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An American Tragedy (1925)

de Theodore Dreiser

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4,000483,048 (3.91)204
Fiction. Literature. HTML:

Newly released from Duke Classics??An American Tragedy, by Theodore Dreiser. The pages follow the life Clyde Griffiths, beginning with a childhood of poverty. His desire for affluence leads him to Chicago, and then New York, but the path is never clean or clear. Love, the law, and Clyde's own lies blur the lines between truth and reality in this tale based on a true story.… (mais)

1920s (73)
Read (118)
AP Lit (344)

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Mostrando 1-5 de 47 (seguinte | mostrar todas)
Reading this book is like eating pre-chewed food. Every part -- every scene, character, motivation, action, expectation, or thought -- has been pre-masticated for your pleasure. Don't worry about analyzing the book, because Theodore Dreiser has already explained all the ramifications for you!

The plot follows Clyde Griffiths, a poor young man with lofty aspirations, as he tries to achieve success in the grinding capitalist machine of the United States prior to the Great Depression. When a rich girl falls in love with him, he thinks he finally has a chance -- if only he didn't have an inconveniently pregnant factory-girl insisting on immediate marriage. Unable to return to a life of futile deprivation, Clyde drowns his pregnant millstone. Unfortunately, he's an inept murderer, and it's not long before the police come knocking...

With that as the basic plot, it would be easy to construct a suspenseful, interesting story. Apparently, Dreiser thought differently. Or maybe he just thought, "Suspense? Tension? Dramatic escalation? Pah! I'm a social naturalist! I spit on your petty narrative tricks! I'm going to tell this story in the most boring way possible." ( )
1 vote proustbot | Jun 19, 2023 |
Book title and author: An American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser. 5/23/23

Why I picked this book up: it was the next book in the Banned Books Compendium: 32 Classic Forbidden Books that I won in April 2023.

Thoughts: This tragedy manuscript was started the summer of 1920, but a year later abandoned most of that text. It was based on the notorious murder of Grace Brown in 1906 and the trial of her lover.
In 1923 Dreiser returned to the project, and with the help of his future wife Helen and two editor-secretaries, Louise Campbell and Sally Kusell, he completed the massive novel in 1925.
In 1927, the book was banned in Boston after the Boston District Attorney targeted it for sexual content, abortion, and murder.
In 1930, the Superior Court condemned An American Tragedy for “containing certain obscene, indecent and impure language, manifestly tending to corrupt the morals of youth, the same being too lewd and obscene to be more particularly set forth in this complaint.” The publisher was fined $300. ($5,332 in 2023 dollars.)
Ironically, just across the Charles River, the book was required reading for a Harvard English course.
In 1933, the novel was burned in Nazi book bonfires because it "deals with low love affairs.” This went to a Superior Court decision. This is a three book story.

This book follows the life of Clyde Griffiths from late childhood to his infamous death. The novel discusses the balance of spirituality and materialism, landing firmly on the importance of humility and family as Clyde’s decisions lead to his destruction.

The hard core Christian upbringing as a child, financial desire for material issues, growing up he had a lust for money, the first girl he liked drew him in, fed more into wanting to buy an expensive coat then wanted to be like his rich uncle, how to be social with females, his interactions with females, coworker, his ignorance of how to connect with females, how to earn, use and lie about $ to his family, his despicable, choices and sad out comes all made this book, intriguing to me. It basically did a great job making me want to root for him, get to watch his situation with other characters.
This book discusses the balance of spirituality and materialism. Clyde’s unending pursuit of material wealth and the social status that comes from it pushes him into poor choices that result in his death and the death of two innocents.

Why I finished this read: As in classical tragedies, Clyde’s downfall is a result of his innate psychological and moral weaknesses. This kept pages turning and the depth of the consequences from his beginning to where he was not truthful and how much it made me think made me want to finish.

Stars rating: because I was torn between watching his development, his siding with. materialism, coming around at the end to his initial religious belief, consequences and suffering. I gave this a 4.5 out of 5 stars. ( )
  DrT | May 23, 2023 |
[Note: No, this will not be another of my stage-of-life crisis reviews.]

