To Have and Have Not
It was pure coincidence that I read Yonnondio immediately after I read The Late George Apley. I knew beforehand what to expect of Apley — the story of a man born into Boston Brahmin society — but the subject matter of Yonnondio: From the Thirties (in an old hardcover edition, missing its dust jacket) was a mystery to me. All I knew was that the author, Tillie Olsen, wrote the story “I Stand Here Ironing.” I could have explored the novel’s pages, but sometimes I like to be surprised. After I finished the Marquand, Yonnondio was next in the queue.
So it was that I left George Apley writing his final letter in the library of his brownstone on Beacon Street and found myself in a primitive Wyoming coal-mining town, where Jim Holbrook wakes, cursing, to the whistle calling him to make his daily descent into the earth.
Both men live in the same country, in the same period, but they could live in different worlds. Reading these two books consecutively was fortuitous. The authors wrote in isolation of each other. They were interested only in presenting their characters and the lives they are caught up in. Environment plays its vital role. We experience the stultifying obligations of wealth and the brutalizing effects of poverty.
Each author wrote what they knew. Like their books, they existed worlds apart.
John Phillips Marquand was born in 1893 in Newburyport, Massachusetts. His ancestors were shippers and merchants in the Revolutionary period. Though he was born into wealth, financial reversals in his family changed his life. He did not go to an exclusive boys’ school; instead he went to Newburyport High School. He attended Harvard, but on a scholarship. He was not invited to join any of the exclusive clubs, was ignored by the blue bloods.
He married Christina Sedgwick when he was twenty-nine. Her family was a prominent and well-connected one (Christina was the niece of the editor of The Atlantic Monthly). This marriage ended in divorce. His second marriage would link him to the Rockefeller family; it too would end in divorce. The marriages produced five children.
He wrote prolifically, and with an eye to making money. His first financial success came with a series of Mr. Moto spy novels. His many stories for magazines like the Saturday Evening Post brought in a substantial income. It wasn’t until he was forty-four, with The Late George Apley, that he set out to write a serious novel. The book was a commercial and critical success, winning the Pulitzer Prize in 1938. Following Apley came a string of ambitious novels. From 1937 until 1960 (the year of his death) he was one of the most popular authors in the country. Many of his books, including Apley, were made into movies.
Marquand’s prose carries the reader along effortlessly. His characters and plots are engrossing. He became wealthy off his talent. He also became (partly due to his marriages) part of society’s elite. He was a member of all the “right” Boston and New York clubs. He had luxurious homes in Newburyport and the Caribbean. As he grew older he admired more and more the old values and disapproved of many of the new.
Yet the scholarship student who was snubbed by members of Harvard’s “Gold Coast” would always feel ambivalence toward the society he was a part of. In his novels he observed the upper class through the eyes of an outsider, and often his gaze is sardonic. He said that The Late George Apley was written largely “out of defiance”; his wife warned that they would have to move out of Boston if the book was published. Yet Marquand’s satiric barbs are blunted by admiration. The overall tone of the novel is gentle, humorous. Rather than disapprove of his creation, I believe that much of the author is contained in the character of George Apley.
Marquand was a man for whom writing was a job; most of his days were occupied with the solitary work of putting words on paper. Some statements he made in his later years show that he felt disappointment and regret as regards his personal life. Also, it deeply rankled him that the literary world scorned and dismissed his work. He partly attributed it to the fact that he was simply too popular. Many of his harshest detractors were critically-acclaimed authors whose books sold poorly. Left-leaning academics had no sympathy for his focus on the upper classes. Marquand also believed he was not taken seriously because of the so-called hack work he had done (the Mr. Moto novels, his stories in the “slicks”). He saw a future in which he would not be remembered. That fear turned out to come true. Who reads Marquand today? Back Bay Press (a Boston-based publishing firm) has reissued The Late George Apley (though the lugubrious man with the enormous mustache on the cover is, to me, completely wrong; Ronald Colman, who played him in the film adaptation, is much closer to how I visualize George Apley).
Another problem for Marquand’s reputation was that The Late George Apley was the high point of his career. The novels that followed, although some of the early ones are excellent, are not of the same caliber. (Marquand always disliked being told that Apley was his best work.) Also, the world he wrote about belongs to another age; the values of the new have taken over. Both Apley and Marquand are obsolete. Which is a shame. To reveal human character, and to do it with such artistry, with such subtle and disciplined intelligence, should be an enduring achievement.
