Focusing on Jennie Gerhardt, a poor young girl in Columbus, Ohio, Theodore Dreiser’s novel depicts her inadvertently defying a host of conventions-of class, gender, family, and religion. Over a quarter of a century she is repeatedly victimized by circumstance, temperament, and most particularly the fact of her sex. Yet the triumph of the book lies in her incorrigibly loving nature. Cast out by society as well as by her family, she none the less fosters a far deeper understanding of relationships than anyone else. It is no surprise that she was her author’s favourite heroine.