Jennie gerhardt

  • Jennie gerhardt
  • Product Code: A2-38791
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Jennie gerhardt by Theodore dreiser 


One morning, in the fall of 1880, a middle-aged woman, accompanied by a

young girl of eighteen, presented herself at the clerk’s desk of the principal hotel

in Columbus, Ohio, and made inquiry as to whether there was anything about the

place that she could do. She was of a helpless, fleshy build, with a frank, open

countenance and an innocent, diffident manner. Her eyes were large and patient,

and in them dwelt such a shadow of distress as only those who have looked

sympathetically into the countenances of the distraught and helpless poor know

anything about. Any one could see where the daughter behind her got the

timidity and shamefacedness which now caused her to stand back and look

indifferently away. She was a product of the fancy, the feeling, the innate

affection of the untutored but poetic mind of her mother combined with the

gravity and poise which were characteristic of her father. Poverty was driving

them. Together they presented so appealing a picture of honest necessity that

even the clerk was affected.

“What is it you would like to do?” he said.

“Maybe you have some cleaning or scrubbing,” she replied, timidly. “I could

wash the floors.”

The daughter, hearing the statement, turned uneasily, not because it irritated

her to work, but because she hated people to guess at the poverty that made it

necessary. The clerk, manlike, was affected by the evidence of beauty in distress.

The innocent helplessness of the daughter made their lot seem hard indeed.

“Wait a moment,” he said; and, stepping into a back office, he called the head


There was work to be done. The main staircase and parlor hall were unswept

because of the absence of the regular scrub-woman.

“Is that her daughter with her?” asked the housekeeper, who could see them

from where she was standing.

“Yes, I believe so.”

“She might come this afternoon if she wants to. The girl helps her, I suppose?”

“You go see the housekeeper,” said the clerk, pleasantly, as he came back to

the desk. “Right through there”—pointing to a near-by door. “She’ll arrange with

you about it.”

A succession of misfortunes, of which this little scene might have been called

the tragic culmination, had taken place in the life and family of William

Gerhardt, a glass-blower by trade. Having suffered the reverses so common in

the lower walks of life, this man was forced to see his wife, his six children, and

himself dependent for the necessaries of life upon whatever windfall of fortune

the morning of each recurring day might bring. He himself was sick in bed. His

oldest boy, Sebastian, or “Bass,” as his associates transformed it, worked as an

apprentice to a local freight-car builder, but received only four dollars a week.

Genevieve, the oldest of the girls, was past eighteen, but had not as yet been

trained to any special work. The other children, George, aged fourteen; Martha,

twelve; William ten, and Veronica, eight, were too young to do anything, and

only made the problem of existence the more complicated. Their one mainstay

was the home, which, barring a six-hundred-dollar mortgage, the father owned.

He had borrowed this money at a time when, having saved enough to buy the

house, he desired to add three rooms and a porch, and so make it large enough

for them to live in. A few years were still to run on the mortgage, but times had

been so bad that he had been forced to use up not only the little he had saved to

pay off the principal, but the annual interest also. Gerhardt was helpless, and the

consciousness of his precarious situation—the doctor’s bill, the interest due upon

the mortgage, together with the sums owed butcher and baker, who, through

knowing him to be absolutely honest, had trusted him until they could trust no

longer—all these perplexities weighed upon his mind and racked him so

nervously as to delay his recovery. ................. Download Now to read about "Jennie gerhardt " by Theodore dreiser 

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