Anthony Adverse Essay - Critical Essays

Hervey Allen

Critical Evaluation

A massive novel of intrigue and romance, heavily spiced with history and action, ANTHONY ADVEDRE was immensely popular when it was first published. All the characters are larger than life, ruled by jealousies, enormous greed, and overwhelming cravings for vengeance; yet thanks to the vitality of the narrative, they never seem merely absurd. Few novels of such size move with such an unrelenting pace. As coaches and horses ceaselessly rush from one part of Europe to another, so the story catapults from one subplot to another. The author is in no hurry to tell his story, but he never risks boring the reader. Although the characters are not analyzed in depth, their motives are always clear. If the book has a flaw, perhaps it is that there is little mystery to the characters, although they are involved in mysteries. The obscure corners of the human personality are never explored, but the characters do not suffer from this lack; they are filled with life and are both amusing and memorable. Don Luis, Faith, and Mr. Bonnyfeather are old-fashioned, Dickensian characters, carefully formed of “characteristics” rather than allowed to develop according to the psychological insights of the author.

Nearly one hundred pages pass before the hero of this picaresque novel makes his appearance as a baby, but the scene is set for the intrigues that follow. The novel is intricately constructed, with characters reappearing and long-hidden secrets suddenly changing...

(The entire section is 457 words.)