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An American Tragedy
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Past Group Reads > An American Tragedy by Theodor Dreiser

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message 1: by Jamie (last edited Sep 01, 2010 01:43PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jamie  (jaymers8413) | 738 comments Mod
This is for the September/October group read discussion of An American Tragedy by Theodor Dreiser.

An American Tragedy (Signet Classics)


Gitte - Bookworm's Closet (gittetofte) I just started it. Have read about 50 pages and really like it so far. It reminds me a lot of Sister Carrie.


Jamie  (jaymers8413) | 738 comments Mod
That's great to hear! I really enjoyed Sister Carrie and am excited to start!


Gitte - Bookworm's Closet (gittetofte) I've now read about 1/4 and I'm really enjoying it. I just want the best for Clyde! I like him a lot, even though he has his faults. Looking forward to hear what the rest of you think of Clyde, his family, the girls/women he encounters etc...


Jamie  (jaymers8413) | 738 comments Mod
I have just read the first few chapters. Being a religious person I am unsure of what Dreiser's message will be towards religion. I do agree that preaching out on the street can make some uncomfortable and people should not neglect there family so I am guessing this is what Dreiser is wanting us to reflect on. Also shielding your children too much can make them totally rebel.


Gitte - Bookworm's Closet (gittetofte) What strikes me is that there wasn't any room or encouragement for the children to reflect on religion themselves and to form their own opinions as to religion, morale, values etc. The preaching and religion became trivial. But it does serve as a basis for how Clyde feels he should be and act later in the novel where he often feels torn between what he learned during his childhood, his ambitions and his desires.


Jamie  (jaymers8413) | 738 comments Mod
Yes I agree and can't wait to see how his past influences Clyde.


Gitte - Bookworm's Closet (gittetofte) I take back my comment about liking Clyde!


Jamie  (jaymers8413) | 738 comments Mod
Oh no! Have you finished?


Diane I don't like Clyde but maybe I am influenced by knowing the ending. I read it many years ago. I think that is the main characteristic of a classic - the characters stay with you. I read all types of books including "page turners" but, with so many of the popular books, I find that after a couple of weeks I can't remember the endings or much about them. Classics touch you forever.
I am about 3/4 through now and had forgotten details but Clyde...Clyde is not someone to forget. I dislike him but I totally understand his shallowness and how he became the way he is.


message 11: by Gitte - Bookworm's Closet (last edited Sep 08, 2010 02:45AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Gitte - Bookworm's Closet (gittetofte) Jamie wrote: "Oh no! Have you finished?"

No, I've read about 300 pages. I'm gonna take a short break from it now - just got a book that I've been waiting for a looong time.


Gitte - Bookworm's Closet (gittetofte) I just picked it up again and I'm so enjoying it! I find Dreiser's writing very captivating. He's a lot easier to read than other authors of the time...


message 13: by Jamie (last edited Sep 13, 2010 11:04AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jamie  (jaymers8413) | 738 comments Mod
I am at the part where Clyde is ask to give 50 dollars for Esta's medical needs but he decides to act like he doesn't have the money so he can buy Hortense the fur coat she wants. I can't believe the way he allows her to treat him. I guess since Clyde was denied money and society growing up he doesn't want to give up his new found freedom. He doesn't want to lose Hortense so he let's Esta and his mother deal with their own problems and mistakes with little help from him. I feel like his sister may die due to the lack of medical and financial help.


Gitte - Bookworm's Closet (gittetofte) I think this scene is very telling of Clyde and his priorities as well as the choices he makes throughout the novel. He wants his freedom do be whoever he wishes to be, and climbing up the social ladder seems more important to him than kindness and helping the people who truly cares for him.


Diane Jamie, I agree with your reasons for him buying Hortense the coat rather than helping his sister. I think that he is struggling with a combination of "being in love" and desparately wanting Hortence, his first real social position, his first real money and his awakened sexuality, otherwise known as lust. I think that is why he has allowed her to treat him as she does. His desires have overcome duty. But then all of his life has been duty and, as you said, he now has new found freedom.
I think the parents were so wrapped up in their ministry that they forgot to tend their own vineyard. Clyde and his sister didn't seem to get the attention, stability and values they needed to make wise choices.


