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James T. Farrell

A Comment on Literature and Morality

A Crucial Question of Our Times

(May 1946)

From New International, Vol. XII No. 5, May 1946, pp. 141–145.
Corrected in line with Erratum, New International, Vol. XII No. 7, September 1946, p. 200.
Copyright, June 1946, by James T. Farrell.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.

In recent years there has been a growing emphasis on the moral questions in all kinds of discussions; journalistic, political, literary. Such widespread interest in and discussion of many types of issues from a standpoint of morality should help to suggest the, moral impasse into which the entire capitalist system, and with it the Soviet Union, has sunk. Briefly, the modern world has fallen into a moral abyss. In, the light of this condition, it is obvious that discussions of morality deal with matters which are undeniably serious. However, the seriousness of a subject or of an issue does not mean that all those who discuss it are equally serious. To the contrary, there is almost a pathos of pettiness in the lack of seriousness with which a number of writers – ex-Marxists, journalists who have been styled “one-man revolutions,” literary critics included – have tried to discuss serious moral questions while they, at the same time, have been so unserious.

In dealing with the moral question here, two counterposed. approaches can be cited, the approach which emphasizes social morality, and that which stresses personal morality. A social morality conceives the basic cause, the basic conditions which permit or delimit practices which are condemned on moral grounds as derivable from the structural character of society itself. In consequence, the aim of social morality in changing and lifting moral practice to a higher level is that of changing society, or eradicating those conditions which, sanction and which contribute in manifold ways to practices that are, open to condemnation because they result in social harm, in the deformation of human personalities and in the oppression of groups, classes and nations, let alone individuals. To rephrase this aim, a social morality conceives social change as the means of helping to create better moral conditions. The real core of any social morality, the most clear theoretical establishment of the premises of such a social morality, is to be found in revolutionary Marxism. For it declares decisively and without equivocation, that the major factor in sanctioning harmful practices that can be be morally condemned is to be seen in the exploitation of man by man. [1]

The recent recrudescence of moral interest, real and verbal, has been partly manifested in a moral critique of Marxian morality. The criticisms of and attacks upon Marxism, from the moral standpoint, have, however, been of varying seriousness, of variable importance and of differing merit, often from case to case. In some instances, to cite an example, these attacks have been upon the practices of individuals or organizations which are organized within the historical tradition of Marxism. In the case of such criticisms, some have been on the ground that Marxists, or so-called Marxists (if one will) have violated in practice their own moral standards: other criticisms have been to the effect that immoral practices, real or alleged on the part of Marxists, have been a consequence of the essential ideas, the basis, the seemingly ineradicable character of Marxian theory and practice itself. However, it is rare that critics, well-intentioned or otherwise, intelligent and informed, or obtuse and trivial, have attacked the premise upon which a Marxian, a socialist, moral conception is and must be built – its condemnation of the exploitation of man by man. Here, where I speak then of Marxian morality, I do it on the basis of this premise. The major reason for immoral practice in modern society is, directly or indirectly, a consequence off the exploitation of man by man; this, in turn, means the exploitation of social classes by other social classes, in order that the exploiting classes can reap something of the share in the fruits of what the exploited class produces, so often produces under conditions which barely permit much more than a subsistence living. For the purposes of this article, subsidiary questions, questions of the practices of Marxians, criticisms of the methods of certain organizations which are or which style themselves Marxian, are not at issue and do not bear directly on the points of this discussion. Hence, I do not take them up in detail.

Counter to a conception of morality which is social is a conception which is individual and which assumes that, when looked at morally, the major problem facing man is that of the regeneration of the individual rather than that of changing society. There are a number of varieties of this attitude, various Christian attitudes, such as that of the Catholic Church, which holds that the purpose of life is death and the aim of a good man on this earth should be that of saving his soul in the next world, that of Tolstoyism, which preaches passive resistance, pacifism, a-politicalism in general, and sexual abstinence (although it is rare to find a Tolstoyan who accepts this feature of Leo Tolstoy’s morality), that of various anarchists, Platonists and pseudo-Platonists, ex-Marxists, psychiatrists who conceive the curing of psychoneurosis as the major problem facing man, and so on. I don’t wish arbitrarily to equate these various doctrines, based on one or another form of personal, or self-regeneration. However, it should be clear that they can be grouped together in the sense that they present the problem of the individual as prior to the social problem.

