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An American Tragedy

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'An American Tragedy' is the story of Clyde Griffiths, who spends his life in the desperate pursuit of success. On a deeper, more profound level, it is the masterful portrayal of the society whose values both shape Clyde's ambitions and seal his fate; it is an unsurpassed depiction of the harsh realities of American life and of the dark side of the American dream. Extraordinary in scope and power, vivid in its sense of wholesale human waste, unceasing in its rich compassion, 'An American Tragedy' stands as Theodore Dreiser's supreme achievement.

Based on an actual criminal case, 'An American Tragedy' was the inspiration for the film 'A Place in the Sun', which won six Academy Awards and starred Elizabeth Taylor and Montgomery Clift.

859 pages, Mass Market Paperback

First published December 17, 1925

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About the author

Theodore Dreiser

501 books799 followers
Naturalistic novels of American writer and editor Theodore Herman Albert Dreiser portray life as a struggle against ungovernable forces. Value of his portrayed characters lies in their persistence against all obstacles, not their moral code, and literary situations more closely resemble studies of nature than tales of choice and agency; this American novelist and journalist so pioneered the naturalist school.


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5 stars
13,325 (36%)
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,593 reviews
Profile Image for Paul Bryant.
2,215 reviews9,883 followers
January 4, 2011
I remember reading this one, years ago, in a really bad flat in Mapperley Park. It was so horribly dusty all the time. That was because I never dusted. And when I looked out of my window I saw a wall. And when I looked out of my other window, I saw a different wall.

Much like the hero of this brilliant novel - metaphorically speaking. And then, one day, in the wall, he notices a door. And he wants to open it and pass through to somewhere better. The very thing that other reviewers didn't like about this whopping novel was what made it another of my great reading experiences (which I remember like the memory of passing through something tremendous as if it was the Grand Canyon and not a novel at all) : they didn't like, but I did, the painful awful awe-full inevitability of the events, the doom of the characters, the dance of death we get drawn into for the last 200 pages - it's a quadrille, very formal, the partners are the characters, the plot, the author and ourselves, us, the readers. It's like a nightmare you can't wake up from. We know that, the characters know that, they're screaming, we're screaming, Dreiser has us caught in his fist of words and won't let us go until we know how it is that ordinary people can do terrible things which they never wanted to, they would have sold their souls not to, but they did.
Profile Image for Matthew.
1,219 reviews8,983 followers
January 24, 2020
Wow! Quite an epic novel here! I can see why this one is a classic.

At first, I was not sure how this one was going for me. As it is very long and hit a somewhat slow and repetitive patch about a third of the way through, I thought it was going to be 3 or 4 stars. But, with the way it was written, I was enthralled as it hit the midpoint and could not keep myself away from it until it was done. So, I am giving the slow and repetitive part a pass in this case and saying, without a doubt, that this is a 5-star book.

You may see that I marked this as a legal drama. Unfortunately, that is a bit of a spoiler because it does not become that until about 2/3 of the way through. But, that is exactly what the first two thirds of the book is building up to. It is a commentary on society at the time the book was written: religion, social status, relationships, morals, crime, punishment, etc. etc. etc. It is all in here and it makes for quite a stew for the readers consumption.

I think that this book that will certainly engage many and might infuriate some. The main character, Clyde, is such that you want to reach into the pages frequently, shake him, and yell,”WHAT THE HECK IS WRONG WITH YOU!?!?” But, no matter how you react to the story and the characters, it will leave you thinking about right vs wrong, decision making, justifying behavior to yourself, etc. I cannot say for sure that there is one definitive interpretation for the resolution of this book. I think it could possibly be interpreted a hundred different ways and they would all be correct.

I am very thankful to have read this for a book club, because I am not sure if I would have ever picked it up otherwise. It is nice that groups of fellow readers help me find intriguing titles like this that will have me thinking for quite some time to come.
Profile Image for BlackOxford.
1,085 reviews68.4k followers
July 23, 2020
Qoholeth Updated (The Wisdom of Winter Looks Foolish in May)

None of us is born knowing what we want. We are taught what we want by other people. We do not choose these other people from whom we learn; they just happen. Our parents also just happen but in general we feel it is necessary to unlearn whatever it is they've taught us to want, especially if it involves "an unimportant-looking family publicly raising its collective voice against the vast skepticism [sic] and apathy of life."

Learning from strangers is frequently regretted in later life but always welcomed as it occurs. What we learn from strangers, what we are taught to want, is what has been identified since ancient times as vanity. Vanity is not only the pleasure we get from gazing at our image in a mirror (although that, too, particularly among Dreiser's women). It is "that old mass yearning for a likeness" as Dreiser has it. Vanity is the compulsion to see what we want ourselves to be in other people and to imitate them however that is possible.

Vanity is the theme of Dreiser's masterpiece, a theme that never loses its relevance or painful personal intimacy. As the ancient writer of the book of Ecclesiastes knew so clearly: inevitably everything is vanity. Also, inevitably, given that it is the core of human existence, pointing it out has little effect; that too is an exercise in vanity.

Dreiser's genius is his ability to track the life-long path of vanity in its toe-curling detail. From our embarrassment about parental idiosyncrasies to our growing faux-wisdom about what is important in life and the meaning of success, his step by step descriptions of the way we are enticed into preferences that we believe are matters of an independent and considered free will are astounding, and disconcerting.

Disconcerting because it is, I think, impossible not to identify at some point in his life with the protagonist, Clyde Griffiths, as he stumbles into a life not his own, yet clung to all the more for that very reason. We in the modern world are expected to honour our own histories. It is "What got us here; what makes us who we are." Wishing any other life would be the secular equivalent of sin, a repudiation of our own independent existence. To have Dreiser articulate the truth that our formation as human beings is a random development is not just uncomfortable, it rocks the foundations of personality.

One might think that experience alone should be enough to alert us, at least eventually, to the hubris of our attitude of self-createdness. But experience never repeats itself. Our experience of youth is not relevant to our experience of adulthood or middle-age. Semper aliquid novum ex Africa is how the Romans put it: There are always new things coming out of Africa. For them Africa, surprisingly to modern minds, represented the future, for which they, and we, are permanently unprepared by experience.

So Clyde is in fact incapable of learning from one stage of life to another. All he can do is reinforce persistent prejudices and abiding fears. He digs himself progressively deeper into his non-life with increasing fervour. This is because Clyde's form of vanity, adopted in youth and refined with maturity, is ambition.