John P. Marquand died in 1960, in the town where he was born.
What follows is the opening paragraph of The Late George Apley:
George William Apley was born in the house of his maternal grandfather, William Leeds Hancock, on the steeper part of Mount Vernon Street, on Beacon Hill, on January 25, 1866. He died in his own house, which overlooks the Charles River Basin and the Esplanade, on the water side of Beacon Street, on December 13, 1933. This was the frame in which his life moved, and the frame which will surround his portrait as a man. He once said of himself: “I am the sort of man I am, because environment prevented my being anything else.”These are the words of a Mr. Willing. Why is he setting off on this biographical undertaking? Following the opening paragraph is a letter Mr. Willing had received from George’s son, in which John Apley first thanks Mr. Willing for the appreciation he read of his father at the Berkley Club. Then the young man offers a challenge. “I seemed to hear the lives of all our fellow members read out with the usual comments, and these comments were always similar. You made Father seem like all the others, Mr. Willing. You shaded over the affair of Attorney O’Reilly and some other things we know.” Later he writes, “You mentioned not a word about how Eleanor and I disappointed him and Mother.” The son wants Mr. Willing to write an account of his father that is a true one. “To do a last piece of justice to Father.” He offers Mr. Willing access to all his father’s letters and papers. He closes with these words: “My main preoccupation is that the thing should be real. You know, and I know, that Father had guts.”
So we have a biography written by Apley's elderly friend, a man ruled by a sense of propriety. Mr. Willing uses, primarily, George Apley’s own letters to tell most of the story. Yet Apley is also ruled by propriety. As he writes his son when John is at Harvard, “There are some things which one does not speak about and you will learn to follow this same reticence. I am glad to tell you before I leave this subject that there are very few skeletons in our family closet.” It is interesting how skillfully Marquand utilizes his faulty — or, rather, withholding — narrators. Despite their editing of emotions, we read between the lines, we draw conclusions from what is omitted; when Apley does give a look into his innermost thoughts — regrets, disappointments, doubts — it carries special weight, given his high regard for reticence. At the end of the book the portrait of George Apley is there, but he seems to stand a bit to the side, in shadows. Actually, this is entirely appropriate to the nature of the man.
As for the events of his life, the closest George Apley came to sordidness was the O’Reilly affair. He tangled with that unscrupulous politician (the new breed of Irish who were rising to political power and who Apley deplored). He steps into a trap O’Reilly sets for him. He enters a hotel room and finds a woman in a negligee. Two police officers immediately burst in. O’Reilly soon arrives, proposing that he and Apley settle their differences. To O’Reilly’s surprise, Apley demands to be taken to the station house and arrested. He wants to fight the charges of immoral behavior in court (to the consternation of his family and friends). But something causes him to back out. It involves a Mary Monahan. She is related by marriage to O’Reilly; she asks George to let the matter drop. He complies to her request.
Who is Mary Monahan? In his time at Harvard George had a brief fling at rebellion, which included his love for this Irish girl. The end of their relationship is described by Mr. Willing as hidden behind a “blank wall of silence.” But it is obvious that his parents and his extended family and the society he lived in banded together to deter him from his inappropriate choice. When Mary returns to his life, Apley, now an elderly man, refers to her, in a letter to his friend Walker, as the ghost of an Annabelle Lee. “We had our own kingdom by the sea once.” He and Mary sit together in his library and “She was much more real to me and the time we spent is a much more real space of time than anything in the dull years that have elapsed. In those two hours I could feel that I was alive again. . . .”
But the young Harvard student, after being whisked away on a summer tour of Europe with his aunt and uncle, buckled down to the responsibilities of his name and position, which allowed only the “right” conduct: the right school, the right clubs, the right friends, the right wife. He becomes a strong advocate of these values. Inherited money makes him a man of independent means. He never participates in the rough and tumble of the commercial world (his father had little faith in his being able to survive there). Apley’s occupation — he’s a lawyer for a venerable Boston firm — involves the handling of the money of the wealthy with caution, and George Apley is most definitely a cautious man. He fills his ample free time with club life, worrying about the grey squirrels in the attic of their summer home, outings to Pequod Island (a male preserve until invaded by the women), his collection of Chinese bronze bowls, writing letters to family, friends and the Boston Evening Transcript, reading, working with the Save Boston Society. He lives quietly, without extravagance or ostentation. Very little is said of his marriage, and that absence is significant; the reader knows that it is loveless. Late in life he develops a platonic relationship with a lady his age. Although the doctors are against it, due to his heart condition, he insists on making his Saturday bird walk with Clara.