“An American Tragedy” justly deserves the designation of a classic. Not having read Dreiser previously (and being skeptical of American authors in general) I started the book with some trepidation. However, I was pleasantly surprised.

Dreiser presents an astonishingly detailed account of a young man of ill fortune. We are given so much insight into the main character that one comes to feel that we actually know the person. Despite the character’s very troubling behaviors, the reader comes to understand and yes, reluctantly sympathize with his plight.

“An American Tragedy” lives up to its title in that it is not a cheerful or uplifting read. Many characters, both likable and not, are seen as frequently trapped by the circumstances of their lives. Yet, some characters no doubt evidence a form of nobility. These characters do their best to be true to themselves and their values through challenges beyond their control and ability to cope.

The book provided so much detail over an expanded period of time and circumstance that I came to see it almost as a screenplay for an extended media presentation. I do have some doubts about how popular this novel would be to a modern reader. I found it very enjoyable but the book and the story are long. How many readers are willing to invest the patience and persistence required to appreciate this great classic work? However, in my view, it is worth the investment. ( )
  colligan | Mar 21, 2023 |
The protagonist's sister, when he was growing up, got the same abusive treatment and successive abandonment from an actor, as Clyde later pulls with Roberta, the pregnant girlfriend he murders.
"and yet his words were those of a lover who would be true forever. all she had to do, as he explained to her, was to come away with him and be his bride, at once – now. delay was so vain when two such as they had met. The most difficulty about marriage here, which he could not explain – it related to friends – but in St Louis he had a preacher friend who would wed them. She was to have new and better clothes than she had ever known, delicious adventures, love. she would travel with him and see the great world. she would never need to trouble more about anything save him; and while it was truth to her – the verbal surety of a genuine passion – to him it was the most ancient and serviceable type of blarney, often used before and often successful."

Clyde's first love interest in Kansas City, Hortense Briggs, tells Clyde a story about herself and her racist friends out on the town for the night.
"Clyde watched the play of her mouth and the brightness of her eyes and the swiftness of her gestures without thinking so much of what she said – very little.
'Wallace trone was along with us – ged, he's a scream of a kid – and afterwards when we was sittin' down to eat ice cream, he went out in the kitchen and blacked up and put on a waiter's apron and coat and then comes back and serves us. That's one funny boy. an' he did all sorts of funny stuff with the dishes and spoons.'
Clyde sighed because he was by no means as gifted as the gifted trone."

Hortense wants a FUR jacket that she has seen in the store window, but doesn't have enough money for. She promises Clyde some intimacy if he'll just buy it for her.
"she turned and kicked at the ice with the minute toe of her shoes, and clyde, always taken by her charm again, put his arms about her, and crushed her to him, at the same time fumbling at her breasts and putting his lips to hers and endeavoring to hold and fondle her. but now, because of her suddenly developed liking for sparser, and partially because of her present mood towards clyde, she broke away, a dissatisfaction with herself and him troubling her. why should she let him force her to do anything she did not feel like doing, just now, anyhow, she now asked herself. She hadn't agreed to be as nice to him today as he might wish. not yet. at any rate just now she did not want to be handled in this way by him, and she would not, regardless of what he might do. and clyde, sensing by now what the true state of her mind in regard to him must be, stepped back and yet continued to glaze gloomily and hungrily at her. and she in turn merely stared at him.
'I thought you said you liked me,' he demanded almost savagely now, realizing that his dreams of a happy outing this day were fading to nothing."

