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AN American Tragedy [Mass Market Paperback]

Theodore Dreiser , Richard Lingeman
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (67 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Aug. 7 2000 Signet Classics
The classic depiction of the harsh realities of American life, the dark side of the American Dream, and one man's doomed pursuit of love and success...

"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

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About the Author

Theodore Dreiser was born in Terre Haute, Indiana, on August 27, 1871. After a poor and difficult childhood, Dreiser broke into newspaper work in Chicago in 1892. A successful career as a magazine writer in New York during the late 1890s was followed by his first novel, Sister Carrie (1900). When this work made little impact, Dreiser published no fiction until Jennie Gerhardt in 1911. There then followed a decade and a half of major work in a number of literary forms, which was capped in 1925 by An American Tragedy, a novel that brought him universal acclaim. Dreiser was increasingly preoccupied by philosophical and political issues during the last two decades of his life. He died in Los Angeles on December 28, 1945.

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DUSK-of a summer night. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Profoundly moving May 29 2009
Format:Mass Market Paperback
I began reading this book without knowing what it was about, except what was made clear by the title, a tragedy. After reading a few pages, I could not put it aside.

Although this book is by far the saddest I have ever read, I nevertheless consider it truly sensational, in the sense that in retelling "the tragedy" based on the real-life event, the author also fills its every page with the concerns that have forever confronted the human heart.

Raw, sinister and full-fledged suffering lurks just beneath the surface of this book's text, and it moved me to tears.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Worth a read June 4 2004
Format:Mass Market Paperback
This book was recommended to me by a Russian friend who said that Dreiser had been popular in the Soviet Union. I could immediately see why. Early on in the book I was gripped with the sense of impending doom. The tragedy takes 800 pages to unfold, but you know that something bad is coming from the start. It is as tragic as the best of Russian novels.
The 1920s setting is full of social and economic inequities and demonstrates how individuals struggle against the rigid lines often drawn in a capitalist society.
Overall, a good book to glimpse at life in the early 20th century and to watch the slow unraveling of a soul. It also forces the reader to confront issues such as guilt, responsibility, fairness and intention.
While the first half of the book is gripping, the second book is overwritten and becomes boring at times. Also, the protagonist's changes in character sometimes seem to occur too rapidly or unexpectedly to be realistic.
Worth a read to become acquainted with Dreiser's style.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Laci Peterson you are not alone... In the beginning of the 20th century, in up-state New York, a very real and tragic event occurred and became the basis for Dreisser's novel, An American Tragedy. Clyde Griffiths, the central character of this novel, fell out of love with a co-worker, Roberta Alden, but not before she became pregnant with his child. Clyde fell madly, hopelessly in love with a younger, captivating and much wealthier woman, Sondra. So, Roberta and baby drown, initially mysteriously. The boat is recovered and found to have been rented to Clyde. Later, of course, Mr. Griffiths is charged with the crime, and his affair with Sondra is disclosed, though the media refer to Sondra as Miss X. Nothing but circumstantial evidence connects him to the crime.
What is "American" about this tragedy? I think the answer resides in Clyde's aspirations, their impact on all he touches, and the impact of the his past on the drive to dream fulfillment. Once Roberta has drown, Clyde swims to the shore of the lake, a new immigrant, a young man on the verge of what he hopes will be a new and glamorous world. It is, as one critic described, a vapid world, but it is what he wants nonethless. Behind him, at the bottom of that lake, rests his past -- a world of poverty, a world without opportunity, the world of his childhood. He came to that Lake with the intention of killing Roberta, but was spared the trouble. She fell overboard and all he had to do was nothing, simply let mom and baby sink, while he swims quietly to shore. But the past is not so easily shed. It sticks to him and ultimately brings him to trial for his actions, or his failure to act, and his intent to kill.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars What is the real tragedy? June 25 2004
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Dreiser's story is very easy to read. He writes in a very descriptive style, giving many details to the story. I found it very interesting that the story was based on the life of Chester Gillette who drowned his pregnant girlfriend in a New York lake in 1906. The obvious tragedy in the book is the murder of an innocent girl and then the execution of the young man who killed the girl. But the real tragedy is one that is found in our society. Self-interest comes before any other value in our society. This self-interest is characterized by social and economical gain. While I believe the worship of social gain has subsided in the last century, the desire for economic gain has grown a great deal. So the real tragedy lies in this- that many people don't value anything other than self.
The book closely follows the life of Clyde Griffiths, a weak individual who seems to have no will of his own. The author tries to portray the main character as a cog with no freedom in society. This theme of Naturalism gives too much weight to the influence of genetics and environment. In reality, the main character made awful decision that were deserving of punishment.
The story was very interesting, and I found myself getting angry at the main character as he made poor (tragic) choices. At times, the book was slow because of the descriptive style. But overall the book was interesting, and shows the American tragedy.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Worth a read June 4 2004
Format:Mass Market Paperback
This book was recommended to me by a Russian friend who said that Dreiser had been popular in the Soviet Union. I could immediately see why. Early on in the book I was gripped with the sense of impending doom. The tragedy takes 800 pages to unfold, but you know that something bad is coming from the start. It is as tragic as the best of Russian novels.
The 1920s setting is full of social and economic inequities and demonstrates how individuals struggle against the rigid lines often drawn in a capitalist society.
Overall, a good book to glimpse at life in the early 20th century and to watch the slow unraveling of a soul. It also forces the reader to confront issues such as guilt, responsibility, fairness and intention.
While the first half of the book is gripping, the second book is overwritten and becomes boring at times. Also, the protagonist's changes in character sometimes seem to occur too rapidly or unexpectedly to be realistic.
Worth a read to become acquainted with Dreiser's style.
Was this review helpful to you?
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Based on a true story...
Just a note, no one here has mentioned that this is based on a true event that took place in Herkimer county in 1906 I believe.
Published on March 27 2004 by Laurel
5.0 out of 5 stars A Simple Plan
The film "A Simple Plan" could have easily been called "An American Tragedy," and the book "An American Tragedy" could have just as easily been called... Read more
Published on Jan. 6 2004 by brewster22
5.0 out of 5 stars Put it on your must read list.
Yes, it is a very long book over 800 pages; yes it is definitely an American classic; yes, it is an tragedy; but whether it is a portrait of the dark side of the American Dream is... Read more
Published on Nov. 25 2003 by Robert Wynkoop
5.0 out of 5 stars A Great Novel -- Worthy of Your Time!
As a writer, this book stands as a shining example of perfect prose. Because of his descriptions, you as the reader are able to get a very clear and accurate picture of every... Read more
Published on Nov. 20 2003
3.0 out of 5 stars American dream, American nightmare...
Inspired by the sensational details from a famous 1906 murder case -- in which a young man named Chester Gillette killed his girlfriend Grace Brown for being 'inconvenient' --... Read more
Published on Sept. 11 2003 by ca-bookshelf
5.0 out of 5 stars Long but Worthy
Theodore Dreiser (1871-1945) is one of the giants of American letters. His novel "Sister Carrie," written in 1900, is a cathedral of naturalist literature. Read more
Published on July 5 2003 by Jeffrey Leach
5.0 out of 5 stars a memorable book
I read this book over 35 years ago when I was in my early teens. It was the first large novel that I tried to tackle and I have been grateful ever since that I gave it a try. Read more
Published on June 15 2003 by Randy Keehn
5.0 out of 5 stars The great American novel
I first read this novel in a high school literature class, and it immediately became one of my all-time favorite books. Read more
Published on June 12 2003 by English major
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