George Apley’s greatest concern is his son, the person who will carry on the Apley name. The boy grows into a man not willing to abide by the constrictions that his father did. It is the same with his daughter; she will not be ruled by what she considers outdated standards of conduct. In the span of George Apley’s life the world changed radically. In the 20's and 30's new ideas and the spirit of rebellion were in the air; and, in John’s case, the experiences he had in France in World War I made him into his own man. Both children become independent souls. John marries a divorcee, moves from Boston to New York. His father, though deeply disappointed, is easily forgiving; he’s a different sort of person from the iron-fisted predecessors who were able to control him.
Near his death he writes his son a letter in which he expresses misgivings. He looked back at his life and his elegiac conclusion is that “I cannot say I liked it very much.” “When I stopped to think of it, I had the unpleasant conviction that everything I have done has amounted to almost nothing.” Though he has known pleasures — nature, his enjoyment of his children when they were small — he sees an incapability to fully experience joy. “I have been taught since boyhood not to give way to sensuality. I think this afternoon, now that it is almost too late, that this viewpoint has been a little wrong.”
Despite this summing up, the novel is not depressing. There’s a buoyancy to Apley. He never plunges into despair; he’s a man who accepts what is and carries on. He also has an ability to absorb himself in causes. That these causes do not amount to much provides both the tragedy of his life and much of the humor in the book. A life filled with minutiae can seem foolish. So can snobbery. While living in one residence, George sees a man outside in his shirt sleeves and decides at that moment that he will move to a more exclusive neighborhood. The narrowness of propriety is such that, on a tour of Europe with his wife, the Apleys constantly come across friends from Boston. Yet George Apley is not a caricature. In his quiet, resolute way he has moral fiber. His son tells Mr. Willing to write the truth because “You know, and I know, that Father had guts.” I believe John meant that his father could face the truth. In his letter to his son he acknowledges that a diminishment of spirit has occurred in him, not something easy to admit.
Given the seeming lack of material, The Late George Apley is lively. It’s remarkable that an uneventful life can result in so rich a novel. I would say that any life is of interest if presented with perception. When I finished the book I felt that I knew George Apley. More important, I cared about him. No mean accomplishment for any writer. One cannot say that a book lacks passion if it stirs emotion in the reader.
The date and place of Tillie Olsen’s birth is not known with certainty (her birth certificate was lost). It was probably1912 in Omaha, Nebraska. Her parents were Jewish immigrants; they participated in the abortive 1905 Russian revolution and had to flee the country. The family first settled on a Nebraska farm. After this failed, they moved to Omaha. There Samuel Lerner worked at various low-paying jobs (including that of a trimmer in a meat packing house, a job that Tillie would also hold). Both parents were life-long activists in socialist and humanitarian causes. Whatever was unjust would have a Lerner protesting it. It would be the same with Tillie. Her first arrest, when she was a teenager, was for distributing pro-unionization leaflets.
Tillie was the second of seven children, and a lot of the responsibility for the younger siblings fell upon her. (At an early age she felt the absence of time and solitude in her life.) Ten-year-old Tillie shelled peanuts after school. But she did get an education; she was one of the few from her working-class neighborhood to “cross the tracks” and attend an academic high school. There she was ostracized socially by the more affluent students; it didn’t help that she stuttered. She had to drop out in the eleventh grade due to financial considerations. But, as she has observed, she did get a good education, something rare for a female of her social class. She was also introduced to literature.
Tillie read whatever she could get her hands on. She found that the speech of the immigrants around her was not to be found. Nor were their experiences. Most books were written by members of the privileged classes. She felt that she had something to contribute, something that wasn’t there. She wanted to give a voice to “her people.” At a young age she dedicated herself to be a “great writer.”
Out of school, Tillie took on low wage jobs and was active politically. A turning point in her life occurred when she was working in a tie factory; her station was next to the only open window and also near one of the few steam radiators; she developed pleurisy. It was then she was jailed for distributing leaflets. In prison her condition developed into tuberculosis.
