Moment of Indiana History

Booth Tarkington

Writer Booth Tarkington is identified with Indiana and the Midwest. Born in Indianapolis in 1869, Tarkington spent his first two years of college at Purdue before graduating from Princeton in 1893. His comical writing style epitomized the 1920s Lost Generation. His most known works were cheerful, realistic novels of life in small Midwestern towns.

Tarkington experienced social class conflicts during his childhood in Indiana, and this theme runs through most of his writings. He won his first Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1918, with the novel The Magnificent Ambersons. It followed the successes and failures of three generations of the affluent Amberson family in the face of a changing America. The story was adapted for the screen by Orson Welles in 1941.

His second Pulitzer Prize was awarded in 1922 for his fictional work, Alice Adams, which depicts the frustrated romantic ambitions of a lower-middle-class girl. Booth Tarkington was one of the most popular writers of his time, and his novels The Two Vanrevels and Mary’s Neck appeared on the annual best-seller lists a total of nine times.

Besides being a novelist and dramatist, Booth Tarkington served as a state representative. He had a passion for traveling all over the world, but continued to be known as a Hoosier writer until his death in 1946.

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