The Magnificent Ambersons

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The Magnificent Ambersons
First edition
Author Booth Tarkington
Country United States
Language English
Publisher Doubleday, Page
Publication date
Media type Print
Pages 516
This article is about the 1918 novel. For the 1942 film adaptation, see The Magnificent Ambersons (film).

The Magnificent Ambersons is a 1918 novel written by Booth Tarkington which won the 1919 Pulitzer Prize for the novel. It was the second novel in his Growth trilogy, which included The Turmoil (1915) and The Midlander (1923, retitled National Avenue in 1927). In 1925 the novel was first adapted for film under the title Pampered Youth. In 1942 Orson Welles wrote and directed an acclaimed film adaptation of the book. Welles's original screenplay was the basis of a 2002 TV movie produced by the A&E Network.

Plot summary[edit]

The story is set in a largely fictionalized version of Indianapolis, and much of it was inspired by the neighborhood of Woodruff Place.[1][2]

The novel and trilogy trace the growth of the United States through the declining fortunes of three generations of the aristocratic Amberson family in an upper-scale Indianapolis neighborhood, between the end of the Civil War and the early part of the 20th century, a period of rapid industrialization and socio-economic change in America. The decline of the Ambersons is contrasted with the rising fortunes of industrial tycoons and other new-money families, who derived power not from family names but by "doing things". As George Amberson's friend (name unspecified) says, "don't you think being things is 'rahthuh bettuh' than doing things?"

The titular family is the most prosperous and powerful in town at the turn of the century. Young George Amberson Minafer, the patriarch's grandson, is spoiled terribly by his mother Isabel. Growing up arrogant, sure of his own worth and position, and totally oblivious to the lives of others, George falls in love with Lucy Morgan, a young though sensible debutante. But there is a long history between George's mother and Lucy's father, of which George is unaware. As the town grows into a city, industry thrives, the Ambersons' prestige and wealth wanes, and the Morgans, thanks to Lucy's prescient father, grow prosperous. When George sabotages his widowed mother's growing affections for Lucy's father, life as he knows it comes to an end.


The Magnificent Ambersons received the 1919 Pulitzer Prize.[3]

"The Magnificent Ambersons is perhaps Tarkington's best novel," said Van Wyck Brooks. "[It is] a typical story of an American family and town—the great family that locally ruled the roost and vanished virtually in a day as the town spread and darkened into a city. This novel no doubt was a permanent page in the social history of the United States, so admirably conceived and written was the tale of the Ambersons, their house, their fate and the growth of the community in which they were submerged in the end."[citation needed]



On October 29, 1939, The Campbell Playhouse aired The Magnificent Ambersons produced by Orson Welles.[4] The cast included Welles, Walter Huston, Nan Sunderland, and various members of the Mercury Theatre troupe.


The Magnificent Ambersons has been adapted for film three times:


  1. ^ V. F. Perkins. (August 2000). "The Magnificent Ambersons (book review)". University of Nottingham. Retrieved 2008-07-13. Woodruff Place in Indianapolis, Indiana can't be found on a tourist map, but it would probably interest anyone who is familiar with Orson Welles's adaptation of Booth Tarkington's The Magnificent Ambersons 
  2. ^ "Historic Districts". City of Indianapolis. Retrieved 2008-07-13. Woodruff Place was the city's first 'suburb' and was the setting for Booth Tarkington's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, The Magnificent Ambersons 
  3. ^ "1919 Winners". The Pulitzer Prizes. Retrieved 2013-12-30. 
  4. ^ Martin Fitzgerald (2000). Orson Welles: The Pocket Essential Guide. Summersdale. p. 29. ISBN 978-1-84839-680-7. 
  5. ^ "Pampered Youth". AFI Catalog of Feature Films. American Film Institute. Retrieved 2015-06-27. 

External links[edit]