Alice Adams


This lightly-plotted story from 1921 concerns a 22-year-old young woman who acts more like teenaged girls we might have encountered in 1960s comic books: flirty, thoughtless, self-absorbed. She is 22, virginal, living at home with her parents, socially isolated, ordinary, and virtually skill-less, wholly occupied with what dress she might be able to cobble together for the next society ball; how to pamper and prod her ailing and unambitious father; and how to ignore Walter, her ne’er-do-well brother who hangs out with stable-hands and girls of questionable repute. What is to become of a girl like Alice?

Genre and Mode

Alice Adams becomes the first of Tarkington’s “serious” literature to be almost entirely set in a domestic environment, and the family home in particular. As Tarkington later came to establish himself as perhaps the nation’s pre-eminent literary champion of middle-American workaday women, Alice Adams’ fate at the end of the novel also foreshadowed a “new day” for her creator as well.

Publication Data

First published by Doubleday, Page & Company, May 20, 1921. Priced at $1.75. 30,000 copies in first printing. First state of first edition includes the following error on p. 419, line 14: “I can’t see you why don’t…” (incorrect word order). Also printed on watermarked paper (Warren’s olde style). Binding is a British tan mesh cloth. See Russo and Sullivan for complete collation of first edition.