Nazism. Communism. Socialism. Feudalism. Politics. Art. Music. Spiritualism. Family. Duty.
In Dragon’s Teeth, Upton Sinclair brings alive the history of Germany during the 1930’s. Through the fictional character of Lanny Budd, the reader experiences the events surrounding the rise of Nazism. This novel won the 1943 Pulitzer Prize for the Novel and is the third book in the Lanny Budd Series. The novel was written well before the end of WWII.
Briefly, the novel opens with Lanny Budd’s wife Irma, an heiress, giving birth to their first child, Frances. Irma is a socialite and a celebrity. Much to his wife’s consternation, Lanny has a keen interest in Socialism. His half-sister, Marceline, has married into a Jewish family. Lanny has friendships that include Communists, Socalists, Capitalists, and Nazis. The first part of the novel describes various social engagements. In the second half of the novel, a number of Jewish members of the family are taken prisoner by the Nazis. Lanny uses his social connections and risks his life to try to get them out of Germany.
For me, Dragon’s Teeth did not get interesting until the second half of the book. The first part of the novel seemed like just another story about rich people, and I had to force myself to read it. Maybe I felt that way because I did not read the first two books in the series. The novel picks up once Lanny tries to rescue his Jewish family members. As far as I’m concerned, the novel would have been better without the first 200 to 300 pages.
At time, I found the politics and historical events interesting and at other times I found them boring. Sinclair describes the economic and social climate that provided a fertile ground for the rise of the Nazis regime. This made me think of some of the events in America and Europe these past few years. Knowing one’s history helps one more easily see the beginning of a potential repeat. Sinclair talks about Hitler being so mad that no one took him seriously. Sinclair says that the atrocities in Germany were so incredible that no one from the rest of the world believed what was happening. Reading the book helped open my eyes.