Theodore Dreiser, the great American progressive writer, was born in a poor family in 1871. He began to work for his living when he was sixteen. He had a number of jobs, and at one time was a newspaper reporter. As a reporter he gained a wide experience of life, which was a great help to him when he took up novel-writing.
Dreiser's literary career started in 1900 when "Sister Carrie" was published. In this novel and also in his later works, the writer exposed the true nature of American "democracy"
Dreiser was deeply impressed by the Great October Socialist Revolution. In 1927—28 he visited the Soviet Union and from that time on was a true friend to our country. In 1945, at the age of 74, he joined the Communist Party of the USA.
Dreiser died in 1945.
The passage below comes from "The Financier" Frank Cowperwood at thirteen is shown as a boy who is already fully aware of the power of money. Later on he becomes a typical capitalist who stops at nothing to become rich and powerful.
Buttonwood Street, Philadelphia, where Frank Cowperwood spent the first ten years of his life, was a lovely place for a boy to live in. There were mainly red brick houses there with small marble steps leading up to the front doors. There were trees in the street — a lot of them. Behind each house there was a garden with trees and grass and sometimes flowers.
The Cowperwoods, father and mother, were happy with their children. Henry Cowperwood, the father of the family, started life as a bank clerk, but when Frank, his elder son, was ten, Henry Cowperwood became a teller at the bank.
As his position grew more responsible, his business connections increased. He already knew a number of rich businessmen who dealt with the bank where he worked. The brokers knew him as representing a well-known film and considered him to be a most reliable person.
Young Cowperwood took an interest in his father's progress. He was quite often allowed to come to the bank on Saturdays, when he would watch with great interest the quick exchange of bills. He wanted to know where all the different kinds of money came from, and what the men did with all the money they received. His father, pleased at his interest, was glad to explain, so that even at this early age — from ten to fifteen — the boy gained a wide knowledge of the condition of the country financially. He was also interested in stocks and bonds, and he learned that some stocks and bonds were not even worth the paper they were written on, and others were worth much more than their face value showed.
At home also he listened to considerable talk of business and financial adventure.
Frank realized that his father was too honest, too careful. He often told himself that when he grew up, he was going to be a broker, or a financier, or a banker, and do some of the risky things he so often used to hear about.
Just at this time there came to the Cowperwoods an uncle, Seneca Davis, who had not appeared in the life of the family before.
Henry Cowperwood was pleased at the arrival of this rather rich relative, for before that Seneca Davis had not taken much notice of Henry Cowperwood and his family.
This time, however, he showed much more interest in the Cowperwoods, particularly in Frank.
"How would you like to come down to Cuba and be a planter, my boy?" he asked him once.
"I am not so sure that I'd like to," replied the boy.
"Well, that's frank enough. What have you against it?"
"Nothing, except that I don't know anything about it."
"What do you know?" The boy smiled, "Not very much, I guess."
"Well, what are you interested in?"
He looked at Frank carefully now. There was something in the boy ... no doubt of it.
"A smart boy!" he said to Henry, his brother-in-law. "You have a good family."
Uncle Seneca became a frequent visitor to the house and took an increasing interest in Frank.
"Keep in touch with me," he said to his sister one day. "When that boy gets old enough to find out what he wants to do, I think I'll help him to do it." She told him she was very grateful. He talked to Frank about his studies, and found that the boy took little interest in books or most of the subjects he had to take at school.
"I like book-keeping and mathematics," he said. "I want to get out and get to work, though. That's what I want to do."
"You're very young, my son," his uncle said. "You're only how old now? Fourteen?"
"Well, you can't leave school much before sixteen. You'll do better if you stay until seventeen or eighteen. It can't do you any harm. You won't be a boy again."
"I don't want to be a boy. I want to get to work."
"Don't go too fast, son. You'll be a man soon enough. You want to be a banker, don't you?"
"Well, when the time comes, if everything is all right and you've behaved well and you still want to, I'll help you get a start in business. If you are going to be a banker, you must work with some good company a year or so. You'll get a good training there. And, meantime, keep your health and learn all you can."
And with these words he gave the boy a ten-dollar gold piece with which to start a bank-account.