The Flirt, like so many Tarkington stories, is first of all an exercise in gentleness. Tarkington loved his characters to a fault. To his heroes and heroines he showed gentle affection, to his comic relief gentle condescension, and to his villains gentle contempt. All that gentleness throws up a fog of good feeling, but behind the fog there are crags and cliffs of unhappiness, struggle and decay. In the fog is nostalgic escapism to what seems like a “simpler” time and place. But life turns out to be the same depressing, uphill scramble it always is, especially amid the dislocations of the early 20th Century – Tarkington’s most persistent and greatest theme.