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McTeague: A Story of San Francisco (Paperback)
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McTeague - A Story of San Francisco by Frank Norris McTeague is a novel by Frank Norris, first published in 1899. It tells the story of a couple's courtship and marriage, and their subsequent descent into poverty, violence and finally murder as the result of jealousy and avarice. The book was the basis for the films McTeague (1916) and Erich von Stroheim's Greed (1924). It was also adapted as an opera by William Bolcom in 1992. McTeague is a dentist of limited intellect from a poor miner's family, who has opened a dentist shop on Polk Street in San Francisco. (His first name is never revealed; other characters in the novel call him simply "Mac.") His best friend, Marcus Schouler, brings his cousin, Trina Sieppe, whom he is courting, to McTeague's parlor for dental work. McTeague becomes infatuated with her while working on her teeth, and Marcus graciously steps aside. McTeague successfully woos Trina. Shortly after McTeague and Trina have kissed and declared their love for each other, Trina discovers that she has won $5000 from a lottery ticket. In the ensuing celebration Trina's mother, Mrs Sieppe, announces that McTeague and Trina are to marry. Marcus becomes jealous of McTeague, and claims that he has been cheated out of money that would have been rightfully his if he had married Trina. The marriage takes place, and Mrs Sieppe, along with the rest of Trina's family, move away from San Francisco, leaving her alone with McTeague. Trina proves to be a parsimonious wife; she refuses to touch the principal of her $5000, which she invests with her uncle. She insists that she and McTeague must live on the earnings from McTeague's dental practice, the small income from the $5000 investment, and the bit of money she earns from carving small wooden figures of Noah's animals and his Ark for sale in her uncle's shop. Secretly, she accumulates penny-pinched savings in a locked trunk. Though the couple are happy, the friendship between Marcus and Mac deteriorates. More than once the two men come to grips; each time McTeague's immense physical strength prevails, and eventually he breaks Marcus' arm in a fight. When Marcus recovers, he goes south, intending to become a rancher; before he leaves, he visits the McTeagues, and he and Mac part apparently as friends.
About the Author
Benjamin Franklin Norris, Jr. (March 5, 1870 - October 25, 1902) was an American novelist, during the Progressive Era, writing predominantly in the naturalist genre. His notable works include McTeague (1899), The Octopus: A Story of California (1901), and The Pit (1903). Frank Norris's work often includes depictions of suffering caused by corrupt and greedy turn-of-the-century corporate monopolies. In The Octopus: A California Story, the Pacific and Southwest Railroad is implicated in the suffering and deaths of a number of ranchers in Southern California. At the end of the novel, after a bloody shootout between farmers and railroad agents at one of the ranches (named Los Muertos), readers are encouraged to take a "larger view" that sees that "through the welter of blood at the irrigating ditch ... the great harvest of Los Muertos rolled like a flood from the Sierras to the Himalayas to feed thousands of starving scarecrows on the barren plains of India." Though free-wheeling market capitalism causes the deaths of many of the characters in the novel, this "larger view always ... discovers the Truth that will, in the end, prevail, and all things, surely, inevitably, resistlessly work together for good."