Ambition is not just desire for that which others possess; it is the desire for what others have because they have it. As such it is insatiable, the crack-cocaine of vanity. And it is the most socially acceptable, in fact encouraged, form of vanity. To top it all, ambition provokes ambition in others. The result is as Thomas Hobbes imagined in the 16th century - a constant war of all against each other, waged without quarter.

The tragedy that Dreiser narrates is not the mistakes and false moves that Clyde Griffiths, or we, make as human beings. It is the inevitability of the un-freedom inherent in ambition, that particularly American virtue. Paradoxically, it is the source of the scepticism and apathy that Dreiser was so concerned about. Scepticism is the suspicion that others merely want what we have. Apathy is the lack of interest in what might be important other than what others have. These are very American tragedies indeed.
Profile Image for Jason.
114 reviews625 followers
February 21, 2016
Okay folks, only my second 5 star rating in the last 54 novels! Read this book...

Theodore Dreiser’s 900 page tome moves slowly--but inexorably--like constellations at night--slow, but grand and beautiful, and holding all types of matter in the sky. This is not an epic of sweeping proportions. Instead it’s a complex, penetrating and fulfilling investigation of the human condition, a psychological chamber, a ground cave with depths to the devil. It’s the rise and fall of a man. Battle between nature, choice and fate. This is deep, meaningful fiction. The psychology in this book is a crowning achievement of Naturalism. American Tragedy takes potential energy and makes it kinetic.

Read any 5 pages for Chris’sakes.

Dreiser maintains this requiem, not so much like an author removed from the pages, simply recording words on paper, but like someone within the story, just as curious, anticipatory and beguiled as the characters in action. You must read this book in no less than 40-50 page portions, and complete within 2 weeks. Anything less and you risk losing gossamer threads under weighty words and thought--the constellation at night. The story builds. Poisonous. Every paragraph essential to the next, like heartbeat. His diction and syntax reflect the mood and pacing of the story. When characters are crestfallen, the writing is dour; when action is swift, the writing short and speedy; when there’s love, the writing is sussurant and sparkles as might fresh snowflakes at night; when the devil is about, the writing is a dirge.

Poverty, passion, struggle, desire, love, wealth, envy, escape, money, murder, trial, salvation

Poverty, passion, struggle, desire, love, wealth, envy, escape, money, murder, trial, salvation

Some complain that Dreiser is too wordy, too ponderous, and could use another round with an editor. I understand that. But for me, his complex-compound, subordinating sentences with numerous modifiers and lengthy run on sentences and long paragraphs satisfies a reading need I have to plumb the soul in excruciating detail. My own mind overthinks itself, and so I relate to thoughts that weave slowly and seam together storyline that may be removed by as much as 800 pages. Dreiser’s writing is like Henry James, but with a mean streak. Accept the circuitous writing and observe the characters grapple with the moment-by-moment blows of their destiny.

When I think about this book, all that arises are scattershot feelings I don’t quite understand. Like this, dammit, what does it mean?:::

~~Dreiser’s words investigate the range of human emotions, in the dark, gently but hotly, like your hesitant, hungry hand probing lambently over the body of a unexpected new lover for the first time.

~~When I return to memories of those girls--my own conquests as a boy--I was early suffering a man’s emotion, a heart the size of which was too small to restrain the same feelings applied in this spectacular book, no matter how sweet or how wicked.

~~When I was young I used to ponder things like most kids, but occasionally I’d warp forward suddenly and see so far beyond the solution that, for no less than several moments I felt as if I was rising, with a grip on nothing, breathless, for example looking down from so high above the northern hemisphere that I conceived the orbit of the planet and knew, positively, as only a few others at that exact moment, that we are rotating counterclockwise AND orbiting counterclockwise the sun, both spindles of a Greater Hand, powerless to effect the most infinitesimal change, like Clyde moving powerless to his end.

~~If I could stop Clyde, I wouldn’t. There’s a fossil in his actions that will be played out, and if I touched him anyway, the australopithecine brutality may rub off on me, and scare me such that I may commit the same crimes, and run away to endure the same punishments.

~~God help Roberta; she can no more gather the first tendril breeze, miles and miles afront the coming storm, already under the shadow of a building anvil, as could a paper cup hold a straight-flag gale.

~~Dreiser shouldn’t be able to see that finely into the human brain! (axon to dendrite to synapse, again a billion times in loop), unless by God--pain and horror--he’s recalling exact perfidy from experience.

~~When I looked to the west this evening just after sunset, low in the sky but high in the air, against the washed-out blue and sound of insects, were ruddy clouds underlit by spectacular salmon, encrusted there almost by putty knife, the crenelations highlighted, I felt that I would never be able to read American Tragedy again for the first time--that initial feeling lost, like this crepuscular atmosphere, slowly fading and going away from me, so that never, never, would I be able to capture the same moment as ever long I live.

This! This is what happens! This is how I respond to Naturalism; relenting; submitting; to Theodore Dreiser; to Emile Zola; to Thomas Hobbes who said that “my mother gave birth to twins: myself and fear” and who warned us that bellum omnium contra omnes and that lives are “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short."

American Tragedy is a classic of the 20th century. I surrender to epic writing that, like an asymptote, nears the f*cking wicked essence of real human tragedy. Read this book...

Profile Image for Lori.
294 reviews62 followers
July 20, 2008
Yes, I know this is Dreiser and I have heard all the caveats against reading him...His mundane style and his need of an editor...the pounding over the reader's head with his points...

I was unprepared for the power of this prose to be sure.

But the story overwhelmed me. The character of Clyde became real for me. I have known so many people like him...young, vaccilating, dreaming of better things, chafing at the position in life to which they have been placed by an accident of birth and susceptible to flattery and vice because they are bored and weak and run down by a drab life. This book was written in the early 1920s and the portrayal of the human condition is certainly not dated.

There are many who will write a more detailed, lucid and knowledgeable description of the merits of this book (or the demerits). I will simply urge those of you who have never read this classic example of 20th century realism to give it a go.

Clyde is not a hero. He can be despicable, irritating and frustrating. By why don't I detest him? This is a question I still ask myself after finishing the book months ago. I found myself rooting for his character to, literally, get away with murder (and the murder of a very nice person, too.) The last portion of the book is especially gripping as we learn Clyde's fate.

