Hide this

Results from Google Books

Click on a thumbnail to go to Google Books.

McTeague by Frank Norris

McTeague (1899)

by Frank Norris

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
1,139197,185 (3.61)66
Authors:Frank Norris
Collections:Your library

Work details

McTeague by Frank Norris (1899)


Sign up for LibraryThing to find out whether you'll like this book.

No current Talk conversations about this book.

» See also 66 mentions

English (18)  French (1)  All (19)
Showing 1-5 of 18 (next | show all)
If you've not seen Greed, the story is that of a stupid giant of a dentist who is taken with a woman whom his best friend has been half-heartedly courting. The dentist, McTeague, wins her over. Shortly before the marriage, Trina wins a lottery; the friend convinces himself that McTeague had taken Trina--and, much more important, her windfall--from him and a few years later takes revenge. It all comes to a bad end, of course.

Halfway through McTeague it occurred to me that were I to write about the book here, it woeuld be to recommend it as fit only for students of American Realism and Eric von Stroheim completists. Norris is much too fond of the epithet, the melodramatic, the repetitious, the cod dialect. Moreover he seems to filch from rather than take as an influence the Continental Naturalists. A couple of scenes at least and major themes are very close to those in L'Assomoir, but where Zola makes the reader smell and taste a wedding breakfast, Norris just writes a lot of words about one. Where Zola describes how gold chains are made and integrates this into the story, Norris writes about dentistry in a way that simply makes the reader aware that Norris had researched the topic. Moreover, Norris was a child of privilege and his attitudes reflect his status and his times.

But details in the book are of great historical interest: I had thought that 'outta sight' as 'wonderful' and the nasty custom of displaying wedding presents were only a few decades old. What constitued meals, what times the streets came alive, what was considered respectable in the period all interested me a good deal. (And I'm terribly glad the wallpaper in the McTeagues' rooms has long since been outmoded.)

Moreover, the book has, especially in the second half, a certain power that I can't explain. I finished it not with a sigh of relief but with the feeling that it would stay with me for some time. Perhaps it's because I'm so taken with desolate places and McTeague ends in Death Valley, but possibly it's because despite its gross shortcomings Mcteague is something more than simply 4th-rate Zola.
  bluepiano | Dec 30, 2016 |
Generally I liked this portrait of early nineteenth-century San Francisco, a story of a couples life together, and what happens, goes where you don't expect, into the gritty dirty streets of poverty and eventually into Death Valley. ( )
  charlie68 | Jun 29, 2016 |
There was such a waste of life presented here. At many moments I wanted to speak omnisciently to the community and direct that somebody intervene to help the characters, but it would have already been too late. There was a point early in the presentation of each character in which another path could have been chosen, but an early choice led inevitably to a journey down the path of personal doom. Some of these choices were made even before the novel began. What makes these early choices so important is that characters have no safety net. It is not just the impact of a single choice, but the impact of a single choice in the social context in which the most basic human need to be loved and understood is not met. Characters are not capable of full introspection and Norris does not directly address this but instead shows their internal lives from external description of their appearance and behavior.

A fundamental point of this book is that people make choices within the limits of their human understanding, and that there are times and places in which the world is very hostile. Individuals do not have the support they need to make better choices when things go wrong. Instead, the world sort of falls apart for the individual, they can't see a way out, and the larger world is too wrapped up in its own day to day affairs to see or care that someone is individually suffering.

This sort of brutal realism is difficult, but people continue to live in this construct now. It is easy to say that individuals have free will in their personal actions, but how free is the will of someone who is truly not capable of seeing a larger view of his or her actions? How can we blame the individual who not only is stuck in the reality of a systemically brutal world but also has had no one who can help to cause greater understanding? This highlights the need for connecting individuals in some meaningful way to other individuals who can actually assist, through familial, religious, or educational guidance. There has to be some realistic way to expand what is possible for individuals to make better choices and when we choose to ignore the need for this there are societal consequences.

This book constructs a world with similarities to those presented in Sister Carrie (Dreiser) and Burmese Days (Orwell). As is consistent with its genre, it presents the flaws and prejudices of its time and requires an eye for context. It has a lot to offer for an interested reader. ( )
  karmiel | Aug 8, 2015 |
McTeague runs away from the world and into Death Valley:

