Underlying the book’s research is the paradoxical fact that all of these writers were champions of social causes and spokesmen for the underprivileged. Garland, Norris, and Dreiser all advocated social reforms to benefit the poor and disadvantaged. Wharton and Cather decried the plight of women in American society and campaigned for women’s rights. Nevertheless, in terms of their position on Jews (as well as other immigrant and minority groups) all five were unsympathetic, inclined to perceive Jews as wily bankers, crafty entertainment industry swindlers, impossible to domesticate and genetically savage.
Not all of these writers exposed their dislike of Jews in their fiction. Wharton’s novels, as a prime example, did not advertise their author’s elitist outlook or anti-Semitic feelings. Pizer, however, does an excellent job of uncovering these attitudes and demonstrating how they were not renegade or marginal positions, but solidly embedded notions that were part of Wharton and the other writers’ formative years — an ugly intellectual blemish that marred their often enlightened and generous social thinking.