An American Tragedy was an emotional rollercoaster. As Clyde's story unfolds we are witness to scenes of drab poverty, lavish luxe life, the cheap thrills of brothels and booze ups in the big city, the bucolic amusements of mid 20th century rural life, the power of lust and greed, but also of faith and love and the fact that we have no choice but to go on until the end...whatever that end might be.

This book was a panarama...the story of a life...and one worth reading.
Profile Image for Ahmad Sharabiani.
9,564 reviews41 followers
January 17, 2019
An American tragedy, Theodore Dreiser
An American Tragedy (1925) is a novel by the American writer Theodore Dreiser. Ambitious, handsome, but ill-educated, naïve, and immature, Clyde Griffiths is raised by poor and devoutly religious parents to help in their street missionary work. As a young adult, Clyde must, to help support his family, take menial jobs as a soda jerk, then a bellhop at a prestigious Kansas City hotel. There, his more sophisticated colleagues introduce him to bouts of social drinking and sex with prostitutes.
تاریخ نخستین خوانش: روز بیستم ماه جولای سال 1985 میلادی
عنوان: تراژدی آمریکایی؛ نوشته: تئودور درایزر، مترجم: سعید باستانی، مشخصات نشر: تهران، هاشمی، چاپ نخست 1363، چاپ دوم 1382، در دو جلد، و 1017 ص، شابک دوره: 9647199074، شابک جلد 1: 9647199058، شابک جلد 2: 9647199066؛ موضوع: داستانهای آمریکایی سده 20 م
عنوان: مکانی در آفتاب تئودور درایزر؛ تلخیص: علی اصغر انتطاری،تهران، فراددنگار، 1385، در 48 ص؛ چاپ دوم 1386؛ شابک: 9789648912081؛
عنوان: مکانی در آفتاب؛ نویسنده: تئودور درایزر، مترجم: فریده رهنما، تهران، فروغ قلم، 1386، در 546 ص؛ چاپ دوم 1386؛ شابک: 9789649485799؛ چاپ دیگر: تهران، نشر هاون، 1393، شابک: 9786007546192؛ تهران، آراسب، 1394؛ در 48 ص، شابک: 9786007986523؛
جوان ناداری، برای کار به شهر دیگری می‌رود، تا در کارخانه عمویش کار کند. در آنجا با دختر کارگری به نام آلیس، آشنا می‌شود و با او رابطه عاطفی برقرار می‌کند. در همین حین عاشق دختر ثروتمندی به نام آنجلا، می‌شود. در این گیرودار آلیس به او فشار میآورد که باید هرچه زودتر ازدواج کنند، چون حامله شده‌ است. و ... تراژدی آمریکایی، در ایران با عنوان: مکانی در آفتاب، نیز، که عنوان فیلمی بر پایه همین کتاب و محصول سال 1951 میلادی به کارگردانی جرج استیونس است، شناخته می‌شود، رمانی از تئودور درایزر، نویسندهٔ اهل ایالات متحده آمریکا است. ا. شربیانی
Profile Image for Matt.
935 reviews28.6k followers
April 26, 2016
This book sat on my shelf for 12 years because I defied my mother's advice: I judged a book by its cover. Literally.

The cover of my copy of Theodore Dreiser's enormous, ambitious, sprawling epic An American Tragedy is singularly bland and uninformative. The back cover has a simple blurb telling me it is the story of the rise and fall of Clyde Griffiths. I sensed that this was another of those typically American, Gatsby-like novels in which the hero follows that great capitalist arc of rags-to-riches-to-ruin.

(Americans love it when people pull themselves up by their bootstraps and love it even more then those same people fall spectacularly on their faces. I suppose this is a consequence of our eternal optimism bounding up against the reality that we will probably never invent a social networking site, make a billion dollars, and be able to buy a Lear Jet piloted by a handsomely-uniformed and well-trained pug).

The front cover is a painting, pastoral and bucolic. In the foreground are trees and bushes; there is a grassy plain sloping down to a placid lake. On the far side of the lake are foothills, caught in the gloaming. Beyond the foothills are humpbacked mountains with their eroded summits. You view this scene as through a spiderweb; there is a shimmering, gauzy veil, limned by the orange-red light of the sun that is setting in the background. Above this painting are the words: AN AMERICAN TRAGEDY. Yet there is no hint of tragedy, unless you truly hate trees, lakes, foothills, or staid nature compositions.

Then I read about Dreiser in Newsweek's "True Crime" edition. I am a true crime junkie, of sorts, yet I'd never known, for all the years this doorstop of a book sat on my shelf, that it was about murder most foul. (This is the reason for the spoiler warning; since I was so surprised, maybe you want to be surprised to).

An American Tragedy is based on the real-life murder of Grace Brown by Chester Gillette. In this story, Chester is Clyde Griffiths, a poor boy, son of itinerant street preachers, who pulls himself off the streets with the help of a wealthy uncle. Then he runs into a Sophie's Choice between the poor girl he got pregnant and the rich girl who gives him entree into the society he has always dreamed of.

It doesn't end well.

This novel has been called "the worst-written great novel of all time."

True, so true.

Dreiser's grammar is, to put it kindly, improvisational. His syntax is tortured. He is indirect and repetitive. He never fails to use three adjectives when one will do. He writes in a passive voice, often in the negative. His sentences are long and dense and in 800 plus pages I didn't find one memorable passage or quotable quote. Some of his sentences go on for days, as though he's getting paid by the word. This in itself is not a bad thing. Hemingway could write long sentences that were still punchy and forceful by the end; Penn Warren had beautiful looping sentences; Faulkner's sentences were long and tangled and difficult to unpack, yet if you spent time with them, they ended up being evocative.

Not Dreiser.

He is not a great writer. His sentences are clunky and ill fitting. They are broken up with as many as a half dozen commas (he is seriously in need of a semicolon; I don't think he used one the entire novel). The multiple clauses cause his long sentences to start and sputter, jerking forward like the backfiring engine of my old 1980 Cutlass Sierra, mercifully destroyed in an accident back in the autumn of '97. He piles words atop words. For instance:

However, as both Roberta and Clyde soon found, after several weeks in which they met here and there, such spots as could be conveniently reached by interurban lines, there were still drawbacks and the principal of these related to the attitude of both Roberta and Clyde in regard to the room, and what, if any, use of it was to be made by them jointly. For in spite of the fact that thus far Clyde had never openly agreed with himself that his intentions in relation to Roberta were in any way different to those normally entertained by any youth toward any girl for whom he had a conventional social regard, still, now that she had moved into this room, there was that ineradicable and possibly censurable, yet very human and almost unescapable, desire for something more - the possibility of greater and greater intimacy...

