(Janet Miriam) Taylor (Holland) Caldwell George Dangerfield - Essay

George Dangerfield

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

The armaments industry is a subject which fiction does well to take up; and Mrs. Caldwell's attack [in Dynasty of Death] is handled with the patience and skill of a prosecuting attorney. In order to establish her case she builds up a careful background, introducing a number of facts and side-issues which a defense attorney would probably characterize—and an impartial judge perhaps disallow—as irrelevant, incompetent, and all the rest of it. But when the whole picture is complete, you have to admit that she has been handling with considerable ability several interacting and at times rather refractory themes….

One's chief criticism of this novel is that it pays the industry a compliment which, though backhanded and unconscious, is none the less a compliment. The author assumes that the industry requires, as its representative, something rather terrific in the way of a man. In all the pages, and they are 797, in which she deals with Ernest Barbour, she never quite reduces him to human stature. Ernest is a devil, the personification of a great industrial evil; and when a devil goes about the devil's work, something is missing. What we miss in this instance is the ultimate historical irony: on the one hand, the traffic in murder; on the other, a trafficker who is just as muddled and petty and able to compound with his conscience as the rest of us. Only a genius could in a novel of this sort create or maintain such an ironical...

(The entire section is 421 words.)