Edna Ferber | Critical Review by William Du Bois

This literature criticism consists of approximately 2 pages of analysis & critique of Edna Ferber.
This section contains 419 words
(approx. 2 pages at 300 words per page)
Buy the Critical Review by William Du Bois

Critical Review by William Du Bois

SOURCE: "Tintypes by Ferber," in The New York Times Book Review, January 28, 1945, p. 5.

Du Bois was an American educator, novelist, poet, playwright, and critic. In the following review of Great Son, he argues that Ferber has failed to provide her potentially interesting characters with a suitably compelling plot.

First there's Exact Melendy—a great-grandame complete with Godey-book silks, medicinal rye, toy railroad, and the finest view in all Seattle. Then there's her son Vaughan—a two-fisted taker in his day. There's Emmy, his pneumatic wife, whose mother was a Mercer girl. There's his son Klondike, born of Pansy, his violet-eyed Alaskan mistress, and offered to the world as his legal off-spring. Dike, despite a crumbling fullback facade, is soft at forty-odd. Could he be otherwise, after such American luxury items as "Harvard and good scotch and third-row seats and four-rib roasts and sixteen-cylinder cars?"

There's Lina, his wife—an actress and a full-time cat. There's Cliff, who writes her plays and spends his spare time burlesquing the ghost of Woollcott. There's a clutch of Japanese servants, who behave very oddly indeed as Pearl Harbor Sunday begins to rumble in the plot. Last, and most voluble, are the Young People, the Heirs of Tomorrow: great-grandson Mike (a flying fool, who knows there's nowhere to go but up), and Reggie, the simonpure—and inevitable—refugee.

Having listed the principals in Edna Ferber's new book, the reviewer can only pause and stare blankly at the names. Any Ferber fan will recognize the ingredients for one of those bang-up romances she's been putting together so neatly for a generation now. But this time the craftsman's hand has produced a croquis—and nothing more. To put it as bluntly as possible, there are too many old, old parties ruminating on the glories of yesterday—and yawning, much too contentedly, in the cocoons of their wealth. Pearl Harbor Sunday cracks the cocoons: a flashback, now and then, pants hard to give the illusion of life. One still has the airless sensation that belongs to the diorama in a city museum. One looks back longingly to the genuine clash and bustle of Cimarron and Show Boat, back to the deep emotional grasp of So Big.

Miss Ferber has every right to produce a "novel of character," as the jacket blurb insists she has done. But an old hand at fiction should remember that no character is compelling until he is put in believable conflict. Ignoring this truism of her trade, she has let a well-earned public down with a bang.

(read more)

This section contains 419 words
(approx. 2 pages at 300 words per page)
Buy the Critical Review by William Du Bois
Follow Us on Facebook