In other words, they have sex. Or as Dreiser later puts it, Roberta "yielded to [Clyde's:] blandishments." I know, that probably got you a little worked up. If you need to take a break from this review to smoke a cigarette or dribble a melting ice cube down the back of your neck, please feel free. I'll still be here.

(Of course, the book was written in 1925, so Dreiser should probably be commended for his ability to discuss premarital sex, birth control, and abortion, even though you need Job-like patience to interpret what he is trying to say).

Dreiser's cavalier, creative-writing-professor-be-damned style is at times amusing. You will never see more rhetorical questions - pages worth. You will never see more exclamation points. You will even see double-exclamation points, at though Dreiser let his kindergarten-age child write certain portions. There are passages in italics; there are passages set off by parentheticals; there are letters; there are news clippings. Dreiser pulls out every stop in this one.

This is the kind of book you live in. I mean, you live in it. I would say roughly 75% of the book is exposition. There are very few times in which Dreiser will simply say, "a few weeks passed." Instead, he is bound and determine to describe every day, down to its smallest details. When Clyde ties his shoes, Dreiser describes it. When Clyde walks down the street, Dreiser tells you where he turned left, and where he turned right, going to the trouble of relaying each street name. Dreiser takes a God's eye view and writes in the purest form of the third-person omniscient I've ever seen. The story is seen through the thoughts and feelings of EVERY character, no matter how minor. The point of view might shift five times on a single page. Clyde will say something to the haberdasher, and we will know Clyde's thoughts. Then the haberdasher will say something, and we will know his thoughts, as well as a brief biographical sketch. Then Clyde will say something to Roberta, and we will know Roberta's thoughts. Thus, a trip to a haberdasher where Clyde asks about an abortion doctor, a scene that could've been described in one or two sentences, goes on for something like ten pages. I doesn't seem to matter to Dreiser that this scene then leads to a fifty-page digression about a doctor who refuses to perform an abortion (we learn a lot about this doctor, for no real reason).

Nothing is left to the imagination. Dreiser is right on the nose here. He tells you exactly what happens, step by step. He tells you exactly how you are supposed to feel. He shines a light on every corner of every character, so their every motivation is as clear as a mountain stream.

There is also endless repetition. First, Dreiser tells you the story, step by step. Later, Clyde is arrested, and he tells the story again, to the prosecutor, then again, to his defense attorneys, then again, in trial, then again, to a priest. And there are no shortcuts here. No, sir. Because Dreiser has put us in this world, so we have to listen to it over and over and over again. I know Clyde Griffiths story better than I know my late grandparents.

Yet at the end, it all works. At the end, the cumulative effect of this story is profoundly, surprisingly powerful. It was worth the slog.

Dreiser starts the book knowing this is an epic:

DUSK - of a summer night. And the tall walls of the commercial heart of an American city of perhaps 400,000 inhabitants - such walls as in time may linger as a mere fable.

We begin in Kansas City, where Clyde is chafing under the control of his religious-fanatic mother and weak-willed father, neither of whom seem to care about pulling the family out of their poverty. At once the great theme of this novel is stated - the class system in America. What it's like to be poor; what it's like to be rich; and how hard it is to start as one and end as the other.

Clyde soon starts to rebel. He takes a job as a bell-hop, falls in with some troublemakers (he goes to a whorehouse, as near as I can tell), and eventually has to escape to Chicago after an incident with a stolen car. In Chicago, Clyde chances to meet Samuel Griffiths, his rich uncle, who is a collar maker (shirt collars, that is) in Lycurgus, New York. Clyde goes to work there, and is eventually placed in charge of a department. However, the New York Griffiths do not fully embrace Clyde, and he is still poor.

At page 240, Clyde finally meets Roberta, the poor-but-beautiful girl who will eventually yield to Clyde's blandishments. A hundred pages or so later, Clyde meets the rich-and-beautiful Sondra Finchley. Sondra actually comes to love Clyde (in one of the book's great surprises, she turns out to be a surprisingly deep, multi-dimensional character; up till that time, all of Dreiser's young women are of two types: the first is a rich girl who is trying to figure out how to leverage a man into a better social position; the second is a poor girl trying to figure out how to leverage a man into a better social position).

Clyde finds himself in a position I know too well: dating two beautiful women. (Kidding). Clyde falls deeply in love with Sondra, but not really. Dreiser does not pretend to make him sympathetic. Instead, Clyde comes off as shallow, vacillating, and facile. He is forever rationalizing his decisions. He is self-centered and selfish and is forever following the next shiniest thing he sees. After Sondra shows him the high life of New York State society, Clyde starts to plot a way to leave Roberta. This is hard, though, because if anyone even finds out that Clyde dated Roberta, Clyde will be ruined. Then Roberta gets pregnant, and the situation gets that much worse.

One day, Clyde reads about a drowning in a lake, where the woman's body was discovered but not the man's. Gradually, Clyde begins to plot, rationalizing every step of the way. I'm a little disappointed that Dreiser chickens out when it comes to Clyde's ultimate depravity. Eventually, Clyde is arrested, and at page 600, we meet a dozen new characters: Mason, the broken-nosed prosecutor; Belknap, the William Jennings Bryan-like defense attorney; and Jephson, the cold, shrewd second chair of Clyde's defense.

The trial is quite a let down. As I said before, it's mostly repetition. I also thought the fictional Judge Oberwaltzer completely lost control of his court. First, Mason made several discovery violations that wouldn't have gone unpunished, even in the 1920s (for instance, he claims he has an eyewitness to murder, even though he doesn't; what happened to turning over your witness list?). Second, Mason is continually allowed to badger, argue with, and scream at Clyde during cross-examination. Third, Mason is allowed to "connect up" testimony after adducing testimony; thus, even when he can't "connect up" the testimony to make it relevant, the jury still hears it, and all the motions to strike in the world couldn't save Clyde. (Oberwaltzer should've dismissed the jury and taken an offer of proof).

(As a side note, I was a little surprised when Mason finally objected as to leading questions, about thirty pages after Belknap had Clyde testify in narrative form on direct examination. Good lawyering, Mason, glad you finally woke up).

Eventually, the case goes to the jury, but not before Dreiser gives us the jury instructions. There is a verdict and an appeal and we get to read part of the opinion from the NY Court of Appeals. Then it comes down to the final act of the tragedy. In this section of the book, I was actually moved when Clyde's mother comes to visit and, for a moment, stops being a religious zealot and acts as a mother: "My son - my baby..."

