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Love Bites

Temptation rides a whiff of ether in Frank Norris’s McTeague(1899). The novel relates the romantic adventures of its title character, a San Francisco dentist who falls in love with Trina, a young lower-class woman who visits him for treatment of a carious tooth.

Upon inspection, Trina’s painful bicuspid presents McTeague with a problem. The tooth’s extraction would most certainly mar “the pretty mouth” housing it, he concludes. No, the situation calls for action altogether more delicate. Capping the offending tooth offers the best solution. Use of “bayonet forceps” to force the tooth’s roots into “a flattened piece of platinum wire” will be necessary. On this tricky procedure depend not only a young lady’s fine looks but his professional reputation as well.

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