Considered by many to be Howells' best work, this tale of social injustice is also one of the first novels to portray New York City. The book deals with the issues of post-Civil War America during the "Gilded Age", including labor disputes, the rise of the self-made millionaire, the growth of urban America and the influx of immigrants. It is an important example of American literary realism showing a variety of people from very different backgrounds.
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