Diane You are so right Gitte. He is overwhelmed by money and status.


Jamie  (jaymers8413) | 738 comments Mod
Yes I agree they should have tended to their own vineyard as you say. Its one thing to just preach at your children, put fear in them, or help others and assume your children will just follow in your wake. They just preached and didn't guide their children. Although they are poor it seems like they led a superficial life and went through the motions because it was the moral thing to do.


Jamie  (jaymers8413) | 738 comments Mod
I am at the part where Clyde and Roberta take the relationship to the next level. Here Roberta is becoming so devoted to Clyde and he has his mind again on moving up in class instead of trying to be happy where he is. It seems like the change in the season is a symbol for this as well as society coming back to town. I am waiting for something bad to happen because it is inevitable.


Gitte - Bookworm's Closet (gittetofte) I can understand Clyde's wish to be part of the posh society - it must seem fascinating to him. But I really don't like his submissive manner and how he's constantly pretending. And I really don't like how he manipulates Roberta. And what I really detest is his inability to choose - but more about that later :D


Jamie  (jaymers8413) | 738 comments Mod
So far I am enjoying the book but it seems to be dragging unlike Sister Carrie. If you are liking A.T. I highly recommend reading SC.


Jamie  (jaymers8413) | 738 comments Mod
I loved this passage:

...she as suddenly experienced a dizzying sensation, as though her hitherto constricted blood, detained by a constricted heart and constricted nerves, were as suddenly set free. And all the dry marshes and cracked and parched banks of her soul-the dry rivulets and streams and lakes of misery that seemed to dot her being-were as instantly flooded with this rich upwelling force of life and love.

chapter 21, pg. 309 (last paragraph)


Jamie  (jaymers8413) | 738 comments Mod
Gitte wrote: "I can understand Clyde's wish to be part of the posh society - it must seem fascinating to him. But I really don't like his submissive manner and how he's constantly pretending. And I really don't ..."

Yes he does need to stop pretending and take a stand on things. His hormones like many people are getting in the way of his brain.

He denies himself most pleasures because of his wish to be part of that society...he could have fun at least but his outlet must be Roberta. I guess he is in a way doing what Hortense did to him, dragging Roberta along but not investing himself in the relationship mentally (to Roberta I am sure she feels he is 99% devoted).


Gitte - Bookworm's Closet (gittetofte) Jamie wrote: "Gitte wrote: "I can understand Clyde's wish to be part of the posh society - it must seem fascinating to him. But I really don't like his submissive manner and how he's constantly pretending. And I..."

Yes, it never occurs to him that he's doing to Roberta what Hortense did to him. It seems like he just doesn't have the balls to end it with Roberta even though he doesn't really care for her anymore. I find that hard to forgive.


message 24: by Gitte - Bookworm's Closet (last edited Sep 21, 2010 02:22AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Gitte - Bookworm's Closet (gittetofte) Jamie wrote: "So far I am enjoying the book but it seems to be dragging unlike Sister Carrie. If you are liking A.T. I highly recommend reading SC."

I agree. I'm beginning to find this one difficult to finish, whereas Sister Carrie was easy.


Gitte - Bookworm's Closet (gittetofte) I finished it last night. Feel very ambivalent about the second half of the book, though...


Diane I think he really cared for Roberta but his adoration of posh society was stronger. I think he would have been totally clueless if told that he was doing the same thing Hortense did. Or cared. I don't like him or mourn his fate but I do feel a trememdous sorrow for his entire sad life.
It is one beautifully written and emotionally tough book.


message 27: by Jamie (last edited Sep 26, 2010 11:04AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jamie  (jaymers8413) | 738 comments Mod
I just finished reading the part where Roberta came back for Christmas and Clyde has been to a few events with higher society while lying to her. When she starts crying and gets upset about the possibility Clyde may like another girl, Clyde relates to how she feels because of what he has been through in the past with Hortense. To Roberta it seems like he is still devoted to her but really he is expressing empathy. He continues to tell Roberta he loves her.


