Norma Ashe

By Susan Glaspell
THE author describes this book as “the story of what happens to the idealism of youth, how it is bruised by living and often defeated.” Five fellow students come under the spell of a gifted teacher in an obscure coeducational college and are graduated in the conviction that they are elect and dedicated beings whose lives are going to count measurably toward the world’s betterment. A quarter-century later one of them is a fashionably cynical novelist; one a powerful labor leader and fomenter of class war; another a smugly paternalistic manufacturer, who has reduced idealism to a science of feathering his own nest; still another a rich but starved wife with a susceptibility to quack religions.
Norma Ashe, the best-endowed with spiritual promise, has become Mrs. Utterbuch, a widow slaving her life away in a forlorn struggle to maintain her equity in a dingy boardinghouse, to repatch the patches on its roof, and to impose her standards of respectability on a worthless son and a thankless daughter.
The story undertakes to get its ultimate motive power from the communicable ideas oi a man many years dead, the great teacher of her youth; but the reader, having waited and searched in vain for an adequate communication of what his ideas specifically were, ends by wondering whether they amounted to much more than the vaguely rebellious emotional aspiration that in our callow youth we so easily mistake for an inspired philosophy of life. W. F.