"The day was magnificent. From horizon to horizon was one vast span of blue, whitening as it dipped earthward. Miles upon miles to the east and southeast the desert unrolled itself, white, naked, inhospitable, palpitating and shimmering under the sun, unbroken by so much as a rock or cactus stump. In the distance it assumed all manner of faint colors, pink, purple, and pale orange. To the west rose the Panamint Range, sparsely sprinkled with gray sagebrush; here the earths and sands were yellow, ochr, and rich, deep red, the hollows and canyons picked out with intense blue shadows. It seemed strange that such barrenness could exhibit this radiance of color, but nothing could have been more beautiful than the deep red of the higher bluffs and ridges, seamed with purple shadows, standing sharply out against the pale-blue whiteness of the horizon.
“By nine o’clock the sun stood high in the sky. The heat was intense; the atmosphere was thick and heavy with it. McTeague gasped for breath and wiped the beads of perspiration from his forehead, his cheeks, and his neck. Every inch and pore of his skin was tingling and pricking under the merciless lash of the sun’s rays.
“‘If it gets much hotter,’ he muttered, with a long breath, ‘if it gets much hotter, I - I don’ know -‘ He wagged his head and wiped the sweat from his eyelids, where it was running like tears.
“The sun rose higher; hour by hour, as the dentist tramped steadily on, the heat increased. The baked dry sand crackled into innumerable tiny flakes under his feet. The twigs of the sagebrush snapped like brittle pipe stems as he pushed through them. It grew hotter. At eleven the earth was like the surface of a furnace; the air, as McTeague breathed it in, was hot to his lips and the roof of his mouth. The sun was a disk of molten brass swimming in the burnt-out blue of the sky….
“The heat grew steadily fiercer; all distant objects were visibly shimmering and palpitating under it. At noon a mirage appeared on the hills to the northwest. McTeague halted the mule, and drank from the tepid water in the canteen .… As soon as he ceased his tramp and the noise of his crunching, grinding footsteps died away, the silence, vast, illimitable, enfolded him like an immeasurable tide. From all that gigantic landscape, that colossal reach of baking sand, there arose not a single sound. Not a twig rattled, not an insect hummed, not a bird or beast invaded that huge solitude with call or cry. Everything as far as the eye could reach, to north, to south, to east, and west, lay inert, absolutely quiet and moveless under the remorseless scourge of the noon sun. The very shadows shrank away, hiding under sage-bushes, retreating to the farthest nooks and crevices in the canyons of the hills. All the world was one gigantic blinding glare, silent, motionless….” pp. 212-213
  Mary_Overton | Jan 3, 2014 |
This was a book read for school. I've had classes where I have read some amazing books, but this wasn't one of them.

I didn't hate it or anything, and I found it interesting. The main characters all felt very real and flawed (in some cases VERY flawed). The story follows the life and marriage, and downfall of a couple in San Francisco. Seriously, McTeague and his wife are horribly matched and basically sprint towards a harrowing, fiery ending.

There is some good social and political commentary to be found here and most of the side characters are also really interesting. ( )
  Sarah_Buckley | Jan 3, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 18 (next | show all)
no reviews | add a review

» Add other authors (13 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Frank Norrisprimary authorall editionscalculated
Brooks, Van WyckIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
You must log in to edit Common Knowledge data.
For more help see the Common Knowledge help page.
Series (with order)
Canonical title
Original title
Alternative titles
Original publication date
Important places
Important events
Related movies
Awards and honors
First words
It was Sunday, and, according to his custom on that day, McTeague took his dinner at two in the afternoon at the car conductors' coffee-joint on Polk Street.
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
Publisher's editors
Publisher series
Original language

References to this work on external resources.

Wikipedia in English


Book description
Haiku summary

Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0451528913, Mass Market Paperback)

The novelist Frank Norris is almost forgotten today, but in books like "McTeague," published in 1899, he paved the way for a whole generation of American writers--a generation that included Theodore Dreiser and Sinclair Lewis and, less directly, Hemingway and Fitzgerald. McTeague is a dentist saddled with a grasping wife, and the book chronicles his rise and fall in awkward but powerful prose. This type of social realism, so contrary to the uplifting entertainment of the day (and to Mark Twain's more fanciful, comic novels), provided turn-of-the-century America a disturbing mirror in which to view itself.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 17:58:28 -0400)

(see all 8 descriptions)

Inspired by an actual crime that was sensationalized in the San Francisco papers, this novel tells the story of charlatan dentist McTeague and his wife Trina, and their spiralling descent into moral corruption. Norris is often considered to be the "American Zola," and this passionate tale of greed, degeneration, and death is one of the most purely naturalistic American novels of the nineteenth century. It is also one of the first major works of literature set in California, and it provided the story for Erich von Stroheim's classic of the silent screen, Greed. - Publisher.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

» see all 3 descriptions

Quick Links

Popular covers


Average: (3.61)
0.5 1
1 7
2 9
2.5 4
3 40
3.5 18
4 57
4.5 4
5 30

Is this you?

Become a LibraryThing Author.


You are using the new servers! | About | Privacy/Terms | Help/FAQs | Blog | Store | APIs | TinyCat | Legacy Libraries | Early Reviewers | Common Knowledge | 114,465,248 books! | Top bar: Always visible