Social and Personal Morality

There is no necessary polarity between a moral code based on what I here call social morality, and one based on personal morality. When separations are made, these are a consequence of bifurcation, of separating of the individual and of society. Man – and this is also stressed in Marxian writing – lives out his personal drama on the plane of society: man’s very self and his personality are socially directed, socially delimited, socially organized. The self is a social product, not an individual entity which is superior to, anterior to, separable from society. A bifurcation of society and the individual, and the establishment of moral premises on the basis of either aspect of. this bifurcation, is misleading. To treat society – in other words – as outside of man, superior to man, the sole responsible agent for what is called immoral action, is to confuse the issue. To consider and to condemn immoral action on the ground that the individual, and the individual alone qua individual, is solely responsible for the action so condemned, and that, in no way, is the society in which he lives also responsible, is equally to be seen as misleading. In consequence, a social morality should not and cannot base itself on such a bifurcation. When this social morality is premised on the fact of the exploitation of man by man it should, however, be obvious that such a morality is not guilty of the aforesaid bifurcation. The law, the standards, the moral sanction, the mores of capitalist society sanction exploitation, grant to individuals with money the legal right to exploit others. But when a man is exploited he is not exploited by society in general: he is exploited by individual men. Furthermore, a careful reading of, say, Marx’s Capital should make it clear that Marx definitely indicates, and implies, that a society based on exploitation, such as is capitalist society, creates the conditions whereby both exploited and exploiter are deformed in their very selves, and that, thus, they pay a moral price. Something of their human nature is deformed. Other writers, besides Marx, have made the same kind of a point, and this point has been dramatized in fiction. Thus it can be shown I believe that this is one of the motifs of Tolstoy’s, War and Peace [2]; also, it is, I hold, possible to demonstrate that this same motif, in the context of the conditions dealt with in the novel, is centrally involved in The Adventures of Huckleberry Firm by Mark Twain. [3]

A social morality should not conceive society as undynamic; it should not view society as a responsible agent in itself when divorced from the men who live in that society, affirm’ or attack its sanctions, live by, in spite of, or in opposition to its values, and make up the human beings who form that society. If this is done, social morality is rendered arbitrary. And such an arbitrary social morality can often serve the means of turning morality into merely sentimental and innocuous humanitarianism which preaches, but does not practice. It can, and has been, turned into a philosophy of social service in which social service, social work, is made . into a substitute for political action, for independent political action on the part of the workers, on the part of all the oppressed and exploited. But, on the other hand, a morality that is solely premised on a conception of personal and self-regeneration is usually limited at best and most often it is, besides being inadequate, a means of evading many issues, a means of expressing moral snobbery and moral priggishness, a means of moral escape and inactivity.

Morality and Literature

The problem of literature and morals is complicated and is – at least it can be – a serious one. For moral conceptions, moral judgments concerning literature are ultimately inescapable, even if these judgments are made on the basis of merely the satisfaction of needs which give pleasure, and the escape of pains which cause suffering. Simply put, morality deals with what is considered to be either good or bad, and good or bad are determined, absolutely or relativistically, in terms of some set of values, attitudes, standards. We all make moral judgments, and we make moral judgments, at times, when we discuss literature. Recently the re-establishment of problems of literature and morality has been one of the manifestations of the alleged moral renaissance of our times. This problem has been posed and dealt with differently by various literary critics and writers. [4] The current revival of Henry James, the establishment of James (in fact) as what amounts to a cult figure has also restated problems of literature and morality. Some of the James enthusiasts have, in fact, presented James as a moralist. But there are moralists and moralists. In James, morals and manners become inermixed, and we can see this simply and clearly in one of his best stories, Daisy Miller. Daisy, a delightful, spontaneous and wholly attractive American girl in Europe – a characterization which, if nothing else could be cited, would be more than enough to establish James as an artist of perception and extraordinary adroitness – faces dual dangers. The dangers she faces flow out of the fact that, in matters of social relationships, her spirit is democratic, and that, in general, she is direct, frank, honest. These dangers are (a) the possibility that she may lose her virginity, and this is, in the world in which she lives, synonymous with ruin and degradation, and (b) the danger that she will compromise herself and cause her social ruin by associating with men in public in a way that is not prescribed by the code of etiquette that prevails among the socially acceptable people with whom she comes in contact. In James’ work, there is often such a mixture of morals and manners. James was not a moralist in the sense that Tolstoy was. James did not write with an urgency, even a pitiless consistency, urging change, urging it as a demanding necessity, defending a code of morals which he saw as higher than that prevalent in his times and, at the same time, condemning the code prevalent in his times and all of the evils that flowed out of it. Morality in James’ writing is merely reflected. As the consequence of a tight moral code and also as the consequence of an inhumanly stuffy set of principles of etiquette, there are deforming consequences to be seen in the lives of various Jamesian characters. This is what I mean by saying that in James’ world morality is merely reflected.

