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Does anyone have notes on "An American Tragedy", by Theodore Dreiser?

I really need as much info on the book, the story actually,as in like a summarry or chapter summaries. Characters. Anything really will help. I was supposed to read this book for Summer Reading. I start school on tuesday. THANK YOU so much.

5 Answers

  • 1 decade ago
    Favorite Answer

    Theodore Dreiser's massive novel An American Tragedy was published in December 1925 in two volumes. Coming in the middle of Dreiser's long career, it was the first novel to earn him fame and wealth, though not the first to be controversial.

    An American Tragedy is a detailed portrayal of the dark side of the American Dream—the story of what can happen when an ordinary man's desire for wealth and status overwhelms his moral sense. Dreiser built the novel around a real-life crime after spending years researching incidents in which men murdered women with whom they had been romantically involved but who had become inconvenient for one reason or another (often because of an unwanted pregnancy, as in the novel). Dreiser chose as his starting point the case of Chester Gillette, who drowned his pregnant girlfriend in a New York lake in 1906. Like the novel's Clyde Griffiths, Chester Gillette was electrocuted for his crime.

    An American Tragedy is widely considered Dreiser's best novel and an important work of American naturalism. Naturalism, which began in Europe and flowered in America, is a literary style that explores the premise that individuals' fates are determined by a combination of hereditary and environmental constraints that leave no room for free will or true individual choice. Some scholars and critics consider An American Tragedy one of the greatest American novels of any style or period.

    An American Tragedy opens on a summer evening in Kansas City, Missouri, in the early years of the twentieth century. Dreiser introduces twelve-year-old Clyde Griffiths along with his family: his father, Asa, and mother, Elvira, poor evangelists who run a mission in a shabby part of the city; and his two sisters and one brother. From the beginning, Clyde is antagonistic toward his parents' beliefs and activities. He is entranced by the material world that his parents shun. As a teenager, Clyde gets a series of jobs in increasingly glamorous settings—from streetcorner (as a newsboy)...

    In this essay, Norvell argues that Dreiser's own life is perhaps the strongest argument against his worldview as expressed in his novel.

    The worldview that Dreiser sets forth in An American Tragedy is the deterministic view that a person's fate is sealed from birth, determined by his or her particular heredity and environment in tandem with the animal instincts that affect all humans. This philosophical and literary view is based on the observation of Charles Darwin and other scientists that only those animals that are born with attributes that make them well-suited to their environment are able to survive and thrive. This idea is often referred to as "the survival of the fittest."

    Book 2 ....opens three years later. Clyde is now living in Lycurgus. He fled to Chicago after the car accident and, at his job at the Union League Club, encountered his wealthy uncle, who was on a business trip. Samuel Griffiths gave his nephew a job in his shirt factory.

    Clyde's cousin Gilbert resents him. Being the nephew of the factory owner makes Clyde the social superior of the workers, but most of his relatives see him as an inferior. Clyde is briefly attracted to a lascivious factory worker named Rita Dickerman. When his uncle promotes him, though, he shifts his sights higher. He...

    Book 3

    Clyde flees the scene of Roberta's death, but circumstantial evidence, including letters to Clyde from both Roberta and Sondra, leads to his arrest for first-degree murder. Sondra leaves town, and her identity is never publicly revealed. Samuel Griffiths hires attorneys for Clyde, and they devise a complex defense strategy for a client whom they view as extremely inept. Clyde lies to everyone, including his attorneys, about his intentions and actions.

    After a long trial, a jury finds Clyde guilty. His mother's efforts to have his death sentence overturned or commuted fail.



    Many scholars consider An American Tragedy the defining work of American naturalism, and the novel does incorporate all the hallmarks of the naturalist movement.

    Naturalism emerged in France in the 1870s and 1880s in response to new philosophical and scientific ideas, especially Charles Darwin's theory of evolution. Émile Zola defined the movement in France. It flowered in the United States from the final years of the nineteenth century through World War I and into the 1920s.

    If that doesn't help go to: Good luck

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  • Anonymous
    6 years ago

    Crossing at right angles the great thoroughfare on which they walked, was a second canyon-like way, threaded by throngs and vehicles and various lines of cars which clanged their bells and made such progress as they might amid swiftly moving streams of traffic. Yet the little group seemed unconscious of anything save a set purpose to make its way between the contending lines of traffic and pedestrians which flowed by them.

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  • 4 years ago

    An American Tragedy Chapter Summaries

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  • 1 decade ago

    Take a look at the 95 reviews posted to That should give you a pretty good idea of what the book was about.

    For a chapter-by-chapter summary, look at

    Source(s): retired librarian
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  • 4 years ago

    Obama civil rights for terrorists? Now that's scary!

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