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The Disinherited

A Novel of the Thirties

by Jack Conroy

Hardcover, 8 1/2 in. x 5 3/4 in.
310 pages
ISBN-13: 978-0-8376-0426-8
Price: $18.00

Proletarian literature, the realistic and often angry novels of the 1930s that chronicled the hardships of common people during the economic collapse, has become one of the best sources of understanding the human dimension of those troubled years. While it contains a vast body of works, the Proletarian movement produced few works of enduring excellence. Perhaps foremost among those it did produce is Jack Conroy's The Disinherited.

Despite the fact of an extensive and variegated literary career, Jack Conroy's reputation is associated primarily with his first novel, The Disinherited...It was obviously autobiographical - indeeed, Conroy had written it as an essay in autobiography originally, only later and by order of his publisher transforming it into fiction. The hero of the novel is the son of a coal miner, and therefore he is of the family of America's "disinherited." He tells the story of his boyhood in a company-owned coal town, and then the story of his young manhood during the first years of the Great Depression, spent pursuing laboring jobs and wandering when there are no jobs. All of his experiences present evidence of a conspiracy against ordinary workers.

The novel was almost unimpeachable: it was written by a genuine proletarian, it touched upon all of the proper themes, and it ended in polemic. Conroy's book secured great reputation for its purity. It has remained a primary document of the social literature of the 1930s.

That historical judgement has perhaps obscured the fact that the novel - and Conroy's ambitions in general - were much less ideological than they appeared to be...His novel in fact engaged dramatically materials which were quite unproletarian and developed themes much more in the tradition of American pastoral. The novel begins and ends with scenes of the Missouri mining town of the hero's boyhood, and in spite of the record of capitalist tyrannies which the hero recounts, the novel presents the town in terms of a pervading loveliness...The boy falls in love with a girl who is a farmer's daughter, who has all of the flouncing and charming righteousness of Becky Thatcher in Tom Sawyer. The novel dwells on such materials for nearly a third of its length. In another large part, as the hero moves from job to job, the novel dwells on the craft that is in industry - the workman's requisite skills in the making of steel, rubber, automobiles, etc. It is these credibilities - the small town, the woods, the sense of individual craft - from which the hero will be disinherited, and the novel is its own social action, rather than a call to social action, by the amount that it vivifies them. By that amount also it testifies to the implication of American "proletarian literature" in a much broader American myth. -Marcus Klein, Contemporary Novelists (St. James Press)

"The whole thing seemed to me to be an absolutely solid, unfaked piece of narrative as good as the best of Jack London, and that, in my opinion, is saying a good deal!" -John Dos Passos

Bentley Library-Bound Standard Fiction Reprints are printed on high-quality 55-lb. book paper. The bindings are sewn, not glued, and each book is covered with a sturdy water-resistant Pyroxylin library binding. This high-quality construction ensures that these books will last for many years.

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ISBN: 0-8376-0426-5 (ISBN-10)
ISBN: 978-0-8376-0426-8 (ISBN-13)
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