When James, then, is used as an illustration of the connection between literature and morality, this point must be stressed. If it is not, confusion is created. And the confusion created is as unfair to the reputation of James as it is to the reader, especially to the reader who is not very alert, and who has not, in his own mind, clearly posed and considered these problems. And it is this aspect of the present revival of interest in the works of Henry James which is most open to criticism. For the creation of such confusion creates additional ones. The moral problem is in this way turned into a personal problem and, as such, it becomes a means of evading the problems of social morality. At the same time, the moral problem is confused with problems, if they be called such, of good manners. This kind of confusion is seemingly au courant; it is one of the newest things; it is to be found in the work of critics and writers who are, presumably, the most culturally advanced people in America. [5] The seeming newness of this stylized and estheticized morality makes it appear as part of the tone of the times. But actually it )s an attitude which is one of the stalest of all reactionary tricks. Until reaction is forced out into the open, where it must be nakedly violent, it needs to rely on all kinds of subterfuges. and these subterfuges appear in literature, in literary criticism, in philosophy, in ideology in general. The full or the partial equation of morals with manners, the stylization of morals into an esthetic-moral attitude, the snobbery that grows out of this so that special appreciators of literature, of cultural value, become advanced people – how common, even how banal, this is! In passing, I would remark that a parallel attitude in politics was one of the major ideological weapons of the rebellious slave owners who tried to destroy the American Union in 1861, and to establish in perpetuity a slave owners’ republic in America. And the ideologists of the slave owners said that their cause would win because Jefferson Davis was more educated than Abraham Lincoln, that he had better manners than the rail-splitter and that – to cap the climax – he was also the better looking of the two presidents. [6] I cite this example. not to equate the ideologists of the slave owners with some of our current, advanced, educated, genteel and undeniably competent literary people of the hour, but, rather, to point out by illustration that there are various manifestations of this reactionary subterfuge.

This estheticized morality on which I have commented is a variation of the moral attitude which demands personal regeneration in place of social change. But at best it is a morality in only the most tenuous sense. It is not robust, it is not all-inclusive. It is, largely, literary. And it functions. more or less, by dealing with moral reflection, as this is to be grasped in the reading and the analysis of works in literary art. However, there is something else to be said concerning works of literature which deal with moral problems in terms of personal experience. Two writers who, in my opinion, are of lasting significance in world literature have dealt with moral problems in works of art. I cite them – Dostoevsky, Ibsen.

Dostoevsky’s Approach

In Dostoevsky, a moral problem is dealt with from the standpoint of personal experience, in the case of the chief protagonist, or of one of the chief protagonists. The moral problem usually results from” an act or acts on the part of a hero who, by this act, causes serious and even irreparable injury to another human being or else the wish to commit such an act. Thus, Raskolnikov commits a murder. Thus, Ivan Karamazov wishes for the death of his father and acts on this wish by speaking with high suggestiveness to Smerdakakov, who is the actual murderer: Ivan, then, goes off so as to be away from the scene at the time that the murder – if it is to be committed – will be perpetrated. An action of this kind, for Dostoevsky, then poses directly a moral problem in the mind of the hero. This problem becomes obsessive. It is expressed in a need for change, a need for confession, a need for a relaxation of a disturbing, a painfully recurring, a demanding sense of guilt. Dostoevsky, thus, deals in moral problems in terms of consequences on others as well as on the agent who commits such an act. And these problems are the result of actions presented in his narratives, actions which are central in his stories. He meets moral problems head on. Furthermore, Dostoevsky, directly and by unmistakable implications, identifies himself with sinners, with criminals, with the suffering, with the unfortunate. He was explicitly reactionary, but he never masked this fact. And explicitly reactionary though he was, he nonetheless identified himself not with those who benefited most from their advantageous position in reactionary Czarist society, but those who suffered most, those who punished themselves and others. And this work, at the same time, expressed an urgent need for change, for psychological change which he perceived as a process of purgation and regeneration. Thus, it is to be noted that at the end of Crime and Punishment, Raskolnikov, a convicted and confessed murderer, is described as bound for Siberia, and the author states that this sets the stage for a possible drama of Raskolninov’s regeneration. Finally, it can be seen in Dostoevsky’s writings that the moral problem posed involved the hero, the chief protagonist. I remark on this fact because one can now note how in this new tendency of stylized literary morality, the moral problem is posed in terms of the spectator who doesn’t act, who doesn’t have to make decisions.