Diane Jamie wrote: "I just finished reading the part where Roberta came back for Christmas and Clyde has been to a few events with higher society while lying to her. When she starts crying and gets upset about the pos..."
You're right, he did express empathy. I had forgotten that scene. Oh, what a ... what a ... what to describe him? He is truly icky. How is that for a high falutin literay description?


Diane According to wikipedia the book is based on a real crime. There is also an Academy Award winning movie called A Place in the Sun based on this book. Shelley Winters played Roberta, Elizabeth Taylor played Sondra. Wow, that has to be perfect casting.
I've just have to see it.


Jamie  (jaymers8413) | 738 comments Mod
Yes thanks for letting us know. I have it added to my netflix!


Gitte - Bookworm's Closet (gittetofte) I just borrowed the movie from my dad and will watch it sometime during the next week :D


Jamie  (jaymers8413) | 738 comments Mod
Oh my! Sondra's baby talk is a little too much to handle!


Gitte - Bookworm's Closet (gittetofte) She's so annoying...


Diane I couldn't get through the movie. I thought the casting was perfect but I just couldn't get interested. The book had such depth that the movie, by contrast, seemed undeveloped.


message 35: by Jamie (last edited Oct 09, 2010 10:43AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jamie  (jaymers8413) | 738 comments Mod
I have just finished book two. Although I think what Clyde did is HORRIBLE I found myself thinking "no you should do it this way" or "that's not a good idea you might get caught". Did anyone else feel this way? I feel like the reader tends to get attached to the main character. For me, I want to see Clyde make it into society but not like this. I feel Roberta should have just went to his family without telling him because Clyde has been so awful to her. But then the book would be much shorter and wouldn't be based on the actual events the book is based on. I have not read the background too much because I didn't want ruin the book for myself. Has anyone researched the actual events the book is based on?

Books seem to always be better than the movies but its not good that you couldn't get through it Diane. If I ever get it from Netflix I would like anyone who has seen it to compare it to the book.


Gitte - Bookworm's Closet (gittetofte) I know what you mean, Jamie! I felt the same way about Clyde - I really wanted him to do well in society. I had to remind myself about what he was actually doing to the poor girl. But then I completely lost sympathy with Clyde and didn't really care if he succeeded or not and that sort of ruined the book for me. Perhaps you need to be on his side in order to find the last half of the book interesting?


Jamie  (jaymers8413) | 738 comments Mod
Yes I agree with you. I am on the part where he is caught in book three and throughout this entire section I have no sympathy for him. I am interested to see what the rest has in store since there is still a lot to be read. I am afraid I too wont be enjoying the end of the book because it seems like everything has happened. Am I right? I hope not!


Jamie  (jaymers8413) | 738 comments Mod
Also, I just want to thank both Gitte and Diane for participating in the group read! I am glad you got into this book as much as me and hope you enjoy The Custom of the Country for the next group read!


Jamie  (jaymers8413) | 738 comments Mod
Just so you know:

Lycurgus was the legendary lawgiver of Sparta.


Diane Jamie wrote: "I have just finished book two. Although I think what Clyde did is HORRIBLE I found myself thinking "no you should do it this way" or "that's not a good idea you might get caught". Did anyone else f..."
I totally agree with you - I felt attached to Clyde but hated his behavior. I kept wanting him to "do the right thing" but he fails.
If he had married Roberta, his asperations to High Society, of course, would have been over but he still could have had a fairly decent life. The family would not have let a relative live in extreme poverty out of pride. But then again, he would have never been satisfied and always blamed Roberta for what could have been and so made both their lives miserable.
He is just a pathetic, shallow, self-centered creep who got what he deserved.
I only know what Wikipedia mentioned about the crime the story was based on.


Diane Jamie wrote: "Also, I just want to thank both Gitte and Diane for participating in the group read! I am glad you got into this book as much as me and hope you enjoy The Custom of the Country for the next group r..."
I sure hope it is more uplifting and cheerful!! We have had two really downer books about morally weak people. Although I really loved both books and thought them powerfully written, I have to wonder if most of the authors in this time period were wrapped up in this kind of story?


