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
Long and boring. I did not enjoy this and many times I was just going to delete it but I did have to find out what would happen to him in the end
Sprawling realism as-it-happens
Difficult question. Certainly the portion of the trial with Clyde Griffiths on the stand, as interogated by the DA. Also, the tragic lake drowning scene and Griffith's subsequent flight.
Dan John Miller's narration was excellent. I seriously doubt I could have made it through such a sprawling story without Mr. Miller's read characterization. The story is very interesting, but Dreiser is much in need of an editor.
On the story itself: I kept thinking that Clyde's physical similarity to his cousin Gilbert would somehow be used. It's amazing how close Dreiser stuck to the original true story of Chester Gillette and Grace Brown. It's beyond belief the number of "mistakes" made by Clyde and yet still thinking he could possibly convince anyone that it was an accident or suicide.
After Clyde's conviction, the novel really drags on to his execution. I found all the religious rant and Clyde's "conversion" without any admission of personal responsibility unconvincing. He's amoral and always expecting someone else to help him. He's not a likable character in the end.
I would have liked a more adult-sounding, mature narration for Roberta. I found Sondra, the rich girl love interest, irritating and annoying, with all of her baby talk; we're just told that she was beautiful without a lot of demonstration of how she could have been so alluring as to tempt Clyde to get rid of Roberta.
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.
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