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Theodore Dreiser: An American Tragedy (Library of America No.140) Hardcover – March 10, 2003
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Top Customer Reviews
In "An American Tragedy," Chester Gillette becomes Clyde Griffiths, the son of itinerant evangelists who roam the country operating missions for the destitute. His parents often take Clyde and his siblings out on the streets of the city in order to sing hymns and hand out religious tracts. While in Kansas City, Clyde reaches the age of sixteen and decides to strike out on his own.Read more ›
People have said that it is overly long or wordy. It may seem like this in the beginning, but even at this part the book is not boring or dry. It is the story of a boy growing and maturing at this point, and it is precisely this personal growth (in detail) that makes the book so powerful. You, as the reader, become one with the protagonist because you have witnessed his entire life.
The preface in the version I read said something to the effect that the story builds slowly like a tsunami, finally striking you with all that built-up force. I am a 29 year old male who does not often cry, and I was in tears for the last hour of this book. After finishing I looked at myself in the mirror and I was shaking and my eyes were completely bloodshot. My only thought was what a terrible book that was, and why anyone would write something like this.
I read a lot of the supposed "best books" like the ones on the Modern Library list, and this is the most immediately powerful novel I have ever read.
Theodore Dreiser has been called one of the worst great writers in the history of literature, and that claim is justified. He can hardly compose a sentence that doesn't drop like lead from the tongue. He's especially fond of the double negative, which can become pretty tedious in a 900+ page novel. And in retrospect, the amount of plot on display in his novel does not seem to warrant its length, but somehow, I was able to overcome these two factors and find myself engrossed in it anyway. It doesn't for one second become boring or slow. And it offers some especially candid and frank ideas about the nature of guilt and the culpability of those who take lives, whether they're working on the side of crime or the law. Most fascinating for me were the novel's final pages, when Clyde tries to turn to religion for solace when he's at his loneliest, but can't get around the notion that there's really nothing to turn to.
Dreiser pulls off quite a feat by making all of his characters sympathetic.Read more ›
The social barriers between the poor and the (new) rich, the tugging materialism, and an underlying puritanism made up the social fabric around which Dreiser recreated Clyde Griffiths as Gillette and Roberta Alden as Brown. Driven by their human impulses and then trapped by social and moral prejudices, the outcome was a monumental tragedy of wasted young lives for both characters.
This novel is long (over 800 pages), and the writing style is torturous. It could probably be more appreciated for its social-historical value than as 'classic literature'. If you haven't read anything by Dreiser previously, you may want to try 'Sister Carrie' before tackling this one.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This is a story of a tragic, disillusioned American dream through which the author describes the complex modern American social system and the individual lives of Americans in... Read morePublished 5 days ago by whj
I will start by saying I will not provide a summary of the book here as I do not wish to give any spoilers. Read morePublished 19 days ago by charity james
An American Tragedy is a thought-provoking story of a young man with an inauspicious beginning who aspires to more of everything in his life. Read morePublished 20 days ago by J. Willis
Painful read for the first three quarters, but the end was really interesting and good. Crazy that so many American literary figures thought this was one of the best novels.Published 1 month ago by tiffany
I knew about the movie "A Place in the Sun", but did not realize it was made from this book. Read more
I haven't finished book... let's say - I'm in middle of the book. And guess what? The middle of the book is missing! That's right - IT'S MISSING!! Read morePublished 2 months ago by Amazon Customer
After reading "Murder in the Adirondacks" by Brandon on the true story of the Gillette/Brown murder case which was very interesting I purchased this fictional work that... Read morePublished 3 months ago by bennie