An American Tragedy And The Futility Of — страница 2

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sometimes dreadful. For more than 75 years, critics have cited his greatest butcheries, “uncertainty and fear that now transformation-wise played over his countenance” (Dreiser 448) and “coward-wise” (453). They also note his annoying tendency to fragment complete sentences by adding the “-ing” suffix. Most critics fail to realize that his style adds realism to and makes consistent his naturalist theme. As Bucco of Cliffs Notes wisely said, “…Dreiser is one of the world’s best worst writers[.] He is an impurist with nothing but genius” (8). Dreiser’s eccentric writing method may explain his strange plot structure and nonstandard style. Each day, he wrote 3,000 words during a six-hour hypnotic session, then walked to his local library to verify details. (He

never edited his work, however.) At night, he held open discussions and poetry sessions in his home; during this time, he wrote critiques of local authors’ work for free. His visitors became characters in his novels. Dreiser, said H.L. Mencken, remembered everything: “When he described a street in Chicago [or] New York it was always a street that he knew as intimately as the policeman on the beat, and he never omitted any detail that had stuck in his mind…” (8). Every meal he ate, every conversation he heard, every useless fact, became part of the rich texture of his novels. To add detail to Book Three of An American Tragedy, he visited Sing-Sing prison’s death row and the courthouse where Gillette was tried, and even discussed the psychology of murder with renowned

psychiatrist Dr. Jacques Lobe. However, his most effective method of immersion was writing from his own experiences. Similarities between Dreiser and his most famous character, Clyde Griffiths, are shocking. Both spent their adolescent lives searching for the American Dream, had in-office love affairs with underlings, struggled to gain footing in the elusive high society, and lost everything because of their greed. An American Tragedy was based on the infamous Chester Gillette case. Chester abandoned his missionary parents and wandered, working anywhere he could, until he met Grace Brown. They had an affair. When she became pregnant, she moved into her parents’ house. After she begged him to marry her, he took her on a “honeymoon” to the Adirondacks, where he planned to

murder her. He caught before he began; he left her trunk and hat — valuable evidence in public places. After registering under an obvious alias, they went boating, and he drowned her. He fled and stayed at the Arrowhead Hotel until his arrest three days later. During his trial, Chester said his girlfriend had committed suicide to escape public humiliation. The DA proved that he hit her with a tennis racket (which numerous people saw him carry). Chester was found guilty of first degree murder and electrocuted (newpisgah.keene.edu 1). Gillette’s trial and An American Tragedy have surprising similarities. Chester’s attorneys, girls, rich uncle, and settings were identical to Clyde’s, albeit with minor name changes (www.albany.edu 1). Both Clyde and Chester had poor parents,

fell in love with a garment-factory employees and a good-looking upper-class girls, botched their girlfriends’ drownings, and were electrocuted. So, while Dreiser’s theme was not original, his flair for using details to create involving, vivid novels is unparalleled. Dresser’s most famous character is Clyde Griffiths. Clyde, the main character in An American Tragedy, is an attractive, morally weak, stupid 20-year old in the 1920s. His parents, a source of constant humiliation, are destitute preachers who force him to sing gospel hymns. Clyde knows that he has poor clothes, little education, and a blacklisted family, and is determined not to live his life in squalor, as his parents have. To do this, he must reject their beliefs and morals, which are certain to make him a

failure. He begins his downward spiral while working in a malt shop. When girls are not attracted to him, Clyde, longing for companionship, decides he must buy better clothes. To buy better clothes, he finds work at the prestigious Greene-Davidson Hotel. (Only, Clyde’s na?ve mother, Elvira is unsure of whether the Hotel is a safe atmosphere.) Exposed to wealth and high society, he becomes corrupted. Clyde’s hopes are shattered after a run-in with the law. He flees to Kansas and works odd jobs until he is hired into the regarded Union League Club. At the Union League, he meets his rich uncle, who gives him a job in his collar factory. Clyde moves to Lycurgus and, because of his last name, good looks, and charm, he soon enters the upper echelons of Lycurgus?s society. Less than