McTeague's Tooth


Hanging in my office is a large golden tooth--a gift from a student, Sullivan Anlyan, who created it in recognition of my obsessive fascination with Frank Norris's McTeague (1899).  In the novel, the tooth becomes a dominant symbol for McTeague's desire to enter the middle class. 

From McTeague:

The golden molar itself

Just outside his window was his signboard--a modest affair--that read: "Doctor McTeague. Dental Parlors. Gas Given"; but that was all. It was his ambition, his dream, to have projecting from that corner window a huge gilded tooth, a molar with enormous prongs, something gorgeous and attractive. (p. 3)

It was the Tooth--the famous golden molar with its huge prongs--his sign, his ambition, the one unrealized dream of his life; and it was French gilt, too, not the cheap German gilt that was no good. . . . How immense it looked in that little room! The thing was tremendous, overpowering, the tooth of a gigantic fossil, golden and dazzling. Behind it everything seemed dwarfed. (p. 84)

. . . a huge, vague bulk, looming there through the half darkness in the centre of the room, shining dimly out as if with some mysterious light of its own. (p. 86)

Quotations from McTeague, by Frank Norris.  Ed. Donald Pizer.  2nd ed. New York: Norton, 1997.

The Tooth--before the "cheap German gilt that was no good"

Sullivan Anlyan, the Tooth's creator

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