Progress Publishers (Moscow), 1965, 356 p.,
condition: very good
Jennie Gerhardt was Theodore Dreiser's second novel and his first true commercial success. Today it is generally regarded as one of his three best novels, along with Sister Carrie and An American Tragedy. But the text of Jennie Gerhardt heretofore known to readers is quite different from the text as Dreiser originally wrote it. In the tradition of the University of Pennsylvania Dreiser Edition, James L. W. West III has recaptured the text as it was originally written, restoring it to its complete, unexpurgated form. As submitted to Harper and Brothers in 1911, Jennie Gerhardt was a powerful study of a woman tragically compromised by birth and fate. Harpers agreed to publish the book but was nervous about its subject matter and moral stance. Jennie has an illegitimate child by one man and lives out of wedlock with another - but Dreiser does not condemn her for her behavior. As a requirement for publication, Harpers insisted on cutting and revising the text. Although Dreiser fought against many of the cuts and succeeded in restoring some material, Harpers shortened the text by 16,000 words and completely revised its style and tone. These changes ultimately transformed Jennie Gerhardt from a blunt, carefully documented work of social realism to a touching love story merely set against a social background. Passages critical of organized religion and of the institution of marriage were reduced and altered. Perhaps most important, Jennie's point of view - her innate romantic mysticism - was largely edited out of the text. As a consequence, the central dialectic of the novel was skewed and the narrative thrown out of balance.