The trick with Dreiser is that by forcing us to live in this world, to know every step and turn and repetition, that in the end we fully know and feel for every character, even the smallest ones. We see them as fully human because none is fully likable. It is an amazing achievement, one that never could have occurred if an editor was involved.

Finally, when the book was finished, I went back and looked at the cover once more.

There, in the lake, I could see, faintly, what appeared to be three brushstrokes (one horizontal, two vertical) resembling two people on a canoe. If you read the book, you will realize that you can judge it by its cover. You just have to look for the details.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Sarah.
5 reviews5 followers
January 2, 2008
The tragedy is having to have read those 930 pages....
Profile Image for Chrissie.
2,780 reviews1,459 followers
January 12, 2018
After approximately 1/3 of this long, long, long novel:

This moves at the pace of a snail! It is repetitive. It is wordy. A long novel is great - but it must keep your attention every bit of the way. This one doesn't.

I haven't given up yet.


On completion:
I struggled through all 34 hours and 16 minutes of this audiobook. I like long books, yet this remained a struggle through most of it. Why? The writing. It is repetitive. Words and phrases are repeated continually. If a character says "no", here in this book they say “no, no, no”. For a while I sat down and copied all the repetitive lines:

"No, no, no
Yes, yes, yes
Why was it, why was it....oh God?!
He must think, think, think.....
Thinking, thinking.....
And maybe....who knows?!
For fear, for fear
Darling, precious, baby
That might mean, that might mean, what might that not mean?!
Always watching, watching
If only, if only....."

Not only words are repeated c-o-n-t-i-n-u-a-l-l-y, but also ideas thoughts and subject matter. After an hour of listening my husband would enter the room and ask what had happened. My response? Nothing yet; the same thing is still being discussed! This way of writing makes the speed of the novel extremely slow! It is this that destroyed the novel for me. It does have content. Important content!

Themes focused upon are religious salvation, one's social standing, politics, capital punishment, adultery, murder, guilt, court proceedings and judicial biases, the importance of education. Interesting themes. The book certainly does show you clearly why what happens happens and why Clyde, the central character, ends up in the mess that he ends up in. Is it his fault, the mess he ends up in? No, not really. I will tell you what I think the book makes stunningly clear - what happens to Clyde could so easily happen to you. I mean YOU! Me too. One misstep, and down you go.

Please readers, don't judge the book by the movie. That is relatively short! Here you have to trudge through a million lines.

On completion I went to Wiki and discovered that this story is based on a true crime story! I feel that those chapters that focus on the crime sequence are the best of the whole novel.

The audiobook I listened to is read by Dan John Miller. His execution is good. He switches tone, just as the lines of the book's text do. Jeez, when he gave us the baby-talk lines of Sandra Finchley, he drove me nuts. But those are the lines that Dreiser puts in the novel. He executes them well, not poorly.

The whole story revolves around Clyde, poor naive Clyde, who cannot make up his mind who he loves! Roberta or Sandra, and the two different worlds they come from!
Profile Image for Richard Derus.
2,970 reviews1,982 followers
March 13, 2013
Book Circle Reads 24

Rating: 3.5* of five

The Book Description: On one level An American Tragedy is the story of the corruption and destruction of one man, Clyde Griffiths, who forfeits his life in desperate pursuit of success. On a deeper, more profound level, however, the novels represents a massive portrayal of the society whose values both shape Clyde's tawdry ambitions and seal his fate.

Clyde Griffiths is a young man, from the poor branch of his family but with ambitions of making the big-time; and seeks a start in his rich uncle's factory. He gets a poor girl pregnant, Roberta Alden, who works with him at the factory; but then something better turns up in the form of a rich girl, offering a much better future. Meeting the rich girl at a family function at his uncle's home makes him suddenly regret getting involved with Roberta, and he feels trapped.

He takes Roberta canoeing on a lake with the intention of pushing her into the water, changes his mind at the last moment, but she falls into the lake and drowns...and he can never prove that it wasn't what he had planned. His fate is sealed, he is found guilty of murder. A dramatic story, it was based on a real life murder trial of the 1920s, and the success of Dreiser's novel saw it made into a film in the 1950s -- A Place in the Sun, which starred Montgomery Clift, Shelley Winters and Elizabeth Taylor.

My Review: Watch the movie. The "novel" is bloated and Dreiser's prose is as wooden as a plank.
Profile Image for Perry.
632 reviews533 followers
March 17, 2018
"Well is it known that ambition can creep as well as soar."
Edmund Burke

I'm relatively sure that in 1925 this novel was bleeding edge: based on a true crime, mixing an omniscient narrative, mostly of the anti-hero Clyde Griffiths' inner thoughts, with some reportage. Dreiser based it on the notorious criminal prosecution of a young man named Chester Gillette for the murder in the summer of 1906 of a 20-year-old lady found drowned near an overturned boat at Big Moose Lake in the Adirondacks. He was executed in the electric chair in March 1908.

In the novel, Clyde Griffiths is ambitious, driven by a need to escape poverty and rise way above its stigma, after growing up impoverished as the son of traveling evangelists. After working as a bellman in his teen years in Kansas City, then in Chicago where he runs into his uncle (whom he's never met before), he goes to work, after basically inviting himself, at his uncle's shirt collar factory in upstate New York.

After working his way up the ladder a bit, he falls for pure beauty, a young, rather bland underling of rural beginnings named Roberta. Yet he is overly fascinated with and allured by the wealth and society of the town (being related, but not close to, one of its richest families), so when the town's prettiest and most popular, but shallow, young socialite starts paying him attention, he dumps Roberta. Roberta then finds out she's pregnant. They look for a doctor to perform an abortion, to no avail. Clyde's plans of a new glamorous life are on the rocks.

You can probably guess where this is headed. This is not an ingenious criminal plan drawn up by our finest crime writers. Clyde must be one of the dumbest criminals ever. To be fair though, Dreiser was aiming more for Clyde's thought processes and the circumstances that brought him to the point where he would take the life of his girlfriend pregnant with his child.

