Thanks to the depth of the realistic vision of life, the “Financier” has become one of the pinnacles of American realistic literature of the 20th century. The first novel from “The Trilogy of Desire” was published in 1912. In it, Dreiser talked about the initial Philadelphia period in the life of the prosperous financier Frank Algernon Cowperwood and related business and moral problems. The novel “The Financier” was directed against the cult of a businessman. Charles Tyson Yerkes became the prototype of the protagonist. Dreiser’s novel opposes the apologetic literature and immeasurably raises above it the depth of the disclosure of the topic and artistic merits. This book is one of the examples good in American classical literature. The novel “The Financier” played a significant role in the development and consolidation of the literary English language in the United States with its specifically American characteristics.
The main character of the novel is distinguished by the consistency of judgments and actions both in business and in love. In business, he is guided by the reason. In relations with women, he is guided by the feelings. The transition of love into a documentary category (the divorce from Lillian and the wedding with Eileen) is automatically transferred by Cowperwood to the rational domain, and solved by a simple logical conclusion he expresses to his wife: “I no longer love you and do not want to continue relationships that do not satisfy me.”
Now, this position looks straight and fair. At those times it was impossible because of the decades-old social, moral principles that placed the family above all else. Frank understands that “life can not be squeezed into any framework.” He refuses to obey a wrong norm for him. Eileen, who was in love with him, for whom “generally accepted religious views and concepts” were never “a deterrent,” is obeyed to the emotions and feelings of inner rightness in a relationship where “a man and a woman suits each other.” Eileen is bold and decisive. Unlike his wife who always puts public mores above all, she immediately attracts Frank’s attention with her liveliness and cheerfulness. She is the best that the world of women can offer Cowperwood.
He becomes to analyze this world in his childhood. Reflecting on the tragedy unfolding in a market aquarium where the lobster tears the pieces of the body from the live cuttlefish day by day and eventually eats it, Frank comes to a conclusion that “all living things exist at the expense of the other.” Sooner Cowperwood realizes that he is ready to fight for his place under the sun. Having started his financial activities at seventeen, by the age of thirty-four, Frank has grown to the level of a large stockbroker and owner of a controlling stake in one of the lucrative horse-railway lines.
A young financier is defeated by an unforeseen accident. This is a catastrophic fire in Chicago that caused panic on the stock exchange, and its own carelessness in the issue of cashing a check against the background of the impending bankruptcy. Frank crashes. He ends up in prison, but Eileen and his unique strength of spirit allow him to overcome all the hardships of solitary confinement and earn a million dollars six months after his release.
He is straight, moderately cynical and tough hero. He expresses an unusual point of view on most of the serious problems that characterize his contemporary America. The civil war between the industrial North and the slave-holding South, he perceives as an annoying hindrance, hindering the country’s business development and bringing nothing to him personally. Frank is not sympathizing the grieving position of slaves. He believed that the life of other people, even though they were legally free, differs little from slavery.
Writer’s realistic manner and method are developing in this book. Dreiser continues in the novel a humanistic line of his work – a denunciation of the anti-humanity of capitalism. Cowperwood for Dreiser is not only the embodiment of the vices of an American businessman, financier, but also a strong personality who, giving his energy to serving false and illusory goals, is wasting his forces for nothing. Dreiser approaches the formulation of the philosophical problem. This is a problem of the transient nature of capitalism; of the illusory power that money and capital give. The very promotion of this problem was a great conquest of the writer’s realism.
- The Financier, Createspace Independent Pub – 2014