Alice Adams: Book Review

Recently, I took part in the Massachusetts Center for the Book Challenge and read Alice Adams by Booth Tarkington. In June, the theme was to read a book that inspired a movie.

I thought of reading Alice Adams because I remembered the 1935 film with Katherine Hepburn and Fred McMurray. The movie provided an interesting analysis of America’s class system.

The book also delves into the concepts of class and status in early 20th century America. Alice Adams, published in 1921 and winner of the Pulitzer Prize in 1922, contains highly offensive portrayals of African Americans. It is fascinating how Tarkington casually usse racist terms. Many books written by well-known authors during that period contain casual racist and anti-Semitic remarks. Most white Americans held similar opinions.

Despite the book’s outdated and racist language, I still believe it illustrates the narrowness of middle-class society in middle America. Alice is desperate for acceptance among the upper middle class. Her ambition to climb the social ladder causes her to deceive others about the reality of her shabby home and life. She is boldest in her attempts to convince Arthur Russell that she is worthy of his affections.

Her father is stuck in a clerical position at the largest employer in the town. Alice’s mother, determined to see her succeed, pushes her husband to pursue his own business venture. Walter, the family’s son, rejects their pretensions and instead enjoys socializing with musicians, gamblers, and people of color.

Alice’s deceit and her mother’s search for improved financial opportunities end up being in vain. In order to cover debts, Walter steals money from his father’s former company. The owner of the company, a benevolent capitalist, is willing to overlook Walter’s transgression if Mr. Adams sells his nascent glue factory to him.

Ultimately, in the book, Alice doesn’t get the man, and the family has no choice but to take in boarders in order to make ends meet. The movie, hoping to provide a happy ending for viewers during the Great Depression, has Arthur Russell (Fred McMurray) disregard Alice’s pretensions and Walter’s questionable behavior. Instead, he openly declares his love for Alice (Katherine Hepburn).

For the first half of the 20th century, América had a tiny middle class and there was a good amount of income inequality. The professors and their wives that I discuss in Dames, Dishes, and Degrees grappled with the same narrow range of economic opportunities that Alice and her family faced. It was hard for young people to experience upward economic mobility. Alice Adams tells this story very well.

My next regularly scheduled post will be July 14. Happy Summer!


In my June 3 post about my six hundred posts, I wrote about the two classes I signed up for. I am still catching up with them. The last genealogy class is Friday. I didn’t do the final project, so there is no work left for the course.

I have until June 22 to watch the videos from the marketing class. A lot of the information is both interesting and overwhelming. The class has a whole module on email marketing.

After watching the videos, I realized that I potentially have more email contacts than on Facebook, Twitter, and Threads. I need to let these insights settle for a while before I take any action that the teacher suggested.

At the end of the month, I am meeting with a friend who helps me with my website. I want to revamp it to make it more suitable for my new book. Of course, if I do not publish the book, I probably don’t have to change the website.

600 Posts

This is my six hundredth post using WordPress. I had realized this moment was coming up, and I hoped to have a substantial entry as commemoration. However, I was away and have been busy. Those are some reasons I didn’t post the last two weeks.

This year, I have published seventeen posts so far: a little less than one a week. That is a fairly good pace, given that I have been floundering while dealing with Leveller’s decision to withdraw their publication offer.

One reason I have been busy is that, as I often do, I over-committed myself. I signed up for a ten-week genealogy course and a five-week marketing course. Genealogy is something I hope to pursue more deeply once I have resolved the book situation.

Learning more about marketing will help if I either self-publish or find a publisher for my manuscript. I now realize I did not really have time for either. Access to the marketing videos ends June 29th.I have until the middle of August to look at the videos from the genealogy class. Hopefully, I can get both done. The lesson is to not over commit. I keep having to relearn that.