The novel is loaded with symbolism and foreshadowing (e.g., the society girls are "electrifying"). And I sort of lost interest once it became apparent to me that he didn't have the slightest chance of being deemed not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect. Also, I found the dialogue hokey at times, the prose quite plastic, and chunks of the novel dispassionate (due to blending reporting into the narrative ). While this was probably sensational in the late 1920s after its publication, it pains me to say that our society nearly a century later including me, in all matters besides local, has become almost numb to such reported true life crimes except when the reporting goes much deeper into the criminal psyche or provides more salacious details (which wasn't the case here).
Profile Image for Duffy Pratt.
479 reviews136 followers
April 27, 2020
This is probably the longest really bad book that I've ever read. I gave up several times, and really can't say why I came back and ultimately persevered through it. I first gave up after this wonderful interior monologue passage:

"Gee, life was tough. What a rough world it was anyhow. How queer things went!"

Really? Gee! I might have come back to see if the writing could get any worse. And on that score, Dreiser did not disappoint. There's a literary atrocity on just about every page of this book. By the last third, Dreiser has basically done away with niceties, like subjects and verbs. The reductionism continues until we get passages like:

"But, oh, no! Oh, no! Not himself -- not that -- not his day. Oh, no. A whole year must elapse before that could possibly happen -- or so Jephson had said. Maybe two. But, at that -- ! . . . in two years!!!"

I wish I were exaggerating. Now, just imagine 900 pages of this. Much of it repetitious, and it getting worse and worse, sort of like Chinese water torture, but with exclamation points instead of drops of water.

But what of the characters? They are mostly notable for their shallowness and general unlike-ability. In over 900 pages, you would think that Dreiser might take the time to let us get to know some of them. Rather, he presents us with the broadest of cut-outs. Being generous, I'd say that he was doing something akin to kabuki theatre, and leaving his characters as archetypes to make the story more general. But I'm not feeling generous. So, instead, I think Dreiser basically hated everyone he was writing about, and couldn't bother to really get inside them or to humanize them, because then we (and more importantly, he) might come to like them.

As for the story: there's probably an OK short story here. Here it is. A guy leaves his evangelist family and goes off to make his fortune. He starts to work for his uncle, the owner of a factory. One rule of the factory is no relationships between supervisors and the female staff. He breaks the rule in secret. At the same time, he breaks into the local society and falls for a spoiled rich girl. He would like to abandon his factory worker girlfriend, but he knocked her up, and she could expose and ruin him. So he plots to kill her instead, and does kill her, though not exactly the way he intended. He is tried and executed.

Is it a tragedy? I was taught that tragedies had a tragic hero who suffered from some fatal flaw. Hamlet and indecision, Macbeth and ambition, Othello and jealousy. Without their flaws, these were all great men. Clyde Griffith is a bundle of flaws, but without any heroic characteristics that I could discern, except perhaps that people thought he was good looking. But as for flaws: he's stupid, vain, ambitious, self-centered. deceitful, lacking in empathy, a bit greedy, and so forth. So, despite the title, I don't see this story as a tragedy at all. Except perhaps for this: if the uncle's factory had allowed for dating of the workers, Clyde would never have broken into society, and might have settled for a humdrum, boring life with Roberta.

I've seen some people praise this for the candid look it takes at sex. But here's what I see. Two people have pre-marital sex, and they both die as a result of it. That's really forward thinking and candid. And even as far as that goes, Thomas Hardy covered this same territory much better. And then there's Anna Karinina.

I've also seen praise for the expose of society and ambition. But this book was published the same year as The Great Gatsby, and Gatsby, and again there is no comparison. Clyde's problem is not that he is ambitious. He is a little ambitious, but he seems more passive that anything else when it comes to his ambition, and it's definitely not presented as the cause of his downfall.

And yet, there must have been something compelling about this book. How else could I have willingly suffered through all 900 pages of it. I ask myself that, and if I were in a more generous mood, I might be able to come up with some reasons. But I'm not in a generous mood, and after so many pages of the writing getting worse and worse, I don't see any point in being charitable. Bad writing, bad story, bad characterization, bad social commentary. Bad, bad, bad! -- Bad!!!
Profile Image for Marvin.
1,414 reviews5,331 followers
June 21, 2012
An American Tragedy is one of the short-listers in the never-ending competition for the honor of Great American Novel. Yes, I know some say Moby Dick has it wrapped up but I just can't identify with psychotic captains obsessing about big fish. Dreiser's massive novel resonates with me. Even though its morals may be dated, the themes of class conflict and the struggle of desire over conscience still speak loud and clear. Clyde Griffiths is not very admirable but he is understandable. The only reason why I give this four-an-a-half stars instead of five is because the trial portion and the end being dragged out . Overall it is an exciting and thought-provoking American classic.
Profile Image for Alan.
470 reviews212 followers
August 9, 2023
11th book from my reading challenge with Ted.

#5 - Read a book that was originally banned.

Quite simply, here is the formula:

An American Dream + Devastating Horniness = An American Tragedy

This wasn’t a short book. Coming in at just under 900 pages, it demanded a lot. Perhaps as a result of these demands, I wanted to be a bit more critical. After all, why do you get to write that much and not have to justify it? Let’s start off with the negatives then, just to change it up a bit. I already hinted at one: it’s way too long. Outside of that, it felt weird to read this type of prose. It felt stuck between old, stuffy, Victorian prose and newer, succinct prose. It often tended toward the former, and when Dreiser wanted to make a point, he latched on to it and grabbed you by the back of your neck, shoving your head into the point over and over as you gasped out for air, him not letting go, you fearing for your life, as he yelled LOOK AT IT. LOOK AT MY FUCKING POINT GOD DAMN IT LOOK AT IT. So there would, perhaps, be 10-20 page strips of the novel where he was expounding a character’s thought process and beating it six feet under. Related to this, Dreiser would sometimes give us the true event, the true viewpoint for something, and then have characters discuss the verity of that event for 50-100 pages, them not being privy to it. It felt as though it went beyond the bounds of ironic literary device – maybe it was meant to create suspense, maybe remorse. Whatever it was, it didn’t often work.

That takes care of the bad. Because of the bad, I have been thinking about 3 or 4 stars for this throughout the last 100 pages. I went back and forth, but in order to be fair, I have to settle on 3 – with the caveat that this is damn near the highest 3-star rating I can give. I don’t like doing the decimal system, but if you convert the 5-star system to a 10-star system and allow the decimals, you could say this is a 7.9, if you wanted to.

