Synopses & Reviews
This big turbulent novel by Theodore Dreiser takes an unrepentant look at the sexual nonreticence of the day with a browsing hostility of traditional morality and organized religion. In this quagmire of conflicted standards, Dreiser presents Clyde Griffiths, an ordinary young man who is the discontented offspring of a family of street preachers. Readers are immersed in this social background so they can understand how social and political agencies become involved when Griffiths is accused of a vicious murder. Dreams of improving his economic status and social relevance maneuver Griffiths toward this unpardonable act. While he is also a victim of the deceptive benefits of a materialistic society, this pursuit of vacuous goals to riches, authority, and vanity does not bode well of its own accord. America's view of success leads to a destructive intensity in Griffiths as he comes in direct contact with lies, adultery, and, finally, homicide. Dreiser offers the reader complex insinuations about the extent of Clyde's guilt which result in an examination of sexual hypocrisy, financial pressures, and governmental dishonesty. Even to the end, before his execution, Clyde's inability to comprehend his own blame is a true representation of human nature. Dreiser's triumph is his talent to provide a magnificently ominous picture of how evil can sneak up on a situation and render it poisonous.
"Mr. Dreiser is not imitative and belongs to no school. He is at heart a mysticist and a fatalist, though using the realistic method. He is, on the evidence of this novel alone, a power." The New York Times Book Review
Based on an actual criminal case, "An American Tragedy" was the inspiration for the award-winning film "A Place in the Sun". This book, the only paperback edition of Dreiser's masterpiece, features an Introduction by Richard Lingeman, one of the foremost experts on Theodore Dreiser.