(Critical Survey of Literature, Revised Edition)

George Marvin Brush, a straitlaced, clean-living nonsmoker and nondrinker of twenty-three, was a salesman for the Caulkins Educational Press; his territory was the Middle West. He was the amusement and the despair of all the traveling salesmen in the same territory who knew him. One day, Doremus Blodgett, a hosiery salesman, caught George in the act of penning a Bible text on a hotel blotter and invited George up to his room to chaff him. The righteousness of George infuriated Blodgett, but the hosiery man was almost reconciled when George admitted to him that he had once wronged a farmer’s daughter.

At another time, George withdrew all his savings from the bank. In his attempt to explain to the bank president his plan of voluntary poverty, he insulted that executive by saying that banks owed their existence only to man’s fear of insecurity. Thought to be mad, George was jailed, but his ingenuousness confounded even his jailers. One of them, after hearing George propound his theories, withdrew his own savings from the bank.

In Oklahoma City, George again saw Blodgett and his “cousin,” Mrs. Margie McCoy. There he talked of the injustice of his receiving raises in pay, to the utter confusion of Blodgett and Mrs. McCoy. He told them that he had gone through college and had had a religious conversion in order to be of an independent mind. All he wanted, he said, was a perfect girl for his wife, six children, and a real American home. He confessed that he was hindered in his quest for these ideals by having wronged a Kansas farm girl, Roberta, whose farm home he had been unable to find since he had left it.

George went from Oklahoma City to the Chautauqua at Camp Morgan, Oklahoma, to see Judge Corey, a state legislator who was interested in textbook contracts. There he was shocked by Jessie, a college girl who believed in evolution; he pestered a distraught businessman who wanted to be left alone; and he turned down Judge Corey’s offer of thirty-five thousand dollars and a state job if he would marry the Judge’s daughter, Mississippi.

From Camp Morgan, George went to Kansas City, where he stayed in Queenie’s boardinghouse with his four wild friends, Herb and Morrie, reporters; Bat, a motion-picture mechanic; and Louie, a hospital orderly. Accord lasted between the four and George as long as George did not preach his antitobacco and antialcohol creeds. They, in turn, restrained their actions and their speech in his presence. Three of them and George, who had a beautiful voice, formed an expert barbershop quartet. In Kansas City, George became the victim of an elaborate practical joke arranged by his friends. After they had tricked him into drunkenness, the five went on a rampage. The second step in their plan to lead George to perdition came when Herb tricked George into going to dinner one Sunday at a brothel. Herb represented the house to George as an old...

(The entire section is 1189 words.)