Dreiser achieves something rare here – he creates a mix of unholy emotions (hatred, rage, envy, greed) but manages to convey this with an implicit understanding that these emotions have systemic causes. The name of the book is apt. This is an American tragedy, and with our non-stop march forward in time, a Western and increasingly global tragedy. He manages to show us that it is entirely possible to lose the right path and correct aims – well, if we want to be consistent, he manages to show us that it’s possible to never be on the right path. Wry hits at abject, fanatic religiosity sandwich the mindless craving for ease and luxury, for beauty, and for love. There is a constant urge to have pleasure, wealth, and position, but wisdom is sorely missed. The American Dream is sold to the characters and they are plugged into it, perhaps never questioning what it means to hit the 100% mark on that specific progress bar. What happens when you achieve it all? What happens when you get to the top of the professional and amorous totem poles? Won’t the hedonic treadmill continue rolling on? When you pine after a girl, wanting her to love you, to accept all of you… when she is driving you insane, taking over every single inch of your grey cells… when she finally reciprocates with the same energy and the world seems so bright… why do the lights fade when a slightly more beautiful, slightly richer, slightly more well-connected girl comes along? Could it be because the ramp will continue to escalate forever?

A forgotten American classic, but perhaps more relevant than ever, with the yearning and clawing and desire happening within the confines of our own rooms as opposed to the drab streets of Lycurgus, New York.
Profile Image for Eddie Watkins.
Author 6 books5,470 followers
September 29, 2014
This book raises dullness of style to sublimely convoluted heights. It's really one of the oddest books, stylistically, I've ever read. I read it years ago and I still can't pinpoint the source of this oddness, though I suspect it's the sheer complex awkwardness of the prose, which reminded me of something Henry James might've written if forced to type into a BlackBerry with his elbows.
108 reviews2 followers
June 24, 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.
Profile Image for Kirsten .
1,609 reviews258 followers
February 14, 2017
An incredible read and a page turner. Part crime story, part trial story. Based on actual events in the lake areas of the Adirondacks in upper NY state, I read this with the Classics for Beginners group. Also, my mother lived in this area when I was just a toddler.

Dreiser's pure genius is that he makes the reader become very sympathetic with the protagonist Clyde Griffiths, son of religious evangelists who preach on street corners and are even poorer than church mice. Nephew to the wealthy owner of a factory who feels guilty for his brother who was left out of the father's will and gives him a chance, but does not really welcome him to the family. Clyde wants, wants, wants.

The true villain of the piece isn't so much Clyde - though he does do bad things - but American society. There is no aristocracy, but we are still not a classless society. He wants to better himself, he wants finer things, but because of his upbringing he is at a disadvantage.

He is not lazy. He is a hard worker. He does try. But his desire for more is what gets him in the end.

I loved this book. I can see myself re-reading it in the future.
Profile Image for BAM the enigma.
1,898 reviews378 followers
June 4, 2018
Audio #53

Driesler took entirely too long to get to the point. The story seemed almost overdeveloped.
It's based on the true story of the Cigar Girl. (Look up the book written on the murder case) the factual account is much better
Profile Image for Nancy Oakes.
1,937 reviews749 followers
July 10, 2020
I'm so torn here as to rating ... I wasn't in love with the writing, but the author did make some very astute observations and I was completely sucked into the story. Let's call it a 3.7 rounded to a 4.

full post here:

The dustjacket blurb for this novel notes that An American Tragedy is a "monumental study in character, and a stunning jeremiad against the delusions and inequities of American society," and I don't know that I could improve on that description.

I admit I that I was completely glued here -- reading An American Tragedy this time around was like watching the proverbial train wreck you know is about to happen but feeling unable to look away. I can usually find some sort of sympathy for characters I don't particularly care for, but it was difficult here, especially with the central character, Clyde Griffiths. His feelings of entitlement lead him to make some pretty bad choices, while he spends too much time blaming his own situation on his childhood, his parents and society in general for its class conciousness in which poverty is a mark of weakness. Responsibility is not part of his working vocabulary. His hopes for advancement keep him on the lookout for a "very remarkable" man who "might take a fancy to him and offer him a connection," one who just "might lift him into a world such as he had never known." His problem, as we're told, is "a lack of mental clarity and inner directing application" which in other people

"permits them to sort out from the facts and avenues of life the particular thing or things that make for direct advancement."

On the other hand, Dreiser makes a very good case for pointing the finger at the societal values and forces that helped to shape Clyde's vanity, ambition and ultimately his destiny, as he offers some pretty stinging criticism of American culture in general. As the dustjacket also reveals, the novel is

"an extraordinarily detailed portrait of early twentieth-century America, its religious and sexual hypocrisies, its economic pressures, its political corruption and journalistic exploitation."

Detailed indeed, and even though I am a patient reader, Dreiser's prose style here is often cringeworthy, so for me it was all about story, and it's a page turner. It won't be for everyone, but sheesh -- I couldn't put it down.
Profile Image for Phyllis Eisenstadt.
48 reviews82 followers
August 17, 2017
"An American Tragedy," is a tale of conflicts, conscience, and polarized socioeconomic classes, from stark poverty to ostentatious luxury and opulence.  It is narrated by an omniscient author, which makes it as believable as if the readers were eye-witnesses.  It is also the personal story of Clyde, the protagonist -- a selfish, self-absorbed social climber who places more value upon wealth and luxury than upon human feelings.

The characters in this novel are so clearly portrayed that the reader feels s/he would recognize them if seen in person.  Each character's words and actions are consistent with the picture Dreiser had previously painted of them.  Nothing is out of place in their demeanor.

The courtroom scenes were dynamically descriptive, with the prosecuting attorney's brilliant piecing together of the nefarious incident.  One could easily say the construction and presentation of his case were not only a tribute to the justice system of that time, but also to human intelligence.  Marvelous!

The author, Theodore Dreiser, is a master of writing and story-telling -- so much so that this was my second reading of the book.  He observes many details, from the smallest and (seemingly) most insignificant to the most important and major events -- yet another reason the descriptions of background, places, and mores come to life for the reader.

At times, it may seem that the tale goes on and on without end, but be assured there is nothing superfluous about the details.  They all serve to place you right there in the middle of things, seeing what the narrator sees..

Whether the outcome of this novel is to your liking or not, it is still worthy of profound appreciation.

So pleased I decided to read it again!

