These novels have characters who are putting up a false front to the world. They usually involve people who are in a position of power or authority over others.
Other novels with deceptive or duplicitous characters are on the page Appearances | Illusion vs Reality
Novels with Corrupt or Hypocritical Characters
Elmer Gantry | Sinclair Lewis
While Elmer and his roommate Jim are on a break from college, Elmer pretends to be converted during a sermon. He turns out to be a natural preacher and, liking the power it brings, attends seminary school. At his first church appointment, he gets mixed up with the daughter of a deacon, Lulu. He continues to use religion for his personal gain.
“He had, in fact, got everything from the church and Sunday School, except, perhaps, any longing whatever for decency and kindness and reason.”
Maggie: A Girl of the Streets | Stephen Crane
Maggie grows up on a poor tenement street in New York. Her brother Jimmie fights in the streets and becomes a bully. Her mother is an abusive drunk while her father is selfish and defeated. Maggie grows into a pretty young woman, which gives her an opportunity to escape her dismal life.
“The man had arrived at that stage of drunkenness where affection is felt for the universe.”
Babbitt | Sinclair Lewis
The novels opens with a day in the life of George Babbitt, interacting with his family, going to work at his real estate office, and having lunch at his club with his friend, Paul. It continues with Babbitt’s obligations – social, family, and business as he pursues secular success.
“You’re so earnest about morality that I hate to think how essentially immoral you must be underneath.”
The Damnation of Theron Ware | Harold Frederic
The Reverend Theron Ware and his wife Alice, Methodists, are assigned to Octavius, a poor village. It is a traditional, stifling community. Ware meets three people who have a profound influence on him – Father Forbes, an educated Catholic priest who no longer believes most of the Church’s doctrines; Celia, a beautiful, independent woman who loves art; and Dr. Ledsmar, a scholarly man with scientific interests.
Tambourines to Glory | Langston Hughes
Essie and Laura are about forty-years-old and live in Harlem. Essie wants to have enough money to bring her daughter Marietta from Virginia. Laura is focused on drinking, gambling, and men. They decide to start a church. Essie has faith, and is a true believer; Laura is in it for the money.
No Longer at Ease | Chinua Achebe
Obi Okonkwo is being tried for accepting bribes. The narrative backs up to show how he ended up in this situation. He is selected from his village to study in England. Obi gets a degree in English literature. When he returns home he seeks a job in the civil service. He is strongly against bribes. He meets a woman named Clara and sees her regularly.
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