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Literary Precedents for The Magnificent Ambersons

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When he named George Minafer's horse "Pendennis," Tarkington suggested a model for some of the characters in his novel. George himself is similar to Arthur Pendennis in William Thackeray's novel, The History of Pendennis (1848-1850). What Thackeray called "psychological incest" is portrayed in the relationship of mother and son. Helen Pendennis makes a minor deity of her son and worships him. Isabel Amberson Minafer treats her son similarly. Like Thackeray, Tarkington analyzed closely the power mothers have over their sons.

William Shakespeare, in Coriolanus (1608), also produced a character very similar to George Minafer. Caius Marcius Coriolanus is a superior man, but as the noted Shakespearean critic Alfred Harbage says of him, his weakness is an inability "to accommodate himself to reality." Insufferable in his pride, he cannot be flexible enough even to try pleasing the Roman populace and its tribunes. He is expelled from Rome. The most...

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This section contains 336 words
(approx. 2 pages at 300 words per page)
Purchase our The Magnificent Ambersons Short Guide
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