Ibsen’s Approach

For Ibsen, a recurrent problem was that of conscience. A representative Ibsen character, such as Mrs. Alving or the wife of John Gabril Borkman, is haunted by ghosts. The ghost symbolizes a feeling of guilt that resides in the conscience, and that continuously poisons the existence of one or more persons in the present. The actions of some person in the past have seriously affected the destinies of people, and by these actions, the sins of the fathers, as it were, are visited on the children: this happens not as a result of any general moral law of the universe or because of the Will of God, but, rather, as a result of connected circumstances and relationships. The guilt for this past action, the visitation of the ghost of conscience comes about because of immediate and direct consequences which are perceivable in the life of one or more persons who is a victim of these past actions, who suffers in consequence and who is in one way or another, unfree. The yearning and manly urge for freedom expressed in Ibsen is a desire to be free of these ghosts. Further, these ghosts are intimately associated with bourgeois morality. In Ibsen’s world it is a bourGeois who has been guilty of the actions in the past which cause serious problems in the present. It is more favorably situated persons, in Ibsen, who suffer moral guilt. In this connection, one might passingly remark that Ibsen does not throw the major burden of guilt on Jacob Ingrstrum, and on his daughter, who, in Ghosts, is a maid in the Alving household. These two characters, both of them lower class in status, are shown as being more or less like they are as a consequence of actions of their superiors, and these actions of their superiors were – this is unmistakable in Ghosts – possible because of the superior class and social position of the Alvings.

In general, it can be observed that in many works of the past which deal with morality from the standpoint of personal experience and of personal problems, there are parallel features to those which we have briefly noted in the case of Dostoevsky and Ibsen. The artist does not reveal these moral problems from the standpoint of the upper classes. He does not present the upper classes as morally superior. Rather, he deals with the moral problems, and the moral consequences which must be posed by those who have a relatively favored position in society.

A Current Example

In Partisan Review, Fall 1945, there is a story by Lionel Trilling, The Other Margaret, which will throw light on these problems. It can be accepted as a representative literary expression of the stylized literary-moral tendency which exists in advanced cultural circles of contemporary New York. The chief protagonist of Mr. Trilling’s story is named Stephen Elwin: he is a cultivated scientific publisher; he’s married, and he has a thirteen-year-old daughter, Margaret, who obviously goes to a progressive school. Stephen lives in the East Nineties, and the best feature of the story is the manner in which Trilling recreates the genteel, cultivated wistful atmosphere of an educated family living in such a section of Manhattan. Stephen, a man of taste, is first seen buying a reproduction of Roualt. He can be described as a seeker after wisdom, and early in the story, he recalls that in high school, a teacher had read to his class, the following sentence from Hazlitt: “No young man believes he shall ever die.” Then, Stephen didn’t understand the wisdom of this sentence fully: but now, at the age of forty-one, he does understand this sentence. Wisdom is, thus, the knowledge of death. He is wistful, gentle, and he has wisdom as well as taste. In addition, Stephen perceives what is presumably the moral problem of the present time, and this moral problem, tendentiously posed and described, is at the heart of Trilling’s story.

The moral problem presented in this story concerns the question of responsibility. Is the individual responsible for his actions, or is society responsible? And further, as Stephen sees this problem from the vantage point of a moral spectator, this problem arises in class terms. In the course of the story, three important incidents, which afford data concerning this moral problem, are related. As Stephen rides home on a Fifth Avenue bus, an Irish conductor is nasty to a small boy of the well-to-do classes, a small boy who might be as Stephen was in the days when he didn’t truly understand the wisdom of that sentence – “No young man believes that he shall ever die.” Then, when Stephen arrives home with his reproduction, and his daughter, Margaret, ritualistically prepares his pre-supper cocktail for him, Stephen’s wife, Lucy, happens to tell how she was riding on a bus, and she heard another conductor speaking to a Jewish person with anti-Semitic innuendoes. Further, the Elwins are having difficulties with their colored maid, who is “The Other Margaret.” (This explains the title of the story.) “The Other Margaret” is very unpleasant. On this day, she has not shown up for work. Mrs. Elwin has to cook dinner.

