Literature: Gadsby

Gadsby is a 1939 Doorstopper of a book by Ernest Vincent Wright.

This plot follows John Gadsby transforming that tiny town of Branton Hills. Branton Hills starts off small, without much productivity, but a bunch of youths try to stand up for it and show adults that youths can aid a town in growing into a thriving city. Gadsby, Champion of Youth, assists in this, shaking down rich widows for cash to furnish a library, hospital, night school and so on. This flip-flops, from "Why, our town ought to build a..." to scrambling for funds to build it. Kids go off to war, but show up again without injury. Gadsby ends up as mayor of Branton Hills, watching his kids get married off and begin growing his family with grandkids; Mrs. Gadsby also plays a part in Branton Hills' growth.

Notably, Wright challenged himself to write the novel without using any instances of the letter "E"... except for two accidental instances of the word "the".

Not to be confused with a similarly-titled book about Jay Gatsby.

Gadsby contains examples of:

  • Character Title: Gadsby is about the exploits of the eponymous John Gadsby.
  • Constrained Writing: The novel is a lipogram, written without any instances of the letter "E", the most common letter in the English language. Especially notable in that the novel is written in past tense, and most past-tense conjugations in English end with "-ed". To get around this, Wright uses verbs whose past tense forms are irregular, such as 'saw' or 'built'. He also uses many 'ing' conjugations or uses a "did [action]" or past-perfect tenses instead of the preterite tense, which is more common. Taking it even further, to avoid the perception of "cheating", Wright even avoids all contractions; even ones that wouldn't "get around" the letter with an apostrophe. For instance, "can't" is always written "cannot".
  • Dying Town: This is the state of Branton Hills at the beginning of the novel, but John Gadsby assists in reviving the town.
  • Lemony Narrator: The narrator occasionally lampshades his own roundabout ways of avoiding the letter "E".
  • Suddenly Significant City: Branton Hills, which begins the novel as an insignificant little village, grows into a proper, respectable city by the end of the novel.