And now poor Roberta Alden is subjected to the same bs that all boys pull, when they pretend to love you so they can use your body and then throw you away.
"She pretended to love him. she did not object to his holding her in his arms and kissing her under a tree at the end of the street. but when it came to anything slightly more private or intimate, she could not bring herself to agree. What kind of a girl was she, anyhow? What was the use of pursuing her? Was this to be another case of Hortense Briggs with all her wiles and evasions? Of course Roberta was in no wise like her, but still she was so stubborn.
although she could not see his face she knew he was angry and quite for the first time in this way.
'all right, then, if you don't want to, you don't have to.' came his words and with decidedly a cold ring to them. 'there are other places I can go. I noticed you never want to do anything I want to do, though. I'd like to know how you think we're to do. We can't walk the streets every night.' His tone was gloomy and foreboding – more contentious and bitter than at any other time ever between them. and his references to other places shocked and frightened Roberta – so much so that instantly almost her own mood changed. Those other girls in his own world that no doubt he saw from time to time! Those other girls at the factory who were always trying to make eyes at him! She had seen them trying, and often. that Ruza Nikoforitch – as coarse as she was, but pretty, too. and that Flora Brandt! and Martha bordaloue – ugh! To think that anyone as nice as he should be pursued by such wretches as those. However, because of that, she was fearful less he would think her too difficult – someone without the experience or daring to which he, in his Superior world, was accustomed, and so turn to one of those. Then she would lose him. The thought terrified her. immediately from one of defiance her attitude changed to one of pleading persuasion.
'oh, Please, Clyde, don't be mad with me now, will you? You know that I would if I could. I can't do anything like that here. Can't you see? You know that. why, they'd be sure to find out. and how would you feel if someone were to see us or recognize you?' in a pleading way she put one hand on his arm then about his waist and he could feel that in spite of her sharp opposition the moment before, she was very much concerned – painfully so. 'please don't ask me to,' she added in a begging tone."

Of course he finally gets his way with Roberta, but immediately, she's not enough for the corrupt SOB.
"and if now Roberta was obviously willing to sacrifice herself for him in this fashion, must there not be others?
and this, in spite of the present indifference of the griffiths, caused him to walk with even more of an air than had Hitherto characterized him. Even though neither they nor any of those connected with them recognized him, still he looked at himself in his mirror from time to time with an assurance and admiration which before this he had never possessed. for now roberta, feeling that her future was really dependent on his will and whim, had set herself to flatter him almost constantly, to be as obliging and convenient to him as possible. indeed, according to her notion of the proper order of life, she was now his and his only, as much as any wife is ever to a husband to do with as he wished."

Because Clyde's rich cousin Stuart Griffiths had spurned rich Sondra Finchley, she decides to take Clyde up, in order to piss off Stuart. She sends an invitation to Clyde for a party.
"so astonished was he that he could scarcely contain himself for joy, but now on the instant must walk to and fro, looking at himself in the mirror, washing his hands and face, then deciding that his tie was not just right, perhaps, and changing to another – thinking forward to what he should wear and back upon how Sondra had looked at him on that last occasion. and how she had smiled. at the same time he could not help wondering even at this moment of what Roberta would think, if now, by some extra optical power of observation she should note his present joy in connection with this note. For plainly, and because he was no longer governed by the conventional notion of his parents, he had been allowing himself to drift into a position and regard to her which would certainly spell torture in her in case she should discover the nature of his present mood, a thought which puzzled him not a little, but did not serve to modify his thoughts in regard to Sondra in the least.
that wonderful girl!
That beauty!
That world of wealth and social position she lived in!"

Roberta, poor Roberta, of course becomes pregnant.
"but there was this to be said in connection with the relationship between these two, that no time, owing to the inexperience of clyde, as well as roberta, had there been any adequate understanding of or use of more than the simplest, and for the most part unsatisfactory, contraceptive devices. [the fooking "train pulling out of the station."] About the middle of february, and interestingly enough, at about the time when clyde, because of the continuing favor of sondra, had about reached the point where he was determined once and for all to end, not only his physical, but all other connection with Roberta, she on her part was beginning to see clearly that, in spite of his temporizing and her own incurable infatuation for him, pursuit of him by her was futile and that it would be more to the satisfaction of her pride, if not to the ease of her heart, if she were to leave here and in some other place seek some financial help that would permit her to live and still help her parents and forget him if she could. unfortunately for this, she was compelled, to her dismay and terror, to enter the factory one morning, just about this time, her face a symbol of even graver and more terrifying doubts and fears than any that had hitherto assailed her. for now, in addition to her own troubled conclusions in regard to clyde, there had sprung up overnight the dark and constraining fear that even this might not now be possible, for the present at least. for because of her own and Clyde's temporizing over his and her sentimentality and her unconquerable affection for him, she now, at a time when it was most inimical for both, found herself pregnant."

