Heavily influenced by Dreiser's own life and experiences, this roman a clef was regarded as shockingly frank in its treatment of sexuality, particularly the sensual nature and intimate conquests of female protagonist Eugene Witla, an up-and-coming artist. As a result of the novel's titillating subject matter, Dreiser encountered a great deal of difficulty when it came to finding a willing publisher, and the book has been banned often in the ensuing decades since its completion.

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