The Magnificent Ambersons is perhaps Tarkington’s best novel, wrote critic Van Wyck Brooks. It was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1919. (Tarkington went on to win the Prize again in 1922 fr Alice Adams.)
Tarkington’s powerful social commentary traces America’s economic growth through the declining fortunes of three generations of the successful and socially prominent Amberson family. Set in a fictional Midwestern town during the latter half of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries – the epic story follows the Ambersons’ downward spiraling fortunes during a period of rapid industrialization and socio-economic change in America. George Amberson Minafer, the arrogant heir to the family’s wealth, illustrates the corrupting influence of greed and materialism at a time when the swiftly turning wheels of industry and commerce are overtaking old ways. Definitions of ambition, success, and loyalty are also changing. Almost overnight the prestige of the Ambersons irreversibly changes as well. An exciting chronicle of one family’s accumulation of wealth and subsequent downfall, the book also paints a fascinating portrait of the forces that shaped modern American society.
Dover Publications, 2006 (1918)