Midland town. Midwestern city modeled on Indianapolis, Indiana, Booth Tarkington’s birthplace and hometown. The town offers a physical representation of the novel’s theme: changes in values and even the kinds of corruption that arrive in the wake of progress. The novel conveys the idea that while change is inevitable—in the town, in class structure, in the economy—it also exacts a high cost in aesthetic and moral values.
The novel’s Midland town is in transition. Its center of population is moving away from its former downtown area as new generations build their homes on the town’s outskirts. Additions and subdivisions and roads multiply. However, as the town’s economy becomes more reliant on manufacturing and as gas and electricity are more commonly used, the town also acquires grime, soot, and polluted air.
Tensions between the past and the future are incarnated in the novel’s two antagonists, George Minafer, scion of the wealthy, upper-crust Amberson family, and Eugene Morgan—an inventor, particularly of automobiles. George hates automobiles and intensely dislikes Eugene for both personal and cultural reasons. It is clear that George wants the present and the future to be identical to the past. Eugene, on the other hand, knows that the future must bring change and finds the future exciting. To resist change—personal, cultural, and economic—George goes to extremes that are painful for him...
(The entire section is 533 words.)