While she does this, Stephen has his drink. He shows his Roualt reproduction to the daughter. She doesn’t like it. Father and daughter discuss morality. The daughter disagrees with Stephen concerning the conduct of “The Other Margaret.” Margaret declares that she isn’t to be blamed for her rudeness. At school, Margaret has a liberal teacher who tells the children that society is responsible. Stephen, wistfully tolerant, doesn’t press his objections to his daughter’s view too strongly. But it is clear that he doesn’t accept it. He points out to her how they had a previous maid who had to borrow money in order to go South because of family sickness. This maid paid back the money she borrowed, and thus, she – while of the lower classes – is different from “The Other Margaret.” Also, at school, Margaret has modelled a toy lamb which is to be given her mother as a birthday present. She shows this to her father. He is pleased. The mother sees it and she is touched.

The other Margaret unexpectedly appears to serve dinner. She is again very rude in her work. But this rudeness doesn’t change Margaret’s view that society is responsible. However, after dinner, “The Other Margaret” – as is her wont – breaks things. One of the things she breaks is the personally precious lamb which Margaret has made for her mother. When this happens, the daughter cries in anger. She denounces “The Other Margaret.” She declares that the maid did this on purpose, and out of hatred for herself, Margaret. In consequence, the claim that society, and not the individual, is responsible is refuted: Margaret’s liberal teacher is shown to be wrong on the basis of evidence to be found in personal experience. Margaret is hurt, and she cries. Stephen gives her what comfort he can, but this is not sufficient to heal the wound she has received. And this wound is, additionally, revealed as one of the scars of growing up. Like her father, she, also, must bear the pains of growth and discovery, those pains which mark the journey through life whereby the child becomes the youth, the youth who believes that he will never die, and the youth goes on into the maturity of middle age and there, he begins to attain wisdom. The attainment of wisdom is painful, and it teaches us that we die, that we are responsible agents, and that we must accept our responsibility. This in substance is the theme of Trilling’s story.

Story Is Tendentious

On the one hand, this story has been conceived and written with adroitness: on the other hand, it is highly tendentious, and its tendentiousness is revealed in the careful selection of incidents. Thus, all of the middle class people in this story are kind, civilized, tolerant. They want to be fair. To the contrary, the workers, the lower classes, appear in the image of a bus conductor and a colored maid. They are insulting, rude, and cruel. The rudeness of the lower classes is seen in the sphere of home life, of personal experience, and of passing incidents of the streets. This rudeness is not called for if one considers the kindness of the middle class Elwin and the inoffensiveness of the boy whom the bus conductor insults. These incidents are used as data of experience on the basis of which a conclusion is to be reached concerning the moral problem of the contemporary period. The moral view of Stephen Elwin is that the individual is responsible: the opposite view is presented as the claim that society is responsible. This alternative view is presented in the words of an inexperienced thirteen-year-old girl who is still too young to appreciate the painting of Roualt. She has learned this, as if by rate, from an off stage teacher who never appears directly in the story. In addition, this social view of morality is presented in a few generalized sentences. Opposed to the child who defends the ideas of social morality, we have the moral spectator, the man who has grown to wisdom, Stephen Elwin. At the same time, Stephen is not really called upon to act morally. He is one who perceives the data of experience necessary for the drawing of moral conclusions in much the same manner as he tastefully appreciates the work of Roualt.

