Study Guide

The Gentleman from Indiana

by Booth Tarkington

The Gentleman from Indiana Themes

Themes

A reader of The Gentleman from Indiana is constantly reminded that Indiana and its people are examples of what is finest in rural America. Tarkington was presenting his home state as fully worthy of the pride its citizens felt. He anticipates the boosterism that later novelists like Sinclair Lewis would satirize.

As a romance the novel shows that good, as represented by the hero, John Harkless, will be triumphant against all odds. Tarkington in time would look back on his romantic period and its writings with some condescension. As a lifelong optimist, however, he never lost his faith in the essential goodness of the world and its people.

True love will also triumph. John Harkless and Helen Sherwood are meant to be together. They are not married as the novel ends, but this wedding will take place very soon. The happy ending formula of romance guarantees this. It is only later in Alice Adams (1921) that Tarkington will frustrate romantic expectations and present a heroine who does not get the man of her choice.

(The entire section is 173 words.)