This year marks the centennial of Theodore Dreiser’s novel The Titan. Dreiser published The Titan in 1914 with the John Lane Company. It is the second volume in his trilogy sometimes called The Trilogy of Desire. The trilogy follows the commercial and amorous adventures of ruthless businessman Frank Cowperwood, a character based on real life traction magnate Charles T. Yerkes. The first volume in the trilogy is The Financier (1912), which relates the first rise and fall of Cowperwood from his beginnings as a banker’s son in Philadelphia to his eventual prison term for corrupt business practices.

Theodore Dreiser

Theodore Dreiser

In The Titan, Cowperwood has moved west to Chicago to make a fresh start. The novel details Cowperwood’s attempt to control of Chicago’s railway system, and also examines in detail his business and romantic relationships. Dreiser followed this book with an unrelated novel called The “Genius,” (1915 ) which traces the life of a talented illustrator in the Midwest. The third volume of the trilogy, The Stoic, was published posthumously in 1947. It is generally regarded as an inferior work, the long period of intervening years having taken Dreiser in other directions and drained away the original creative impulse behind the trilogy.


Patrick Kerin