James T. Farrell Biography


(Masterpieces of American Literature)
ph_0111225741-Farrell.jpg James T. Farrell Published by Salem Press, Inc.

James T. Farrell was born in Chicago on February 27, 1904, the son of James and Mary Daly Farrell. Although Farrell’s father was a hardworking Chicago teamster and served as a symbol of the toil and troubles of the working classes in Farrell’s fiction, he did not make enough money to support his large family. Of the Farrells’ fifteen children, six lived to maturity. As a result of the financial pressure, James T. Farrell was moved to his maternal grandparents’ house at the age of three. That move, from dire poverty to some affluence, provided him with material advantages but at the cost of a normal family life. Later in life, Farrell observed that he was both in the events he wrote about and outside them, a situation that produced the identity problems he treats in his young protagonists.

He was educated in Catholic parochial schools. In grammar school, he was active and accomplished in sports, particularly baseball and boxing, and thereby succeeded in partially overcoming his early loneliness. Farrell’s other great early interest was religion, though his enthusiasm was primarily the product of his relationship with Sister Magdalen, the Sister Bertha of Young Lonigan: A Boyhood in Chicago Streets (1932), who encouraged him and prompted his academic interests. He attended the nearby St. Cyril High School, where he took the four-year scholastic course, which focused on religion and the classics. While he early criticized the authoritarian rigidity of his “miseducation,” he later noted that it had instilled moral values in him. At St. Cyril he was outstanding in athletics and writing (he wrote his first Danny O’Neill story there), but despite his achievements, he still did not receive the acceptance he sought—he was still, in part, the “misfit.”

After graduation in 1923, he worked at an express company. In 1924 he also enrolled in night classes at De Paul University, where he first read the work of Theodore Dreiser, the single greatest influence on Farrell’s work. In the following year, with funds saved from his job as a gasoline attendant, he entered the University of Chicago, an experience that radically changed his life. He became an avid reader, particularly in...

(The entire section is 907 words.)

James T. Farrell Biography

(Masterpieces of American Literature)

In “On the Function of the Novel,” Farrell writes, “Novels can enable us to gain a fuller sense of participation in the culture of our own time, and in the history of human thought and feeling.” Like Dreiser, Farrell realistically documents a time, the 1930’s, and a place, Chicago’s South Side, in order to indict a society by chronicling events that produce alienated, fragmented human beings. He depicts the chronological maturation and the arrested emotional and spiritual development of his young protagonists, who cannot articulate their feelings, who cling precariously to stereotypical images of themselves, and who are ridden by self-doubt and fear.

James T. Farrell Biography

(Literary Essentials: Short Fiction Masterpieces)

Born and reared on the south side of Chicago, James Thomas Farrell was educated at a series of parochial schools, attended the University of Chicago sporadically for three years during the 1920’s, and attended New York University in 1941. The son and grandson of Irish teamsters, Farrell was also a teamster for a time and worked, variously, as a cigar-store clerk, a filling-station attendant, and a part-time newspaper reporter. He married Dorothy Patricia Butler in 1931, was divorced, married the actress Hortense Alden, whom he also divorced, and remarried Dorothy Butler Farrell in 1955, but they separated three years later. He had one child by his second wife. He received a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship for creative writing in 1936, a Book-of-the-Month Club prize for Studs Lonigan in 1937, and a Newberry Library Fellowship in 1949. He was a member of the National Institute of Arts and Letters and the Overseas Press Club. He died in 1979.

James T. Farrell Biography

(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

James Thomas Farrell was born on February 27, 1904, in Chicago, where he lived until 1931, except for a short sojourn in New York City during the 1920’s. The son of a family of Irish teamsters and domestics, he was the product of a curious dual lifestyle in his youth. One of fifteen children, Farrell was taken, when he was three years old, to live with his maternal grandparents as the result of his own family’s impoverished condition. His grandparents, John and Julia Daly, were of the same poor, hardworking stock as his father and mother, but they were somewhat more financially stable and lived a different, more affluent life. The difference in these two families was important in Farrell’s development.

Living with the Dalys, Farrell found himself in a neighborhood of modern brick buildings that were a sharp contrast to the poor, wooden-shack neighborhood where his parents lived with the rest of their children. The personal confusion and divisions of loyalties caused by this unusual arrangement were only a part of Farrell’s childhood problems. Living in one household and coming from another made Farrell the center of many family tensions and involved him in most of the family’s disagreements.

Farrell entered Corpus Christi Parochial Grammar School in 1911, and through the course of his education was a loner and a dreamer. He became an excellent athlete, taking seven letters in sports at St. Cyril High School. He attended St. Cyril after giving up early plans to attend a seminary to become a priest. He excelled in his studies and was active on the St. Cyril Oriflamme, the school’s monthly magazine, in addition to being an active member of the high school fraternity, Alpha Eta Beta. He was desperately in need of acceptance, but his classmates sensed that he was different, and his social incapacity was another influence on his later life.

After high school, Farrell went to work full time for the Amalgamated Express Company, where he had worked summers while in school. After nearly two years with the express company, Farrell...

(The entire section is 849 words.)

James T. Farrell Biography

(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Born in Chicago, Illinois, James Thomas Farrell forever carried the spirit of his birthplace with him. Direct and energetic, he secured his place in literature with his earlier novels, especially the trilogy Studs Lonigan (Young Lonigan, The Young Manhood of Studs Lonigan, and Judgment Day). These novels established Farrell as a major figure in so-called proletariat literature, for in them he depicts working-class people in working-class situations as they existed during his own boyhood. Farrell was so much a realist that his style has been called photographic, and Studs Lonigan is considered a work of sociological as well as literary significance.

Farrell’s own life provided the model for his Danny O’Neill pentalogy, which began in 1936 with A World I Never Made. Like Danny, Farrell was born into a working-class family that was too large for his parents to support. Like his character Danny, Farrell was reared by his maternal grandparents, and, like Danny, Farrell found his escape through writing. Both the fictional Danny O’Neill and his creator, James T. Farrell, were reared in environments that threatened to swallow up the weak-willed and fainthearted. Yet the thoughtful individual with a vision of life that went beyond the streets of Chicago’s South Side could escape. Both Farrell and Danny overcame their environments, attended the University of Chicago, and became writers.

Farrell’s career as a writer began at the University of Chicago, which he attended...

(The entire section is 635 words.)