The Waterworks Summary
E. L. Doctorow

Everything you need to understand or teach The Waterworks by E. L. Doctorow.

  • The Waterworks Summary & Study Guide

The Waterworks Summary

Doctorow's novel reads more like a mystery novel than any of his earlier works. The action takes place in New York City not long after the Civil War, but the events are recalled by a narrator/character several years later. New York in the 1870s is portrayed as a city in the grip of sinister forces: the political machine of Boss Tweed, the selfish greed of robber baron capitalists, and the ingenious plot of a mad scientist.

The mystery involves the disappearance of a free lance writer after he tells of seeing his supposedly dead and buried father being driven up Broadway with several old men dressed in black. Detective work then reveals the corpse of a child in the father's grave, a family that did not receive the fortune of the "deceased," and a new orphanage in the city with children who have...

(read more from the Short Guide)

Study Pack

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The Waterworks Short Guide

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