Phyllis Eisenstadt
Profile Image for Peter.
2,776 reviews497 followers
July 13, 2018
one of the best novels I know, timeless topic, well paced, merciless brought to the end, interesting portrait of society;I didn't like the protagonist in this novel but was very interested in his going ons...
Profile Image for Josefina Wagner.
475 reviews
April 2, 2022
"İnsanlık Suçu " olarak çevrilen eserin filmini de çok beğenmiştim. Su anda bile aklıma geldikçe beni etkiler roman. Çarpıcı bir anlatımı var yazarın . Nedense ölüm cezası ile yargılanan genç bana bir sekilde Camus'un "yabancı" adlı eserindeki bir bölümü hatırlatır . Kesinlikle değişik roman olmalarına rağmen bir yerde ikisinde de dokunulan ''varoluşçuluk'' çemberinde hissedersiniz bir an ;eğer kitabı okuduysanız bunu fark edersiniz bir şekilde.. Filmde de aynı kuvvetli işleniş var. Siyah beyazdı hatırladığım kadar.Oyuncular ise muhteşemdi.Eser unutulmayacaklarım arasında kesinlikle.
Profile Image for Bettie.
9,989 reviews17 followers
March 6, 2014

I see some have shelved this as banned books - off to check up the goods on that.

Found it: Banned in Boston, Mass. (1927) and burned by the Nazis in Germany (1933) because it "deals with low love affairs." Source: 2004 Banned Books Resource Guide by Robert P. Doyle.

low love affairs? hahaha

A Place in the Sun with Elizabeth Taylor and Montgomery Clift

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Summer theme 2013

3* Summertime
Smiles of a Summer Night
4* A Summer of Drowning
3* Holiday Memory
2* A July Holiday in Saxony, Bohemia, and Silesia
4* The Head Gardeners
A Place in the Sun

Profile Image for Book2Dragon.
357 reviews137 followers
November 25, 2018
This may be the book that made me (gasp) a socialist and a skeptic of capitalism which is unregulated and unbridled. Dreiser is a wonderful writer. This book is highly recommended for today's America, especially in an election year.
Profile Image for Meghan Fidler.
226 reviews20 followers
March 13, 2014
Book One: in which Clyde pursues abuse
Book Two: in which Clyde bestows abuse
Book Three: in which everything in book one and two is repeated for the reader's abuse
Profile Image for Kelly.
154 reviews12 followers
December 6, 2007
Wow! Dreiser is no joke. Make no mistake; An American Tragedy is long and often times obsessive in its detail. There are approximately 500 pages of exposition leading up to the climatic moment! In truth it took everything in me to finish this book and not because I wasn't enjoying the story. It just seemed like it would never end. Yet in my moments of weakness, when I felt like I just couldn't go on, the story of Clyde Griffiths and his struggle to claw his way up the American social ladder was enough to keep me going. Clyde is the perfect combination of ruthless ambition and childish naiveté. His dogged attempts to circumvent all the socio-economic factors standing in the way of his success and his eventual comeuppance made this novel worth all the effort.
Profile Image for Michael Finocchiaro.
Author 3 books5,630 followers
April 26, 2021
This is one of the great American classics from the 20s by the author of Sister Carrie which many of us probably read in high school. Ironically, the grammar in this book leaves a LOT to be desired, particularly at the end with over half the paragraphs starting with "And then..." and bizarre, primitive phrasing. The descriptions are not particularly ornate or poetic. However, the story itself is compelling and interesting. I never really got to the place of feeling sorry for Clyde, but I could see the moral ambiguities in his story that the author was trying to bring out. A book about a real murder immediately brings to mind comparisons with similar classics and in particular The Executioner's Song and In Cold Blood. Having detested the former, I can say I preferred Dreiser's more hands-off approach to telling the story over Mailer's more heavy-handed non-fiction approach. A better comparison would be with Capote's masterpiece which I preferred, but felt that both Truman and Theodore truly tried to get into the minds of their respective killers with a great degree of success.

I suppose that the title is a bit ambiguous as well because it makes the reader wonder whether such a story could be told in contemporary France or England? There is a uniqueness to the gritty evangelist pauper to wannabe socialite in Dreiser's Clyde that would be hard to imagine in another society. The descriptions of Kansas City and Lycurgus, NY were very interesting studies of life as a hotel clerk and of the idle rich in America of the 20s.

As for its enduring legacy, one could legitimately wonder how Arrowsmith beat this one out in 1925 for the Pulitzer. That being said, it might be remembered that momentous The Great Gatsby was also published in the same year and, at least for me, remains on an entirely different and higher plane than either of these in terms of vision, breadth and power.
Profile Image for Eileen.
2,040 reviews87 followers
January 24, 2020
4.5 stars

This is my first book by Theodore Dreiser and I'm glad I read it. As long as it is, I think the combination of narrator and Dreiser's style worked very well. I found myself yelling more and more at Clyde as the book kept on ramping up, but then during the trial, I started feeling sorry for him and that part of Clyde's inability to see how wrong he was and how at fault he was was because of all the lessons he was learning from society, especially high society. And yet, why did he not learn better lessons from his parents? Part of that is because he felt stifled by their life and he couldn't accept it as a good way to be. He was constantly trying to move up in the societal castes and problems would arrive not because of anything he did but because others were doing it to HIM. There are so many layers to this book and I can see how it would be perfect for a High School English class, except for the sheer length of the book. Although the book starts out slowly, about halfway through the book it starts to move more quickly until, by the end, you're on a runaway train. Looking back, I don't know that I would have wanted to sit down and read and study such a book, but it is definitely worthwhile! The title is completely appropriate and although times are different, I can see how this could still happen (ack!) today. The more things have changed the more they stay the same, huh?

The extra half star is because I think the narrator does such a great job conveying the feeling of the author's words. Especially when Dreiser repeats words and phrases to convey the intensity of the moment--Dan John Miller completely captures this feeling. And the trial had me hanging by the edge of my seat, even though you just knew how it was going to all end; how it HAD to end. This was a story where, by the end, everyone is screaming and there is no way to stop it. Whew! Now I need a breather!
Profile Image for Coco.V.
50k reviews4 followers
July 3, 2018
💝FREE on Amazon & on iBooks today (7/3/2018)!💝

Ambitious, but ill-educated, naïve, and immature, Clyde Griffiths is raised by poor and devoutly religious parents to help in their street missionary work. As a young adult, Clyde must, to help support his family, take menial jobs as a soda jerk, then a bellhop at a prestigious Kansas City hotel. There, his more sophisticated colleagues introduce him to bouts of social drinking and sex with prostitutes. Enjoying his new lifestyle, Clyde becomes infatuated with manipulative Hortense Briggs, who takes advantage of him. After being in a car accident in which a young girl loses her life, Clyde is forced to run away from the town in search for the new life.
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