To recover, she moved to Minnesota and was free, for a time, of wage-earning and political work. She began to write Yonnondio in 1932 (the title is taken from a Walt Whitman poem and refers to a lament for the aborigines — a lament for the lost; I feel, artistically, that the title is a mistake). She was twenty years old. However, she became pregnant in the same month she began writing the novel; a daughter, Karla (named after Karl Marx) was born. Tillie only lived sporadically with the father (she was never married to him). She remembers this time as one of great poverty and stress.
Yet here in Tillie Olsen’s biography comes a set of circumstances that I find perplexing. In 1934 the first chapter of Yonnondio was published in the Partisan Review under the title of “The Iron Throat.” The story was met with acclaim in New York’s literary/political circles. It was described as a work of a genius. Four publishing houses made efforts to locate Tillie Lerner. She eventually signed a contract with Random House; they offered her a stipend in return for completing a chapter every month. In 1935 Tillie sent two-year-old Karla to live with her parents and moved to Los Angeles. There she rubbed elbows with big-name authors. But she felt that she was looked upon as a curiosity by the Hollywood Left (the “cocktail set,” as she called them). These weren’t her people. She missed her daughter. In 1936 she forfeited her contract with Random House, moved to San Francisco, and brought Karla to live with her. After working on the novel intermittently, she abandoned it.
I used the word “perplexing” to describe the events of the previous paragraph. How, from a person of such obscurity, does a chapter of Yonnondio appear on the desk of an editor of an influential New York magazine? I could see how the material would appeal to them. The Partisan Review began publishing in 1934 (the same year Tillie’s story appeared); it was founded under the auspices of the John Reed Society, which was affiliated with the Communist Party of America. A look at the brutalizing effects of industrialization — done artfully — and written by a twenty-year-old woman who had firsthand knowledge! But how did the story get to New York? I assume that Tillie’s political activities put her in contact with someone who passed the manuscript along.
Also perplexing is the fact that the version of Yonnondio I read contains eight chapters; it’s a short novel. What prevented Tillie from producing those chapters? Why did she move to Los Angeles and the sophisticated literary circle there? She was given a unique opportunity, almost manna falling from heaven, but it seems that she frittered it away. Random House was a major publishing firm; her book would not languish in obscurity. If Yonnondio had appeared in 1935, when the inhuman conditions she described were at their height, could it have made an impact? I believe it would have, for the novel has the considerable power to make people feel what Olsen’s characters are suffering. As it turned out, the book would be completed and published in 1972, when those conditions were largely ameliorated.
In 1936 Tillie Lerner began living with a Young Communist League comrade, Jack Olsen. They married eight years later. Tillie Lerner became Tillie Olsen. She worked a variety of jobs (waitress, hotel maid, secretary, etc.); she continued her political activism. She had three more children. She believed that the most important role in her life was that of mother.
Since this is a literary study of Tillie Olsen, we can skip to 1953, when she was forty-one. With all her children in school, she enrolled in a creative writing class at San Francisco State University. In 1955 she won a Stanford University Fellowship for her story “I Stand Here Ironing.” She had eight months which she could devote to writing, free of the responsibility of a job. Still, the fellowship ran out, and she returned to a nine hour workday; another period of literary silence set in.
Then, in 1959, she was awarded a Ford Foundation Grant, and in 1962 Tell Me a Riddle was published. It consists of the title story, which had won the O’Henry Award for Best Story of the Year in 1961, and three others, including “I Stand Here Ironing.”
I give such attention to the dates because they reveal a lack of productivity. Again, she was blessed. She received two prestigious endowments, yet in a seven year period she came up with three stories (“Ironing” had been written prior to the Stanford Fellowship). Tillie Olsen — who wanted to give a voice to “her people,” who wanted to be a “great writer” — produced a very small body of work. It can’t be attributed entirely to the demands of wife, mother and wage-earner (significantly, much of her time was devoted to social activism, not to writing). It wasn’t a lack of talent. In her extremely eventful life, she had plenty of material. She had passion. She simply did not get the words down on paper. Did she ultimately fail in her self-appointed calling?
Tell Me a Riddle, a few other stories, and Yonnondio constitute the full extent of her fiction. She wrote one non-fiction book, appropriately titled Silences. Much of it is composed of quotations from other writers and short observations. A key section, “Silences in Literature,” is a transcript of a talk Olsen gave at Radcliffe Institute. Silences is, in a sense, a book in which Tillie writes very little.