Now fully infatuated with Sondra, and she with him, Sondra tells Clyde that she will turn 18 in October, and hints to him that she can overcome the objections of her parents to Clyde by eloping.
"...he grew not a little wild in thinking of it all. Once he and she were married, what could Sondra's relatives do? What, but acquiesce and take them into the glorious bosom of their resplendent home at Lycurgus or provide for them in some other way – he to no doubt eventually take some place in connection with the Finchley electric sweeper company. and then would he not be the equal, if not the superior, of Gilbert Griffiths himself and all those others who originally had ignored him here – joint heir with Stewart to all the Finchley means. and with Sondra as the central or crowning Jewel to so much sudden and such Aladdin-like Splendor.
no thought as to how he was to overcome the time between now and October. no serious consideration of the fact that Roberta then and there was demanding that he marry her. He could put her off, he thought. and yet, at the same time, he was painfully and nervously conscious of the fact that at no point in his life before had he been so treacherously poised at the very brink of disaster. It might be his duty as the world would see it – his mother would say so – to at least extricate Roberta. but in the case of Esta, who had come to her rescue? Her lover? He had walked off from her without a qualm and she had not died. And why, when Roberta was now worse off than his sister had been, why should she seek to destroy him in this way. ? Force him to do something which would be little less than social, artistic, passional or emotional assassination? And when later, if she would but spare him for this, he could do so much more for her – with Sondra's money of course. He could not and would not let her do this to him. his what life would be ruined!"

Clyde pretends to agree to marry Roberta, in order to take her on a pre-marriage trip and get her out on a lake.
"...and 15 minutes later Clyde himself coming from a side street and approaching the station from the south, from which position Roberta could not see him but from where, after turning the West corner of the depot and stationing himself behind a pile of crates, he could see her. how thin and pale indeed! By contrast with sondra, how IlLY-dressed in the blue traveling suit and small brown hat with which she had equipped herself for this occasion – the promise of a restricted and difficult life as contrasted with that offered by Sondra. and she was thinking of compelling him to give up Sondra in order to marry her, and from which union he might never be able to extricate himself until such time as would make Sondra and all she represented a mere recollection. the difference between the attitudes of these two girls – Sondra with everything offering all – asking nothing of him; roberta, with nothing, asking all."

At the moment when Clyde has Roberta out on the lake, paralyzed with the inability to move ahead with his plan to strike her and throw her in the lake, she, unsuspecting of his plans, but taking the look on his face to be an indication of illness, gets up from her position in the boat and approaches him.
"...and then, as she Drew near him, seeking to take his hand in hers and the camera from him in order to put it in the boat, he flinging out at her, but not even then with any intention to do other than free himself of her – her touch – her pleading – consoling sympathy – her presence forever – god!
yet (the camera still unconsciously held tight) pushing at her with so much vehemence as not only to strike her lips and nose and Chin with it, but to throw her back sideways toward the left wale which caused the boat to Careen to the very Water's edge. and then he, stirred by her sharp scream, (as much due to the lurch of the boat, as the cut on her nose and lip), rising and reaching half to assist or recapture her and half to apologize for the unintended blow -- yet in so doing completely capsizing the boat – himself and Roberta being as instantly thrown into the water. and the left wale of the boat as it turned, striking Roberta on the head as she sank and then Rose for the first time, her frantic, contorted face turned to clyde, who by now had righted himself. for she was stunned, horror struck, unintelligible with pain and fear – her lifelong fear of water and drowning and the boat blow he had so accidentally and all but unconsciously administered.
'help! Help!
'oh, my god, I'm drowning, I'm drowning. help! Oh, my god!
'Clyde! Clyde!' "

D.A. Mason, on alerting Roberta's poor parents of her death, calls the doctor for Roberta's mother, who has fainted. The doctor gives her HEROIN!
"And at last Mrs Alden treated with heroin and crooned and mourned over by all present, being brought to the stage where it was possible, slowly and with much encouragement, to hear in the first place what the extenuating circumstances were; next being questioned concerning the identity of the cryptic individual referred to in Roberta's letter."

