Ralph Waldo Emerson W.E.B Du Bois Theodore Dreiser Fredrick Douglass John Dos Passos Stephen Crane James Fenimore Cooper Kate Chopin Charles W. Chesnutt Raymond Chandler Willa Cather Paul Bowles
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Dreiser, Theodore - An American Tragedy


Theodore Dreiser

An American Tragedy

 
"Scene by scene, he's a great storyteller, like Dickens before him and like, God help us, Stephen King in our own day."
— NPR
 
Overview  |  Note on the Texts
 

This Library of America volume contains the novel that is the culmination of Theodore Dreiser's elementally powerful fictional art. A tremendous bestseller when it was first published in 1925, An American Tragedy takes as point of departure a notorious murder case of 1906—one among many that Dreiser studied in preparation. He immersed himself in the social background of the crime to produce a book that is a remarkable work of reportage, a monumental study of character, and a stunning jeremiad against the delusions and inequities of American society.

Few novels have undertaken to track so relentlessly the process by which an ordinary young man becomes capable of committing a ruthless murder and the further process by which social and political forces come into play after his arrest. In Clyde Griffiths, the impoverished, restless offspring of a family of street preachers, Dreiser created an unforgettable portrait of a man whose social insecurities and naive dreams of self-betterment conspire to pull him toward act of unforgivable violence. The murder that he commits on a quiet lake in the Adirondacks is an extended scene of overwhelming impact, and it is followed by equally gripping episodes of his arrest and trial. Throughout, Dreiser elevates the most mundane aspects of what he observes into emotionally charged, often harrowing symbols.

Around Clyde, Dreiser builds an extraordinarily detailed portrait of early twentieth-century America, its religious and sexual hypocrisies, its economic pressures, its political corruption and journalistic exploitation. The sheer prophetic amplitude of his bitter truth-telling, in idiosyncratic prose of uncanny expressiveness, continues to mark Dreiser as a crucially important American writer. An American Tragedy, the great achievement of his later years, is a work of mythic force, at once brutal and heartbreaking.

Thomas P. Riggio, volume editor, is a professor of English at the University of Connecticut and general editor at the University of Pennsylvania of the Dreiser Edition, currently published by the University of Illinois Press. He is the editor of New Dreiser Letters, forthcoming from University of Illinois Press, and is working on Ugly American: A Life of Dreiser.

Also by Theodore Dreiser:
Sister Carrie, Jennie Gerhardt, Twelve Men

Also Available:
Sinclair Lewis: Arrowsmith, Elmer Gantry, Dodsworth
Sinclair Lewis: Main Street & Babbitt
Frank Norris: Novels and Essays
Mark Twain: The Gilded Age and Later Novels

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ISBN: 978-1-93108231-0
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