After the publication of Tell Me a Riddle in 1962, Olsen became a member of the university/literary establishment. She received a dazzling array of grants, endowments and fellowships (Guggenheim, National Endowment for the Arts, Radcliffe Institute Fellowship, etc.). These provided her with financial resources, as did her teaching stints at many universities. She was in high demand as a lecturer. She remained active in a wide variety of causes, of which the women’s rights movement was prominent. She had respect and prestige and, among some (including the author Margaret Atwood), she is viewed with reverence.
She died on the first day of 2007. Her four daughters were at her bedside.
I will close with an account of the resurrection of Yonnondio. Forty years after she had begun the book the author, now well-known, was staying at the MacDowell Writers’ Colony. She brought with her the yellowed, tattered pages of the manuscript that her husband had come across in a drawer. In the five months she spent at MacDowell she entered (as she described it) into a partnership with her younger self; the first chapters offered almost no problems, but the rest was a process of struggling with versions, revisions, drafts and notes. She states that she did not write any new material, nor rewrite what was there; she simply brought to fruition what the young woman had done. Since the book was unfinished, she left it unfinished.
The University of Nebraska’s Bison Books reissued the novel in 2004.
What follows is the opening scene of Yonnondio:
The whistles always awoke Maisie. They pierced into her sleep like some guttural-voiced metal beast, tearing at her; breathing a terror. During the day if the whistle blew, she knew it meant death — somebody’s poppa or brother, perhaps her own — in that fearsome place below the ground, the mine.The book ends in the terrible heat of summer. Jim works in temperatures of 107 degrees (a hellish world where men and women are “steamed boiled broiled fried cooked. Geared, meshed”). He gets home and crawls onto a water-soaked pallet under the porch stoop and falls asleep, drugged by exhaustion. In the kitchen little Ben whispers to his older sister Maizie, “’Splain to me about bad dreams, tell me about boogie mans and scaredies and hell.” Anna, the mother, holds baby Bess, singing with heat-cracked lips, “ I Saw a Ship a-Sailing.” Bess grabs the lid of a fruit jar; she bangs it on the table; slam, bang, bang; she experiences the deep human satisfaction of achievement. “I can do, I can use my powers; I! I!” Heat and the constant thick dust in the air (is it from the Dust Bowl?) are almost suffocating. Will, the second child, comes home with a borrowed crystal set, and for the first time they hear radio sound. Anna goes out and wakens Jim; the windblown dust stings her face and arms. The novel’s closing words are Anna’s: “Here, I’ll help you. The air’s changin, Jim. Come in and get freshened up. I see for it to end tomorrow, at least get tolerable.”
“God damn that blowhorn,” she heard her father mutter. Creak of him getting out of bed. The door closed, with the yellow light from the kerosene lamp making a long crack on the floor. Clatter of dishes. Her mother’s tired, grimy voice.
“What’ll ya have? Coffee and eggs? There ain’t no bacon.”
In this conclusion we see the persistence of hope. But it survives precariously. Yonnondio is not a treatise about injustice, though that element is present. Mine operators pay barely subsistence wages for deadly work; banks keep tenant farmers bound in a form of slavery; packinghouse owners use men and women until they’ve worn them down, then discard them. But the book is primarily a psychological study of six people who have to live in this brutal and brutalizing world. The members of the Holbrook family are sometimes brutish toward one another. Despair and exhaustion and deprivation are not the ingredients for a happy family life. Anna can be shrewish; Jim, who drinks when he is overwhelmed by the circumstances of his life, comes home in a violent mood; the children turn on each other. Blows and cruel words are common.
Yet what survives is a close bond. Whatever their troubles, Anna and Jim love one another. And they love and have hopes for their children. But that is part of their despair. They see that the life they are giving the children is worse than the ones they were brought up in. “Seems we can’t do nothing for them in this damn world,” says Anna. And it truly seems that they can’t. Anna and Jim recognize that education is necessary if their children are to have a better life. But the schooling provided the two older Holbrook children resembles incarceration; both children turn away from it. When Anna takes out a library card, the insipid books the librarian selects for Maizie and Will lie untouched. They prefer the ever-fascinating mysteries and adventures of the city dump.
