Theodore Dreiser: An American Tragedy

(1873 words)
  • Jude Davies (University of Winchester)

Clyde Griffiths is first seen as a twelve-year old, cringing in embarrassment as his poverty-stricken parents preach in the streets of Kansas City. The date is purposely unspecified, since Dreiser thought of himself as describing a flaw in American society that had persisted from the Gilded Age to the mid-1920s, visible in a series of actual homicides. (An American Tragedy is based primarily on one that took place in 1906.) Selfish, but dreamy and pathetic, Clyde Griffiths is hooked on the American dream. An American Tragedy tells his story and, in so doing, becomes an exhaustive catalogue of the invidious effects of the ideology of success.

As they grow older, Clyde and his older sister Esta experience sensual …

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Davies, Jude. "An American Tragedy". The Literary Encyclopedia. First published 20 October 2001
[, accessed 30 June 2015.]