Theodore Dreiser

Full Name: James Thomas Farrell

Date and Location of Birth
      February 27, 1904
      Chicago, Illinois

Date and Location of Death
      August 22, 1979
      New York City, New York
      Cause: Unknown; Most likely old age.

      James Farrell
      Mary Farrell
      Parents had Farrell move in with his grandparents early in his life.

Married to: Dorothy Butler

James T. Farrell was born into a working-class second generation Irish-Catholic family living in Chicago in 1904. Farrell's father, James Farrell, was a struggling teamster (truck driver) who was unable to support the ever-growing family (the Farrell's had a total of fifteen children, out of which only six survived). In response to the hard times Farrell's father sent three-year-old James to live with his grandparents, who were both born in Ireland and who were both illiterate, who were living relatively comfortably in Chicago as a result of a generous income provided by some of their more wealthy/successful children. And although Farrell's real parents had times where they were relatively well-off, even living near Farrell and his grandparents in a nearby apartment at one point, most of their lives were spent living in whatever kind of housing they could afford at the time.

When Farrell was about fifteen-years-old, he and his grandparents moved to the South Fifties [9], the neighborhood that would later serve as the basis for a young Irish-Catholic boy named Studs Lonigan in one of Farrell's most renown books.

Not much else about Farrell's young life is known, but apparently he did well enough in school to make his way into the University of Chicago in 1925. There, he completed six terms of schooling, until in 1927 he said, in one of his most famous quotes, that he would write "regardless of the consequences" [10]. Farrell also is recorded as saying that the "greatest achievement in the world was to earn for yourself the right to say-I am an artist" [11]. Farrell first step to "becoming an artist" came in 1929 when he published the short story, "Slob."

Farrell's most famous works, though, came in the first half of the 1930s. In 1931 he and his new wife Dorothy Butler (who he married not once but twice [12]) were in Paris, where Farrell was largely on a "self-discovery" type of mission, where he tried "the expatriate life and [discovered] it had little meaning to him" [11]. In 1932, Farrell came back to his home in New York City, where he lived until the day of his death.

During his time in Paris, Farrell finished writing and had published the first installment of the Studs Lonigan trilogy-Young Lonigan, in 1931. After Farrell had returned from Paris with his wife, he continued on the rest of the trilogy, publishing The Young Manhood of Studs Lonigan in 1934, and the final part of the trilogy, Judgment Day, in 1935.

After this time, Farrell sunk into a period of "critical neglect" [11] that lasted for the majority of the remainder of his life. Instead of taking his time writing better thought-out and more innovative novels, Farrell wrote a large number of books and novels in place of the lack of critical praise he was getting. By the time of Farrell's death in 1979, he "left over fifty books of stories and novels behind him, roughly one for each year of his writing career" [11].

Studs Lonigan
Studs Lonigan is a trilogy of books (Young Lonigan, The Young Manhood of Studs Lonigan, and Judgment Day) that details the life of a young lower-middle-class Irish boy living in Chicago from 1916 up until his death in 1931 as a result of "double-pneumonia." Studs Lonigan is the perfect caricature of the "tragic hero." He is not a terribly smart boy by nature, which is even further hindered by Studs' decision to not continue his education past his Irish-Catholic middle school, St. Patrick's. Though what Studs lacks in intelligence, he makes up for in his natural athleticism and his innate kindness and caring for the people around him. Unfortunately, Studs is put into a position in his life where he simply cannot "win." While he would like to be himself, a relatively kind-natured, emotional boy with a lot potential, the society of the time tells him he should be an Irish-Catholic with the fear of God in him, and also live up to the traditional traits of men: a hard, unemotional, tough guy.

In Studs Lonigan, Farrell demonstrates a lot of the innate qualities that he possesses as a writer. Studs Lonigan is an interesting mix of both Naturalism and Realism, two important literary methods of thought in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Another one of the very unique traits which Farrell employed as a means to further developer Studs is the technique of "stream of consciousness" (the process of describing a character's thoughts as they occur to the character). Through these techniques, Farrell is able to fully develop the dark, gritty, and depressing world that Studs lives in, while simultaneously making Studs into a fully three-dimensional character with whom readers can both sympathize with and even despise at times.

Farrell also displays a lot of his own thoughts and feelings about a number of aspects of his life through the story of Studs Lonigan. One example of this is the complaints he shows about the Irish-Catholic religion, which he refused to acknowledge as a personal practice relatively early in his life, which is present even in the very early pages of Studs Lonigan's first book, Young Lonigan, where Studs reflects a number of times about the contradictions and complexities of his teachings from his Irish-Catholic school.

Studs Lonigan, in the later book especially, is a very telling and accurate description of life during the Great Depression. The Lonigan family faces a number of very troubling happenings as Stud Lonigan's father begins to really feel the heat of the problems which the depression is starting to impart upon him, as his painting business, which he established through nothing outside of his own hard work, fails. Studs, also, faces the troubles of the times as some of the money he had saved up and decides to invest in the stock market comes back to haunt him as the market continues to fall.

Studs Lonigan is one of the great aspects of American literature, especially Chicago literature, and is in, in part, a "great American tragedy." Studs Lonigan is consistently put into realistic situations which he simply cannot hope to be successful in; Studs Lonigan is the story of a good boy who is simply unable to live against the forces of life, no matter what he does. In the end, Studs' death is an even more depressing end to a depressing tale about a young boy not necessarily because he simply dies, but because his death actually brings Studs' closer to happiness than anything else outside a few instances in his early life could.