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The Garotters   By: (1837-1920)

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The Garotters by William Dean Howells is a gripping and thought-provoking novella that delves into themes of moral ambiguity, social inequality, and justice. Set in late 19th-century Boston, the narrative follows the life of Nathan Hale, a successful lawyer whose encounter with a notorious gang known as "The Garotters" challenges his own beliefs and forces him to confront the darker side of human nature.

Howells' writing style is concise yet evocative, transporting the reader to the atmospheric streets of Boston, where the stark contrast between the opulent mansions and the poverty-stricken neighborhoods is palpable. Through vivid descriptions and keen observations, the author effectively captures the social stratification of the era, highlighting the vast disparities between the haves and the have-nots, and the tensions that arise as a result.

One of the book's strengths lies in its exploration of moral complexity. As the protagonist becomes entangled with The Garotters, he is faced with a moral dilemma that challenges his own sense of righteousness. Howells skillfully portrays the inner struggle that ensues, as Nathan grapples with his conflicting desires for justice and personal gain, navigating the blurred boundaries between right and wrong.

The characters in The Garotters are intricately crafted, with each individual presenting a different facet of society and showcasing the various moral stances that coexist within it. From the ruthless gang members to the high society elite, Howells provides a diverse range of perspectives, giving the reader a multi-dimensional understanding of the social dynamics at play.

While The Garotters is a relatively short novella, it manages to pack a punch with its exploration of weighty themes. The juxtaposition of the fast-paced plot with the underlying moral introspection creates a sense of tension that keeps the reader engaged from start to finish. The narrative never seems rushed, yet it maintains a relentless momentum that propels the story forward, leaving readers eager to uncover the outcome.

Ultimately, The Garotters is a captivating and thought-provoking work of fiction that delves into the complexities of human nature, the inherent contradictions within society, and the blurred boundaries between justice and personal ambition. Howells' masterful storytelling and keen social insights make this novella a must-read for anyone seeking a compelling exploration of morality and social inequality.

First Page:

This etext was produced from the 1897 David Douglas edition by David Price, email


by William D. Howells



At the window of her apartment in Hotel Bellingham, Mrs. Roberts stands looking out into the early nightfall. A heavy snow is driving without, and from time to time the rush of the wind and the sweep of the flakes against the panes are heard. At the sound of hurried steps in the anteroom, Mrs. Roberts turns from the window, and runs to the portiere, through which she puts her head.

MRS. ROBERTS: 'Is that you, Edward? So dark here! We ought really to keep the gas turned up all the time.'

MR. ROBERTS, in a muffled voice, from without: 'Yes, it's I.'

MRS. ROBERTS: 'Well, hurry in to the fire, do! Ugh, what a storm! Do you suppose anybody will come? You must be half frozen, you poor thing! Come quick, or you'll certainly perish!' She flies from the portiere to the fire burning on the hearth, pokes it, flings on a log, jumps back, brushes from her dress with a light shriek the sparks driven out upon it, and continues talking incessantly in a voice lifted for her husband to hear in the anteroom. 'If I'd dreamed it was any such storm as this, I should never have let you go out in it in the world... Continue reading book >>

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