Fulfilment and Other Tales of Women and Men

Sherwood Anderson, commenting on Dreiser’s short stories, said that “if there is a modern movement in American prose writing, a movement toward greater courage and fidelity to life, then Theodore Dreiser is the pioneer and the hero of that movement.” For this collection, noted Dreiser scholar T. D. Nostwich has chosen the thirteen tales that he considers Dreiser’s best. If a common theme unites these stories, says Nostwich, it is that “all the characters share an intense hunger for life and for the fulfilment of the promises, however humble, that life seems to hold out.”

Seems is the telling word here, for in the fiction of Dreiser, “promises are in most cases mere illusions, circumstances are greater than personalities, and the impotence of human wishes is the tragedy of everyday life.” These stories were originally published between 1918 and 1934. Twelve are drawn from Dreiser’s collections Free (1918), Twelve Men (1919), Chains (1927), and A Gallery of Women (1929). The remaining story, “Mathewson,” was published in Esquire in 1934 and is reprinted here for the first time. All have been scrupulously edited by Professor Nostwich, and some are supplemented by previously unpublished passages drawn from the original typescripts in the Dreiser Collection of the University of Pennsylvania.


  • Rella (1929)
  • Peter (1919)
  • Reina (1929)
  • “Vanity, Vanity,” Saith the Preacher (1919)
  • Fulfilment (1927)
  • Mathewson (1934)
  • The “Mercy” of God (1927)
  • Ida Hauchawout (1929)
  • Chains (1927)
  • The Second Choice (1918)
  • Sanctuary (1927)
  • Bridget Mullanphy (1929)
  • Muldoon, the Solid Man (1919)

Theodore Dreiser was one of the most influential American authors of his generation, a harbinger of the  modernist era that would follow him. Born in Indiana to a German-American farming family of ten, he attended Indiana University for two years before dropping out to work as a journalist. His novels and nonfiction narratives, which he began publishing in his thirties, were controversial for their gritty realism, sexual frankness, and sympathy for the plight of underrepresented people such as working women and African-Americans. He has been called “one of the American giants” by renowned literary critic Irving Howe.

Theodore Daniel Nostwich was a foremost authority on Theodore Dresier. He taught at Iowa State University from 1968 until his retirement in 1998.