Ann's Reviews > An American Tragedy

An American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser
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Jun 24, 08

Recommended for: people who like long books!
Read in June, 2008

This book is a wide-ranging indictment of American values, circa 1910s or 1920s. Written by Theodore Dreiser in 1925, it presents his view that class distinctions, inherited wealth, and stringent social restrictions make a mockery of the so-called American Dream of a meritocracy. Other topics that Dreiser takes on are the not-so-just justice system, organized and independent religions, the shallow lives of the wealthy, the press and many more.

The novel begins with a look at the constricted life of fifteen year old Clyde Griffiths, who escapes his family of street corner missionaries, looking for a way to participate in the trappings of the wealthy. In other words, a young person with the world before him, a Horatio Alger type. It ends with a claustrophobic world that consists of Clyde's mind and psyche, and his living space of under a few hundred square feet. What happens in between is richly nuanced and finely detailed.

Dreiser's prose is sometimes difficult. Some of his sentences are so convoluted that I had to read them twice to understand. However, bear with his writing style because at other times, it is fantastic. Some sequences create an almost compulsive atmosphere that kept me turning the pages.

This book is also based on a real life event that apparently was front page news across the country. I picked it up because it took place in the Adirondacks (both the book and the event), and that's where I live.

Next up is his next most famous book, Sister Carrie.
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message 1: by Mary (new)

Mary Sherritze Ann, I haven't read this book, but of course, have heard about it. Did you know that the movie A Place in the Sun with Montgomery Clift and Elizabeth Taylor sort of followed the story and theme of Dreiser's novel--An American Tragedy? I remember reading about that when I read a review of A Place in the Sun after I'd watched A Place in the Sun on Turner Classic Movies recently.

As always, you had a most interesting review!

Mary


Heather Crabill Great review! "Sister Carrie" tackles similar issues. It's a good read, but not as thrilling as "Tragedy".

FYI: There is a book about the actual murder case that I read one summer at Indian Lake, N.Y. The actual murder case is what prompted my interest in Drieser. I wish I could remember what it's called but I imagine with a little web surfing you will be able to find it! Chester Gillette and Grace Brown are the names you'll want to use if you're interested:)


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