February 24, 2015
Theodore Dreiser was born in Indiana in 1871 to immigrant parents. Growing up with emotional instability, religious bigotory, and with the poverty the family was required to move frequently due to the need of money. Mr. Dreiser attended University of Indiana for newspaper journalism. Through the use of letters he became a pioneer of naturalism. Human life was represented by a mechanic, however he also showed the goals of a capitalist society and the human desire to survive. Being in the field of journalism, Dreiser insisted that writers report life as they see it and not only have an effect on the younger writers, but American life as a whole. Dreiser was first published in 1918. His life experiences and social ideas largely effect “The Second Choice”, especially his ideas of human want and a hate of wealth.
“The Second Choice” is the story of a young woman in her twenty’s named Shirley. She was from a fairly small city, perhaps in the Midwest, in the post war/ pre depression era. Shirley has found herself to be surrounded by two lovers, Arthurs and Burton, she struggles with the idea of finding a husband. She has a down-to-earth, and kind, yet; dull fiancé named Barton Williams. She is with him because he is safe, reliable and in love with her. While Shirley was visiting a friend for Thanksgiving, she meets a man by the name of Arthur Bristow, who is full of adventure, exciting, and romantic. She falls for him because he is “young, energetic, good looking, ambitious and spontaneous” (1383). Arthur plays hard to get, and keeps his distance from her, and never actively shows his love for her. Shirley immediately falls in love with him and begins to involve herself in a complex series of lies to ensure that both men do not find out about the other. Shirley prefers Arthur because he always says yes, yes and sure, sure! He seems to be the perfect match for her. Arthur sends her flowers all the time and gives Shirley the attention she requires. Thinking of the story, it is a complicated twist on the traditional girl meets boy, girl gets boy, and girl loses boy type of story. All through the story, Shirley constantly dotes over trying to figure where she stands in Arthur’s future plans. When she realizes that she does not and never will have a part in them, she experiences difficulty with accepting this and continues to seek out her future with him, she takes it to the point of avoiding Barton like the plague. As the plot continues, he sees her less often, then begins to write her less frequently, until he sends her a last letter. In the letter he does not evade the issue and explains to her of his plans to move to Java. Furthermore, she accepts the advantages of Barton, while still longing for Arthur. As the story comes to an end, Shirley finds herself restrained to choose Barton because her true love, Arthur, does not show interest in her. So in the end Barton’s unconditional love wins her and she decides he is the she should marry.
Throughout the story you see the mistreatment of women and how many women have no choice. In the eyes of Arthur women are objects and expendable. His view of women is to basically have a good time. This is seen on page 1385, “Arthur was headstrong and wanted her every evening that he chose”, this indicates that Arthur does not care about Shirley’s opinions or wishes because he sees himself as superior to her because she is a woman. Then on page 1386 it states “He never seemed to have any fixed clear future for himself in mind”, this clearly illustrates that he is using her. Barton has a plan, however, Shirley ignores it. She is in love. Finally, on page 1387, “beginning of just such days and just such excuses”. This is when Arthur begins to ignore her. This tells the reader that he does not care for her emotions because she is seen as an object to him. However, this is when the “second