Critical Evaluation

(Critical Survey of Literature, Revised Edition)

THE STOIC, the third novel of the trilogy that includes THE FINANCIER and THE TITAN, completes the story of Frank Algernon Cowperwood. As in the other two novels, Cowperwood, a man of great force and vitality, is interested only in material things—making money, having attractive mistresses, and building monuments to perpetuate his name. Theodore Dreiser does not condemn this attitude morally, but he does point out that none of Cowperwood’s relationships is lasting, none of his projects achieves permanence. For all of his power and strength, he is simply another man whose best efforts are cut down by time and the forces around him. Ironically, his cherished dream of founding a hospital is realized through Berenice, his former mistress turned Eastern philosopher, after his death; but the money Cowperwood left for the project is dissipated in endless lawsuits as shady as the deals by which Cowperwood got the money in the first place. Man, even the ruthless man of business, cannot, in Dreiser’s world, impose his will on events for very long, and Cowperwood’s ultimate ineffectuality, the difference between his desires and his real accomplishments, gives him a certain amount of sympathy. Dreiser never quite finished THE STOIC; his wife wrote the final chapter, from his notes, before the novel was published posthumously in 1947. As a novel, it is not generally regarded as Dreiser’s best, for the details of finance overwhelm the...

(The entire section is 581 words.)