The Magnificent Ambersons

The Magnificent Ambersons  
First edition
Author(s) Booth Tarkington
Country United States
Language English
Publisher Doubleday
Publication date 1918
Media type Print
This is an article about the 1918 novel. For the 1942 film adaptation, see The Magnificent Ambersons (film)

The Magnificent Ambersons is a 1918 novel by Booth Tarkington which won the 1919 Pulitzer Prize for novel. It was the second novel in his Growth trilogy, which included The Turmoil (1915) and The Midlander (1923, retitled National Avenue in 1927). In 1925 the novel was first adapted for film under the title Pampered Youth. In 1942 Orson Welles directed an acclaimed film version of the book; Welles's original screenplay was the basis of 2002 TV movie produced by the A&E Network.



The novel and trilogy trace the growth of the United States through the declining fortunes of three generations of the aristocratic Amberson family in an upper-scale Indianapolis neighborhood, between the end of the Civil War and the early part of the 20th century, a period of rapid industrialization and socio-economic change in America. The decline of the Ambersons is contrasted with the rising fortunes of industrial tycoons and other new-money families, which did not derive power from family names but by "doing things." As George Amberson's friend (name unspecified) says, "don't you think being things is 'rahthuh bettuh' than doing things?"

The titular family are the most prosperous and powerful in town at the turn of the century. Young George Amberson Minafer, the patriarch’s grandson, is spoiled terribly by his mother Isabel. Growing up arrogant, sure of his own worth and position and totally oblivious to the lives of others, George falls in love with Lucy Morgan, a young though sensible debutante. But there is a long history between George’s mother and Lucy’s father, of which George is unaware. As the town grows into a city, industry thrives, the Ambersons’ prestige and wealth wanes and the Morgans – thanks to Lucy’s prescient father – grow prosperous. When George sabotages his widowed mother's growing affections for Lucy's father, life as he knows it comes to an end.


"The Magnificent Ambersons is perhaps Tarkington's best novel," said Van Wyck Brooks. "[It is] a typical story of an American family and town—the great family that locally ruled the roost and vanished virtually in a day as the town spread and darkened into a city. This novel no doubt was a permanent page in the social history of the United States, so admirably conceived and written was the tale of the Ambersons, their house, their fate and the growth of the community in which they were submerged in the end."

While the story is set in a fictitious city, it was inspired by Tarkington's hometown of Indianapolis and the neighborhood he once lived in, Woodruff Place.[1][2]

The Magnificent Ambersons has been adapted into film three times: In 1925 under the title Pampered Youth, an award-winning 1942 film directed by Orson Welles, and a 2002 made for television film.


  1. ^ V. F. Perkins. (08 2000). "The Magnificent Ambersons (book review)". University of Nottingham. Retrieved 2008-07-13. "Woodruff Place in Indianapolis, Indiana can't be found on a tourist map, but it would probably interest anyone who is familiar with Orson Welles's adaptation of Booth Tarkington's The Magnificent Ambersons" 
  2. ^ "Historic Districts". City of Indianapolis. Retrieved 2008-07-13. "Woodruff Place was the city's first "suburb" and was the setting for Booth Tarkington's Pulitzer Prize winning novel, The Magnificent Ambersons" 

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