Mason, contemplating the wickedness of Clyde, who he thinks is rich because of his relation to the rich Griffiths.
"as he proceeded to his office, accompanied by Alden and the officials in this case, his thought was running on the motive of this heinous crime - the motive. and because of his youthful sexual deprivations, his mind now tended continually to dwell on that. and meditating on the beauty and charm of roberta, contrasted with her poverty and her strictly moral and religious upbringin ( )
  burritapal | Oct 23, 2022 |
Here's what I wrote after reading in 1987: "Poor Clyde Griffiths. Desperate to achieve 'success', to acquire wealth, friends, cars, clothes, and the beautiful Sondra, he commits murder. Murder of the helpless, selfless, friendless Roberta. The oddity of the readers response to this is captured by Irving Howe: "As touched by Clyde's early affection for Roberta, so later we participate vicariously in his desperation to be rid of her. We share this desire with some shame, but unless we count ourselves among the hopelessly pure, we share it.". Poor Clyde Griffiths; the American Dream gone sour." ( )
  MGADMJK | Feb 17, 2022 |
Mostrando 1-5 de 47 (seguinte | mostrar todas)
...a thrillingly detailed social panorama onto which a vivid, sobering tale of ambition and murder and their consequences is painstakingly grafted. The tragedy is an “American” one because of its central action: the drowning of pregnant Roberta Alden by her lover Clyde Griffiths (based on a real 1905 murder case), ensuing from the latter’s seduction by “the American dream” of rising from humble origins to wealth and social success.
adicionado por Lemeritus | editarKirkus Review (Apr 2, 2993)
My suspicion is that Dreiser’s books (with the exception of “Sister Carrie”) are now considered too long for high-school students, too earnest for college literature classes, and too odd for many common readers. Dreiser’s reputation has always been vexed, and the long debate over his stature has been accompanied by a secondary debate—a malignant shadow of the first—devoted to the question of whether he could write at all.... The greatness of “An American Tragedy” is that Dreiser took this crime sensation and dissolved the violent but meaningless frame of the story into its innumerable constituent episodes: the social condition of murderer and victim and friends; the moments of obsession, doubt, and rage; the slowly forming moral hardness; the evasions, the hundred hesitations and velleities; the acts rejected as well as those committed. No such story is truly banal, Dreiser seems to be saying; there is only inadequate representation of what happened....“An American Tragedy” is clumsy and heavy-spirited, and dated in its sexual arrangements, yet it has an extraordinary dignity and power that carry one through the taffied, redundant sentences. A Samson who cut off his own hair, Dreiser struggled mightily with language without enjoying the resources of language. But he was a hero nonetheless.
adicionado por Lemeritus | editarThe New Yorker, David Denby (Apr 13, 2003)

» Adicionar outros autores (22 possíveis)

Nome do autorFunçãoTipo de autorObra?Status
Theodore Dreiserautor principaltodas as ediçõescalculado
Kazin, AlfredIntroduçãoautor secundárioalgumas ediçõesconfirmado
Lingeman, RichardIntroduçãoautor secundárioalgumas ediçõesconfirmado
Mencken, H. L.Introduçãoautor secundárioalgumas ediçõesconfirmado
Mitchell, Margaret E.Posfácioautor secundárioalgumas ediçõesconfirmado
Riggio, Thomas P.Editorautor secundárioalgumas ediçõesconfirmado
Werumeus Buning, J.W.F.Tradutorautor secundárioalgumas ediçõesconfirmado
Галь, НораTradutorautor secundárioalgumas ediçõesconfirmado
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Fiction. Literature. HTML:

Newly released from Duke Classics??An American Tragedy, by Theodore Dreiser. The pages follow the life Clyde Griffiths, beginning with a childhood of poverty. His desire for affluence leads him to Chicago, and then New York, but the path is never clean or clear. Love, the law, and Clyde's own lies blur the lines between truth and reality in this tale based on a true story.

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