The main character, the one through whose eyes most of the story is seen, is Maizie, six years old at the beginning of the book. She is a strange child; she has a dreamy nature, but her dreams are often disturbing. In the city her younger brother Will seems headed to become a street-smart tough. Little Ben is fear-ridden, obsessively so. Everyone in the family is a bit distorted by the circumstances of their lives. The innocent baby Bess asserts her individuality at the end of the book (“I! I!”) but what awaits her?
Olsen employs a wide range of styles — interior monologue; the use of many voices; italicized fragments. But Yonnondio is most unique in how it commingles two types of perceptions. Often the book is as gritty and authentic as the pavement; but at times, abruptly, we are in an impressionistic collage of images and feelings. There is a fluency to this commingling because both perceptions are true to Maizie, who perceives her world through a lens that both makes reality more vivid and also distorts it.
Perhaps the most masterful sequence involves Anna’s sickness. It is presented emotionally rather than medically (since poverty precluded any real medical care). Anna struggles to keep the family going in the face of a debilitating weakness, both of body and mind. Often she fails, drifting into a sleep that is clearly a prelude to death. Her husband and children watch with a dumb, hopeless fear. When Anna recovers — rises and returns to the duties of her life, and does so with purpose and determination — we have seen a resurrection of the spirit.
The duties of life . . . Jim works, but Anna works almost as hard. They have too many children; she must clean a home that insists on staying filthy; she launders, cooks. She takes on jobs to supplement Jim’s income. She is always exhausted. The depiction of Anna is a tribute to motherhood. While they are living on the farm, Maizie meets Old Man Caldwell, and they strike up a close, almost spiritual, friendship. He is educated, and he tells her many things, trying to impart some sustaining knowledge to the child. About her mother he says, “Maizie. Live, don’t exist. Learn from your mother, who has had everything to grind out life and yet has kept life. Alive, felt what’s real, known what’s real. People can live their whole life not knowing.”
The struggling Holbrooks suffer, but they can experience joy (watching a makeshift firework’s display, going on an expedition into empty lots looking for dandelions and other greens, even the simple act of singing). Economically powerless, they stubbornly assert their individuality. If they must escape — the father into drink, young Will onto the dangerous streets, Mazie into a fantasy world — they do it. It’s what they need to do to survive, so they do it.
The novel was unfinished. What lay ahead for the Holbrooks? We recognize that they could be a happy family if given a chance. We come to believe in their strengths. All have the potential to achieve. But most likely the potential is doomed never to come to fruition. Tillie Olsen’s characters exist in a trap; I could see no way out for them. The Holbrooks, as a family, may not endure. In the “damn world” they are caught up in, time and its toll seem destined to grind them down physically and emotionally. It is a tragic story as old as man.
To have and have not. Considerations arise, mainly regarding inequality. Putting it in the simplest terms, the Apleys being served the finest food on the finest china while the Holbrooks half starve is an ugly image. But that image never occurred to George Apley. He had servants and his family owned a textile mill; that was the extent of his familiarity with the working class. He made generous donations to organizations that aid the poor; he did so from a sense of obligation to those less fortunate and also because such donations reflected the status of the Apley name.
Yet there are different forms of wealth and poverty. Caldwell’s words to Maizie about the need to learn from her mother — to live, to know and feel what’s real — have relevance for George Apley He is one of those people who, as Caldwell cautions, “can live their whole life not knowing.” Apley recognized this lack in himself — when it was too late to make up for it.
It is interesting to note that George Apley’s ancestors, the ones who established the family fortune, were tough, hardworking, indomitable. The Holbrooks display that same toughness, drive, willingness to work, yet the economics of the society they live in require only strong backs, nothing else. From the brute labor of many a few make fortunes. The Holbrooks could not be blind to those facts. Although Yonnondio (in its unfinished form) never went into the subject of protest, anger is a natural response for the downtrodden. And from this anger came the ideologies of Socialism and Communism, which in turn led to the union movement. It is here that the two worlds, that of the Haves and the Have-Nots, collided, with club and brick and bomb and gun.
But these considerations are not in the pages of The Late George Apley nor in Yonnondio. It is the coincidental fact that I happened to read the books consecutively which gives rise to these thoughts. What each author presented were people living the lives they were born into. John P. Marquand and Tillie Olsen both explored the human heart as they knew it.