Edna Ferber | Critical Review by Edward Weeks

This literature criticism consists of approximately 2 pages of analysis & critique of Edna Ferber.
This section contains 565 words
(approx. 2 pages at 300 words per page)
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Critical Review by Edward Weeks

SOURCE: "Where Men are the Men," in The Atlantic Monthly, Vol. 201, No. 5, May, 1958, pp. 78, 80.

In the following mixed review, Weeks applauds the geographical and historical scope of Ice Palace, but contends that the believability of the characters and plot are compromised by Ferber's "theatricality."

In The Emma McChesney Stories, Edna Ferber staked out her claim as a delineator of American character; and in Show Boat she gave us one of the most appealing romances of the stage. Thereafter, in novels like Cimarron and Giant, she has written of the big operator, the limitless and often unscrupulous development of our natural resources, and the corrupting effect of power and wealth upon the individual. In Ice Palace she has moved her setting to Alaska, our last frontier, and again she is writing about big strapping men: Thor Storm and Czar Kennedy (the very names spell strength), Thor with his Norwegian heritage and Henry George philosophy, Czar with his Yankee shrewdness and his greed to own the whole place. They came over on the same boat, pioneered together, and for fifty years have rivaled each other. Now, as Miss Ferber puts it, they are waging "a silent persistent battle for the welfare—as they saw it—of the girl Christine." Chris is their solitary grandchild, born in the carcass of a caribou in a howling blizzard; she is twenty-five when the story opens, unmarried, black-eyed, golden-haired, hard to curb. The question is, Who will do it?

This reads to me like an old Morality. Czar's associates from Outside, the boys from Seattle—Dave Husack, Sid Kleet, and Cass Baldwin—are the very embodiment of those predatory commercial interests which have been trying to monopolize Alaska for the past half century. For reasons of profit they oppose statehood, and for the same reasons they would suppress every local spokesman with the courage to oppose their schemes. The history of Seward's Purchase, the story of the early reckless days, of the potential locked in these vast northlands have been carefully built into the novel, but the pity of it is that by her process of overenlargement, Miss Ferber makes the picture seem less than believable.

Part of the trouble is traceable to her extravagant phrasing. I am prepared to believe that everything in Alaska is larger than life, except human nature, which I suspect must be pretty much the same there as it is here. Yet in phrases like these the author does less than justice to her people: "Oscar's little eyes narrowed to slits"; "A little cold white flame of dislike shot from beneath Czar Kennedy's eyelids"; "he ruffled the silver plumes of his hair"; "tossing the amber stuff down their throats with one quick backward jerk of the head"; "Sid Kleet's steely voice cut the tension"; "Her hatless head was like a golden torch"; "His lethal gaze searched the crowd, passionless and coldly menacing as the eye of a Colt .38." Phrases like these are as subtle as brass knuckles. Apart from such theatricality, the virtue of this book is the fact that Miss Ferber cares deeply about the future both of Alaska and of mankind. As she makes clear in Thor's last statement to Chris: "What a lovely world. The loveliest. We've had it, a gift, for a million million years, and now we're throwing it away. A pity. Alaska, the arsenal. It should be free."

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This section contains 565 words
(approx. 2 pages at 300 words per page)
Buy the Critical Review by Edward Weeks
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