McTeague: A Story of San Francisco

McTeague: A Story of San Francisco

McTeague: A Story of San Francisco

McTeague: A Story of San Francisco


Inspired by an actual crime that was sensationalized in the San Francisco papers, this novel tells the story of charlatan dentist McTeague and his wife Trina, and their spiralling descent into moral corruption. Norris is often considered to be the "American Zola," and this passionate tale of greed, degeneration, and death is one of the most purely naturalistic American novels of the nineteenth century. It is also one of the first major works of literature set in California, and it provided the story for Erich von Stroheim's classic of the silent screen, Greed.


It was Sunday, and, according to his custom on that day, McTeague took his dinner at two in the afternoon at the car conductors' coffee-joint on Polk Street. He had a thick gray soup; heavy, underdone meat, very hot, on a cold plate; two kinds of vegetables; and a sort of suet pudding, full of strong butter and sugar. On his way back to his office, one block above, he stopped at Joe Frenna's saloon and bought a pitcher of steam beer. It was his habit to leave the pitcher there on his way to dinner.

Once in his office, or, as he called it on his signboard, 'Dental Parlors,' he took off his coat and shoes, unbuttoned his vest, and, having crammed his little stove full of coke, lay back in his operating chair at the bay window, reading the paper, drinking his beer, and smoking his huge porcelain pipe while his food digested; crop-full, stupid, and warm. By and by, gorged with steam beer, and overcome by the heat of the room, the cheap tobacco, and the effects of his heavy meal, he dropped off to sleep. Late in the afternoon his canary bird, in its gilt cage just over his head, began to sing. He woke slowly, finished the rest of his beer--very flat and stale by this time--and taking down his concertina from the book-case, where in week days it kept the company of seven volumes of 'Allen's Practical Dentist,' played upon it some half-dozen very mournful airs.

McTeague looked forward to these Sunday afternoons as a period of relaxation and enjoyment. He invariably spent them in the same fashion. These were his only pleasures--to eat, to smoke, to sleep, and to play upon his concertina.

The six lugubrious airs that he knew, always carried him back to the time when he was a car-boy at the Big Dipper . . .

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