Set in the Midwest in the early twentieth century—the dawn of the automobile age— The Magnificent Ambersons begins by introducing the Ambersons, the richest family in town. Exemplifying aristocratic excess, the Ambersons have everything money can buy—and more. But George Amberson Minafer, the spoiled grandson of the family patriarch, is unable to see that great societal changes are taking place and that business tycoons, industrialists, and real estate developers will soon surpass him in wealth and prestige. Rather than join the new mechanical age, George prefers to remain a gentleman, believing that "being things" is superior to "doing things." But as his town becomes a city, and the family palace is enveloped in a cloud of soot, George's protectors disappear one by one, and the elegant, cloistered lifestyle of the Ambersons fades from view and finally vanishes altogether.
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Winner of the Pulitzer Prize when it was first published in 1918, The Magnificent Ambersons chronicles the changing fortunes of three generations of an American dynasty. The protagonist of Booth Tarkington's great historical drama is George Amberson Minafer, the spoiled and arrogant grandson of the founder of the family's magnificence. Eclipsed by a new breed of developers, financiers, and manufacturers, this pampered scion begins his gradual descent from the midwestern aristocracy to the working class. Today The Magnificent Ambersons is best known through the 1942 Orson Welles movie, but as the critic Stanley Kauffmann noted, "It is high time that [the novel] appear again, to stand outside the force of Welles's genius, confident in its own right."
"The Magnificent Ambersons is perhaps Tarkington's best novel," judged Van Wyck Brooks. "[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 novel no doubt was a permanent page in the social history of the United States, so admirably conceived and written was the tale of the Amber-sons, their house, their fate and the growth of the community in which they were submerged in the end."
Booth Tarkington (1869-1946), a prolific writer who achieved overnight success with his first novel, The Gentleman from Indiana (1899), is perhaps best remembered as the author of the popular Penrod adventures and Seventeen (1916). He was awarded a second Pulitzer Prize for the novel Alice Adams (1921).
Booth Tarkington The Magnificent Ambersons is a delightful novel. In addition, it is a view of Indianapolis' evolution from a major marketing center to a great industrial city. It adds a new dimension to one's understanding of the coming of the Industrial Age of the State of Indiana.
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