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.
First published in 1925 and based on an actual criminal case, An American Tragedy was the inspiration for the 1951 film A Place in the Sun, which won six Academy Awards and starred Elizabeth Taylor and Montgomery Clift.
©1925 Theodore Dreiser (P)2011 Tantor
I've read this book now I've listened to it. I highly recommend it, in any format you can find. even the first time through, it's obvious what must happen, Dreiser is such a great writer that the ending is suspenseful anyway. and still shattering the second time through. I hate to see this book become obscure. everybody read it! you won't regret it.
Say something about yourself!
90 years later, this is too dated. Everything is repeated, ad nauseum. The issues are certainly still relevant but the story was torturous and tedious. I read this because it was on the Top 100 English Fiction of the 20th c. list and it's the first I haven't liked. Love a long book if it's good - this wasn't.
BT the V.E.T.
I don't often write reviews but I had to mention this. The story was good, and well told. Definitely worth a listen. However, the sheer number of times that the word "dubious" was used was enough to make me crazy. "He looked dubiously" "He seemed rather dubious". "With a dubious expression, he..." The first few times I didn't notice but then it was like a dam holding back Lake Dubious was broken and washed over the rest of the story. Not obliterating the story altogether but definitely making it less distinct and worthwhile. Like a flooded playground. Anyway, like I said it was a very interesting story but I wish a thesaurus had been close at hand at the time of the writing.
Gets bogged down in parts,
Great story coming of age
Every high school student would find this a typical classic
Also one if you missed on your summer reading list, read now.
I think that there is a reason some novels of the early twentieth century are well known and still read by many such as the Grapes of Wrath or the Great Gatsby while others have left modern consciousness. I believe that one of the items that determines this is whether the story is a timeless one or one thoroughly imbedded in its time and place.
An American Tragedy firmly belongs in the later category. From the language of the novel to the general plot many of its elements will seem foreign to a modern audience. However, this is not to say that the novel is without merit. After adjusting myself to the language of the novel I found the story to be genuinely intriguing. It was interesting to see how teenagers and young adults behaved in much the same way in the early 20th century that they do now. Especially when your parents and grandparents can make it seem like they had none of the same impulses that modern teenagers have.
As long as you are willing to give the novel a chance and forgive some of the antiquated language, like repetition of gee this and gee that and references to haberdashers and dry goods stores then I think that you should give the novel a chance. You must give it until at least the half way point though as I found myself thinking that I should turn it off until this point.
I would also like to say that I think Dan John Miller does a very good job narrating the book.
Couldn't get past the first dozen chapters. The narration is really good, but the story is slow and the writing is monotonous. Bleech. Not my cup of tea.
Maybe I am crazy, but I am listening my way through Modern Library's 100 Best Novels of the 20th Century. I joined Audible because my local library offered fewer than sixty book on the list in the recorded version. "An American Tragedy" is #7 on the list, and was among my first Audible choices.
"An American Tragedy" tells the story of an young man from meager beginnings seeking to improve his fortune. Repeatedly, his good manners, appearance and charm enable him to secure good situations, but his poor choices ruin his chances, and the consequences he suffers each time are more serious than the last. Like "Sister Carrie," which I enjoyed very much, Dreiser's writing of "An American Tragedy" unveils events slowly so as to provide a depth and richness of characters, place and time.
Sadly, after thirteen hours of listening, I decided to put the book away. The story brought on feelings of depression that were unpleasant and hard to shake off. While I've enjoyed many books that other people find depressing, for some reason this one just was too much for me.
Since I didn't finish it, I can't recommend to read it or not! But hopefully my comments will help others decide about reading "An American Tragedy."
It was a very interesting book indeed, however the ending was insanely long - the trial and the appeals and the waiting could'e been condensed down to half the chapters or less.
It's a very interesting story though and a good look into American upperclass society.
Many "great" writers seem to need to write the one epic that comprises the life of a man from child to death. In the style of Dickens' "David Copperfield," Maugham's "Of Human Bondage," Dreiser attempts to write the story of Clyde Griffiths, the poor relation of a wealthy industrialist. Clyde has or makes for himself several opportunities to gain position and money, but he has a weakness for women, and every time he gets close to accomplishing something,his desire for women drives him from the path.
Now look. This is such a heavy handed morality tale, that whatever literary value it offers is diluted by Dreiser's apparent guilt for the weakness of the flesh. The beginning of the book strongly directs the reader to realize Clyde's deep immersion in religious code. However, his parents and family are like paper cutouts. They don't ring like real people (to me.).
Interesting, early in the story, Clyde's sister, Esta, gets involved with a man, gets pregnant and gets abandoned. The shame and costs of Esta's bad behavior is hard on her mother but the mother accepts the daughter and her child and eventually Esta and her boyfriend are married.
Later, in Clyde's life, his girlfriend becomes pregnant, and Clyde spends about a hundred pages trying to get her an abortion and to lose the girl from his new socially upscale life.
A murder is committed and Clyde is the accused. During his ruminations about his guilt and innocence, he is appalled to think he might have committed a murder. Yet there is NEVER a discussion that in his efforts to have his child aborted, he was engaging in a different murder. Doctors refused him their services based on fear of getting caught and yet nobody made the connection between abortion (ending a life) and murder (ending a life). (This is not a moral discussion on abortion. I am simply trying to show how limited a view Dreiser had for his own text.)
I believe that the book received mixed criticisms, that it was not at first found to be a "good" book, but was later considered a "classic."
It is an age old story, badly told. There is nothing new here, not in the actions or thoughts or the outcome of the protagonist or the ancillary characters which support this story.
Saul Bellow in "The Adventures of Augie March" attempted another one of these bilungsroman (coming of age stories), and it too was a monumental task to read. It is obvious when these stories come from prolific writers that they are infusing the plots with scenes from their own lives, but in both An American Tragedy and in Augie March, the authors were too delighted with their own lives and their own choices during their predicaments to make for objective writing.
I would say that Dreiser trumps Bellow in this particular type of book, but Dickens is the best of the bunch (which I have read). The Picture of Dorian Gray and Citizen Kane are well done portrayals of a "boy's life" and I know there are many more. But Dreiser's Clyde Griffiths is a poor addition to the style.
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