels portray American tycoons beset with domestic problems. Keith Fennimore states that "The Tu
rmoil is the story of a first generation ascendancy to wealth at the sacrifice of second generation aspirations to culture. In a number of respects, the novel is similar to The Rise of Silas Lapham". There is credence to this comparison, considering tha
t Mr. Tarkington held Mr. Howells in such high esteem.
Today the majority of Mr. Tarkington's novels are regarded as inconsequential. His more serious novels are seldom read and he is mostly remembered for his Penrod books, which were written for young adults. However, Mr. Tarkington himself is still regard
ed as a writer of historical importance because he chronicled America's march toward urban industrialization. Specifically, The Turmoil along with the other two novels in the Growth trilogy will always be immensely useful to social historians. Boot
h Tarkington's The Turmoil still stands as a realistic portrait of the effects of the Industrial Age on life in middle America at the beginning of the century. Today The Turmoil is though of as an attack on American materialism, but it is still more rele
vant as a chronicle of the effects of "big business' on small town Middle America. An effect that is still being felt today. As the century is coming to an end, one might look back at his novel and use it as a comparison between the effects of the birth
of the industrial revolution as compared with the birth of the technological revolution that we are starting to live today. Many of the alliterations and images that Mr. Tarkington painted are still relevant today. Some might even argue that commercial
ism, greed and societal decay, the main themes in The Turmoil are more prevalent than ever. In The Reference Guide to American Literature (3rd edition), the editor calls The Turmoil "a very contemporary-sounding indictment of air pollution and civic negle
ct in the pursuit of a dollar." It would be interesting to know how Mr. Tarkington would feel about the happenings in today's age.
This book remained popular for many years and was published up until 1927. It was very popular given the fact that so many people could identify with "the turmoil" that was felt within themselves and the Country as the Industrial age and its ramificati
ons and opportunities took hold. It would be impossible not to be conflicted and in turmoil over the promise of a "better life" at the expense of known realities.
I feel that, given the subject matter, The Turmoil could still be popular today- if it were rediscovered. Mr. Tarkington's works got left on the sidelines and his reputation has dimmed. However, there is still plenty of sources to consult when doing a
study of Mr. Tarkington. He is still remembered in many circles as an "excellent fictional craftsman and a first rate storyteller".
Curley,Dorothy N. and Maurice Krame.(1969). A Library of Literary Criticism: Modern American Literature. New York: Frederick Ungar Publishers. pp 246-247
Cyclopedia of World Authors.(1974).Salem Press
Fennimore, Keith J.(1974). Booth Tarkington.New York: Twayne Publishers.
Reference Guide to American Literature.3rd ed.(1994).Detroit and London:St.James Press
Smith, Martin Seymour, Ed.(1996).World Authors 1900-1950, Vol.4. New York:H.W. Wilson Co. pp. 2608-2609
Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism, Vol.9, pg.453.
Woodress, James.(1955).Booth Tarkington:Gentleman from Indiana.Philadelphia and New York: J.P. Lippincott Company