Literary Techniques

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

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K. is one of the first books in which Rinehart attempted to write mainstream fiction. She does not rely on the comfortable formula of the detective novel, and the tone is completely serious. She also departs from her early tendency toward romanticism in favor of realistic depiction of everyday life, especially in the hospital scenes. Her handling of plot is not sure, however, and the conclusion seems banal, sentimental, and predictable.

Social Concerns

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

Rinehart's major themes in K., the first of her novels to be based largely on autobiographical material and to depart from the mystery formula that had served her so well in earlier books, are those of individual freedom and identity. Its protagonist, Sidney Page, is a young woman bound by the social mores of "the Street," where she lives with her widowed mother who runs a boarding house. Sidney is about to enter training as a nurse, in keeping with the traditional expectations for a woman, but secretly she wants to escape; she longs for the freedom to do something, to do anything beyond what society expects of her. These desires to move beyond the expected social role are symbolized by her androgynous first name. She does not want her actions and achievements to be limited by her gender.

Concurrent with Sidney's struggle against the limitations placed on her by her sex, Rinehart portrays the personal anguish of the great surgeon Edwardes whose faith in his own skill has been destroyed by the accidental deaths of three of his patients. Disguised as the mysterious new boarder, K. le Moyne, Edwardes enters Sidney's life just as she begins her training. Given Rinehart's own feelings and the sentiments of her audience, it is no surprise that Sidney's longing for freedom and K.'s self-doubts are all resolved by their growing mutual love.


(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

A film version of K. appeared in 1918 under the title The Doctor and the Woman. Six years later Universal brought out K. — the Unknown.