Edna Ferber: American Literature

Edna Ferber (1887-1968)  was a popular American novelist in the first half of the twentieth century. She embarked on her career by working as a newspaper reported in Wisconsin and soon begin writing novels. Her first novel, Dawn O’Hara, the Girl Who Laughed, was published in 1911, when she was only twenty-four years old.

Her big break came with the novel So Big (1924), which was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in Literature. The main conflict in the novel is between a mother who places a high value on hard work and honor and a son who repudiateshis mother’s values, instead preferring the easier path to fortune and celebrity. Like many of Ferber’s novels, this novel features a tenacious female protagonist with strong character who struggles to deal with ethical dilemmas about the importance of status and money.

Probably the best known of Ferber’s novels was Show Boat (1926), which tells the story of a Southern woman married to a charismatic but irresponsible man who leaves her with a daughter she must take great pains to support. In 1927, the novel was made into a musical that hasendured to the present.

Other well-known novels by Ferber include Cimarron (1930) and Giant (1952), both of which were made into movies. These were  epic novels about the settlement and growth of the West, centering on strong female lead characters who marry men lacking the same strength of character.