Asterisk denotes entries on real places.
The plot of The Titan centers on the epic struggle of ruthless men for control of the lucrative streetcar traffic in the city. The evolution of streetcars exemplifies not only Chicago’s rapid growth but also the frantic pace of change taking place in the United States, in which millions of native-born citizens and European immigrants are being torn from the soil and drawn into urban centers. The slow, inefficient horse-drawn streetcars are replaced by cable cars, which in turn are quickly replaced with cars powered by electricity. Finally, elevated tracks become the last word in urban transportation. The city expands with the streetcar lines, and the streetcar lines form a larger and larger web around the expanding city.
Michigan Avenue Mansion. Chicago home of the powerful entrepreneur Frank Algernon Cowperwood, for whom social success means as much as financial success. He builds his first mansion near the homes of the Chicago social elite in the hope that he and his wife, Aileen, will be accepted into high society. Their new mansion, built along conventional lines to emulate the homes of their neighbors, is described in detail. After the Cowperwoods are rejected by society, their mansion seems like an empty shell. Aileen has only a few humble visitors to entertain. She feels humiliated, isolated, and lonely. Cowperwood begins spending more and more time away from home, involved in liaisons with other women.
Tunnels. Cowperwood’s discovery of two rat-infested abandoned tunnels under the Chicago River is a turning point in his career. He realizes that they can be adapted to alleviate the chronic congestion on the bridges and enable him to provide faster, more dependable streetcar service from the suburbs into the central city. The history of the La Salle Street and Washington Street tunnels illustrates Dreiser’s cynical but realistic attitude toward capitalists and politicians generally. After the tunnels had become unprofitable for their original speculators, these men induced the city fathers to pay one million dollars of taxpayer money for them and then board them up. Cowperwood’s acquisition of the tunnels displays the superior intelligence and creative imagination that sets him apart from ordinary men.
New York mansion. House that Cowperwood has built on New York City’s Fifth Avenue. His conception of this mansion shows the change that has taken place in his character over the years. He builds a gaudy, spectacular palace to flaunt his wealth and declare to the world his indifference to social acceptance by timid, conventional souls: “Only the Italian palaces of medieval or Renaissance origin which he had seen abroad now appealed to him as examples of what a stately residence should be.”
Ironically, Cowperwood’s fabulous mansion, which is described in newspapers and magazines all over the United States, instills such envy among the common people that his Chicago enemies can turn the masses against him and defeat his scheme to monopolize the streetcar lines there.
Chicago City Hall. Dreiser uses the City Hall in Chicago to dramatize the climax to his novel. The big building–described as a “large, ponderous structure of black granite–erected at the expense of millions and suggesting somewhat the somnolent architecture of ancient Egypt”–is packed with an angry mob, while the surrounding streets are thronged by thousands more. Without microphones, the speakers have to shout to make themselves heard, but they are shouted down by the incensed spectators whose passions have been aroused by the newspapers, the dominant media of the day. The irate citizens intimidate the bought politicians into voting down the proposal to award Cowperwood the long-term streetcar franchises he desperately needs.