Last Updated on October 16, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 834
At a young age, Frank Cowperwood becomes interested in only one thing—making money. When he is still in his teens, he makes his first successful business transaction: Passing by an auction sale, he successfully bids for a lot of Castile soap, which he sells to a grocer at a profit of 100 percent. His family marvels at Frank’s ability, and his wealthy uncle, Seneca Davis, encourages him to go into business as soon as possible. Through several well-paying positions and shrewd speculation, Frank acquires enough money to open his own brokerage house. Within a short time, he is one of the most enterprising and successful young financiers in Philadelphia.
One day he meets Lillian Semple, the wife of a business associate. About a year later, her husband dies, and Frank marries the widow. By that time, he had accumulated a large fortune, and he is familiar with local and state politicians, among them Edward Butler, who rose from garbage collector to a leading position in local politics. Through Butler, Frank meets many other influential people, and his business and popularity increase.
Frank and Lillian have several children, but the youngsters do not particularly interest him, for his sole interest remains his business. When his father, Henry Cowperwood, finally becomes president of the bank in which he is employed, both Cowperwoods build expensive houses and furnish them luxuriously. Frank buys fine paintings and rare objects of art.
His home life is not satisfactory, since Lillian is older and more passive than he is; moreover, her beauty has almost disappeared. By contrast, Edward’s daughter Aileen is young, beautiful, and high-spirited. Frank falls in love with her, and she, in spite of her strong religious training, becomes his mistress. He rents a house where they meet and furnishes it with his paintings and statues.
Because Frank is one of the financial powers in Philadelphia, he plans and schemes continually in order to thwart more powerful monopolists. He manages to acquire large sums from the state treasury through local politicians. The city treasurer, Stener, proves amenable in many ways, and he and Frank become involved in many shady transactions. Frank buys shares in railroads and local streetcar properties. After the great Chicago fire, some of Frank’s investments are in a perilous state. He goes to friends and associates and urges them to stand together in order to avoid losses. So widespread are the effects of the fire, however, that the manipulations of the city politicians are certain to be discovered on the eve of an election. Something has to be done to satisfy indignant reform groups who are sure to demand action when they discover what occurred.
In the meantime, someone sends an anonymous note to Edward, telling him that Frank and Aileen are living together. When Frank goes to Edward and the contractor refuses to help him, Frank knows that he must have discovered his relationship with Aileen. Edward becomes his enemy and urges the other politicians to make Frank the scapegoat for everyone’s dishonest dealings.
As a result, Frank and Stener, the city treasurer, are indicted on charges of embezzlement and grand larceny, and Frank is ruined financially....
(The entire section contains 834 words.)
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