McTeague, the man, is the embodiment of the majority of human civilization. The simplicity and directness of the themes are so free-flowing they are hardly noticible: success, wealth, power, the fear of losing that which elevates citizens to one of the three social classes: 1) Wealth 2) Middle-class 3) Poverty. The characters in the novel: McTeague, Trina, Marcus, Zerkow, etc., are all simple-minded individuals longing for something that is universal in life: success and comfort.
But what happens when that goal, that climax, is never achieved, almost achieved but never fully there or worse yet, achieved but then brutally snatched away? That is what happenes to McTeague, a dentist, who can no longer practice his craft because he holds no dental degree. What happens when that comfort zone, that stability, is yanked away and gnawed into pieces so miniscule it can’t be reconstructed to its original form? Can he rise from his adversity or will he, like many before him and many after him, fall into the pits of criminal behavior and social depravity? As is always unfortunately the case, the latter is almost always what comes into fruition. There is a force in the novel that brings the characters quietly together. The dark happenings that they incur as a result of their narrow-minded longings almost makes what happens to them inevitable. The writing itself is lucid and relaxed, which is a real accomplishment considering the horror he puts his characters through. The scenes of San Francisco, the desert and the village-oriented type feel of Polk Street where the beginning action takes place are wonderfully described, not laborious as compared to the old and tragic English novels of the 19th Century and onward. For any literate individual interested in how greed can destroy a life, McTeague is the book for you.