Gilded Age Book Discussion - The Gilded Age



The Gilded Age by Mark Twain and Charles Dudley Warner was published in 1873 and literally dubbed and helped define the era.  The authors shared writing responsibilities for a sprawling novel that intertwines several story lines, bound together by two main themes – romance and speculation, love and money, each of which can lead to ruin.  The Hawkins family speculates in Tennessee land and dreams of the riches that railroads and steamboats might haul out of the region.  Colonel Sellers is an indiscriminate speculator in slaves, mules, sugar, hogs, and railroads, while the Sterling and Bolton families build a coal empire in Pennsylvania.  Along the way, a colorful cast of characters pass through the sordid halls of Congress seeking subsidies and doling out bribes, and, in a New York courtroom, a damsel in distress seeks sympathy for shooting her lover.  Proving that fact is indeed stranger than fiction, Twain and Warner based many of their characters and scenes on actual events of the era.  Underlying the authors’ biting social satire, sarcasm, and cynicism are two age-old American verities that probably would not have been lost on the ambitious people of progress, despite their great hurry to get rich:  Hard work was the only real road to success and the rule of law was the only real guarantor of justice.