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“Roast Beef, Medium: The Business Adventures of Emma McChesney” is a novel by American writer Edna Ferber, first published in 1913.
The book is part of a series of novels featuring the character of Emma McChesney, a smart, capable, and enterprising woman who works as a traveling sales representative for the T.A. Buck Featherloom Petticoat Company.
The novel follows Emma McChesney as she travels across the country to sell petticoats and other garments to store owners and customers. She is a skilled saleswoman, able to charm her customers and persuade them to buy her products. But Emma is more than just a saleswoman – she is also a savvy businesswoman, always on the lookout for new opportunities to grow her company and expand her own career.
One of the key themes of the book is gender and work. Emma McChesney is a rare female protagonist in early 20th century literature – a working woman who is not a servant or a factory worker. Ferber portrays Emma as intelligent, competent, and confident in her abilities. But Emma also faces gender discrimination in her work, both from her male colleagues and from some of her female customers. For example, in one chapter, Emma must deal with a male salesman who tries to undermine her work and steal her customers. In another chapter, she encounters a woman who resents Emma’s success and refuses to buy from her.
Despite these challenges, Emma remains determined and focused on her goals. She is a resilient character who never gives up in the face of adversity. This determination is exemplified in her signature catchphrase, “Roast beef, medium,” which she uses to signify that she wants things done her way. Emma is also a fiercely independent woman who resists social norms and expectations. She is divorced and raising a son on her own, something that was highly unconventional for a woman in her time.
Another theme of the book is the changing nature of business in the early 20th century. Ferber portrays a world in which the old ways of doing business are being challenged by new technologies and new attitudes. Emma is a forward-thinking saleswoman who embraces new techniques like advertising and direct mail to reach customers. She also recognizes the importance of building relationships with her customers and understanding their needs and preferences.
Overall, “Roast Beef, Medium” is a lively and engaging novel that offers a unique perspective on gender, work, and business in early 20th century America. Ferber’s portrayal of Emma McChesney is both entertaining and inspiring, and her story continues to resonate with readers today. The book is a testament to the power of determination and hard work, as well as the importance of embracing change and innovation in business.