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 …

Please log in to consult the article in its entirety. If you are a member (student of staff) of a subscribing institution (see List), you should be able to access the LE on campus directly (without the need to log in), and off-campus either via the institutional log in we offer, or via your institution's remote access facilities, or by creating a personal user account with your institutional email address. If you are not a member of a subscribing institution, you will need to purchase a personal subscription. For more information on how to subscribe as an individual user, please see under Individual Subcriptions.

Davies, Jude. "An American Tragedy". The Literary Encyclopedia. First published 20 October 2001
[, accessed 27 September 2016.]