Diane Jamie wrote: "Also, I just want to thank both Gitte and Diane for participating in the group read! I am glad you got into this book as much as me and hope you enjoy The Custom of the Country for the next group r..."
Thank you for moderating!


Gitte - Bookworm's Closet (gittetofte) Diane wrote: "Jamie wrote: "Also, I just want to thank both Gitte and Diane for participating in the group read! I am glad you got into this book as much as me and hope you enjoy The Custom of the Country for th..."

I wouldn't count on Wharton to be a more cheerful read! Both The Age of Innocence and The House of Mirth are very sad stories - brilliant but sad.


Gitte - Bookworm's Closet (gittetofte) Diane wrote: "Jamie wrote: "Also, I just want to thank both Gitte and Diane for participating in the group read! I am glad you got into this book as much as me and hope you enjoy The Custom of the Country for th..."

Yes, thanks! You're doing a great job!


Jamie  (jaymers8413) | 738 comments Mod
Gitte wrote: "Diane wrote: "Jamie wrote: "Also, I just want to thank both Gitte and Diane for participating in the group read! I am glad you got into this book as much as me and hope you enjoy The Custom of the ..."

I was thinking the same thing. For the next book read we will have to make it part of the criteria to pick a book that is more uplifting!


Jamie  (jaymers8413) | 738 comments Mod
Sorry I am so far behind and have not finished the entire book yet! It is definitely hard to read three to four books every two months, work, have a social life and be a couch potato haha! I am almost done and promise to finish before the month is over! I will be commenting on the ending soon!


message 47: by Jamie (last edited Oct 23, 2010 05:48PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jamie  (jaymers8413) | 738 comments Mod
I am pages away from being done! I have written a list of questions so be ready for them! They should be up by Monday if not tonight!


message 48: by Jamie (last edited Dec 26, 2010 05:37PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jamie  (jaymers8413) | 738 comments Mod
Dreiser based the book on a notorious criminal case. On July 11, 1906, resort owners found an overturned boat and the body of 20-year-old Grace Brown at Big Moose Lake in upstate New York. Chester Gillette was put on trial and convicted of killing Brown, though he claimed that her death was an accident. Gillette was executed by electric chair in 1908. The murder trial drew international attention when Brown's love letters to Gillette were read in court. Dreiser saved newspaper clippings about the case for several years before writing his novel. Clyde Griffiths was based on Chester Gillette, down to having the same initials.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grace_Brown
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chester_...
http://www.flickr.com/photos/herkimer...


message 49: by Jamie (last edited Oct 23, 2010 09:02PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jamie  (jaymers8413) | 738 comments Mod
A Northern Light (2003) is an American historical novel by Jennifer Donnelly. In the UK it was published under the alternative title A Gathering Light. It is based on the Big Moose Lake murder case of 1906, a real event, but unlike Theodore Dreiser's An American Tragedy, also based on the murder, Donnelly's book is concerned more with the life of a young girl who gets caught up in it.

A Northern Light


Jamie  (jaymers8413) | 738 comments Mod
Here are some questions I want to ask you. Feel free to answer any. Just put the question number before your answer so we know which one you are answering. Thanks!

#1 Was Clyde guilty of the slain girl in Kansas? If so to what degree?

#2 Was the trial fair? If not why?

#3 What comments or questions should have been objected during the trial? What would not have been allowed if the trial was done today?

#4 Was Clyde guilty of murder? If not what was he guilty of?

#5 Was anyone else guilty from the start of his relationship with Roberta through the end of the book?

#6 What is your stand on execution? Why? (If you feel like sharing)

#7 Would you have given money to Mrs. Griffiths for a retrial? Would you have agreed with one?

#8 What did you feel after reading about Clyde seeing his first man die?

#9 Do you believe Clyde was saved and put his faith in God, do you feel he need more time to decide, or neither?

#10 What are your overall thoughts on the book and/or the ending?


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