The Job: An American Novel was one of two novels printed by Sinclair Lewis in 1917. The other was The Innocents which many consider to be another “pot boiler” of a novel. “Pot boiler” is the modern equivalent of “pulp fiction” or “mass market fiction.” The Job is a serious novel.
“The Job” takes place over a decade from 1905-1915. In this novel the hero is actually a heroine: Miss Una Golden. In 1905 she is 24 yrs. old and lives in the town of Panama, Pennsylvania.
The rest of the story over those ten years is about Una’s determination to find a good, romantic man to fall in love with while also making a career for herself in business, considered a “man’s job.”
Walter Babson is an early suitor who appears like a good man. However, there is another man who appears, a widower named Edward Schwirtz who is a smooh talking salesman. In a bad decision, she marries him. The next couple years are unhappy and finally she divorces him.
The novel focuses a lot on the issues of exploited workers, particularly women workers. This time period the question really is work vs. marriage since it was deeply frowned upon for a woman to do both.
It is difficult for working women to find a mate because there is a stigma attached to working, part of the reason that Una makes a bad decision to marry the wrong man.
But along the way, she meets very influential women, and Una proves to be a smart, capable woman who finds her way in a male dominated world. Despite a lot of darkness, this book ends up with a deus ex machina happy ending in the last few pages.
The first man she really had any interest in, Walter Babson, turns up again and the ending pages cause the reader to believe that they will make there future together, both with jobs, and hoping to have children.
This book was very controversial during its time, pushing women’s rights, dealing with anti-Semetism, and this novel was daring enough to mention alcoholism, venereal disease, divorce, adoption by a single women, and women who drink and smoke. Through out dealing with all this, the main heroine, Una, still remains a proper Victorian lady.
This is an interesting work, an is considered by many to be the first of three novels written by Sinclair Lewis that strongly pushes the rights of the working woman.