There is in all this a truly high-faluting triviality. Trilling wastes his genuine skill and cultivation on such triviality, and he masks it by so organizing the story as to be able to draw an almost all-encompassing moral conclusion. At the same time, this generalized moral is the projected concealment of a guilty sensibility. Stephen Elwin’s wistfully sad feeling about the rudeness and brutality of the world – as this is shown by bus conductors and maids – what is this, if it isn’t the attitude we find in contemporary criticism, in the Henry James cultists, in those critics and writers who were the literary Marxists of yesterday? Furthermore, the triviality of this story is to be found in the relative pettiness of the incidents and the relative grandeur of the conclusion. For the conclusion of this story affirms nothing less than that man is a free agent. For to be a free agent is the sense of the claim that the individual is responsible. Thus, while we can recognize the skill with which this story is written, and while we can, at the same time, see that it has the merit of picturing a certain cultivated milieu of the present, it is also necessary to point out that it is a story which is cleverly organized in such a way as to persuasively present a reactionary moral view. It seems that the very needs of the story, then, will explain its tendentiousness. This tendentiousness is to be found not in overt statements, but in the very selectivity of the story. The rude lower classes are described by conversation, or else, they are seen in action, offending children. The cultivated intellectual of the middle class is presented as a thoughtful man, a tolerant man, and his consciousness is penetrated by the author. Further this man is not an exploiting capitalist who brutally grinds down the workers: he is a man who performs a valuable social function: he publishes scientific books. His way of life and his way of feeling is that of the intellectual: in fact, he could even be a literary critic, for the style and tone of his thoughts suggest the man of literary rather than of scientific cultivation. He is curious about aesthetics, about morals, and he is truly a seeker after wisdom. But his curiosity does not reach to the point where Stephen would pose, for himself, the question as to what conditions in the life of bus conductors and maids might contribute, at least, towards a rudeness. a rudeness which we are not here trying to defend? If this question were posed, it would lead to other questions and problems. One of these is that of identity. How might Stephen be like and how might he be different from the rude representatives of the lower classes who insult children? Is his cultivation something which makes him more tolerant, and if so, how did he attain it? These and a number of other questions might be asked. It is legitimate for us to present them here in the analysis of a short story for, let me repeat, this is a short story which aims to enforce an all inclusive moral statement; again, the aim of this story is to prove that man has free will. Finally, it needs to be stated that the setting, the incidents, the characters do not warrant the author’s conclusion. The story is, in reality, not what it seems: it is an expression of the moods, the retreat from Marxism, the growing moral snobbery of the advanced and cultivated New York intellectual. As such, it is a revealing account of the escape of what we might here call The Partisan Review intellectual. It demonstrates what we may expect in the way of creative literature from those of literary sensibilities who mix up morals and manners, and see morality, more or less as a kind of literary stylization. [7]

In conclusion, such attitudes, such writing might be contrasted with the morally vigorous work of the Ibsens, the Dostoevsky of the past! How the contemporary intellectual is sinking, declining! This fact alone should be sufficient to warn the most sensitive, the most alert. the most rebellious spirits of the younger generations of intellectuals away from such tendencies. For here we see is the high road that leads to the realms of the most cultivated banality.


1. Cf. my letter of discussion in Politics, March 1946. In the early portion of this essay, I am restating some of the points which I made in that letter.

2. Cf. my article, Tolstoy’s War and Peace as a Moral Panorama of the Czarist Feudal Nobility, the University of Kansas City Review, Summer 1945.

3. Cf., for my view of this, my book, The League of Frightened Philistines, New York 1945.

4. In my title essay to The League of Frightened Philistines, I have discussed my views on the way in which critics, such as Van Wyck Brooks, J. Donald Adams and Archibald MacLeish have moralized about literature, and will not repeat here

5. I hope that it is needless for me to point out that the magazine Partisan Review has taken the lead in expressing this kind of esthetico-moral evasion.

6. Southern literary Confederates, such as Allen Tate and Donald Davidson, persist in the expression of this attitude. The movement in letters which they sponsor, and which is expressed in their books and in The Sewanee Review, edited by Mr. Tate, can be boiled down to the claim that these literary Confederates have ideas which make better personalities than is the case with the Yankee writers of the North who are forever mixing into the affairs of the South and, thereby, challenging various forms of the expression of the doctrine of white supremacy.

7. In The Nation for April 20, 1946, Lionel Trilling contributed a long attack on Dreiser titled Dreiser and the Liberal. I urge the reader to peruse this article in connection with the story. If this is done, one can see what kind of an alternative literature Trilling can offer to that of Dreiser. This attack is mean-spirited and unfair. He refers to the question of anti-Semitism and treats Dreiser as an anti-Semite. It is true that some years ago letters of Dreiser were published in The Nation which gave definite warrant for such a charge. However, the sentiments of these letters can nowhere be found in the fiction of Dreiser. Trilling writes of The Bulwark. Like the previous novels of Dreiser, this work has nothing to do with the Jewish question. But Trilling introduces anti-Semitism as a means of criticizing the fiction of Dreiser, and he does this without evaluating the full career of Dreiser. Also, he mixes up the work of Dreiser with the favorable views of Dreiser expressed by some critics, and attacks both as if they could always be equated. In general, he writes this article in the true spirit of a Matthew Arnold of the radio program, Invitation to Learning. He criticizes Dreiser’s thinking, but he does not show what is the real relationship between Dreiser’s thinking and his novels. He stands at the door of culture, guarding it from such a barbarian. Inside of the doors of culture we should presumably be able to find many more works on the level of The Other Margaret. [Note by ETOL: In the printed version there is no anchor for this note – we have placed it in a position that seems to us to be appropriate.]

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