An American Tragedy And The Futility Of — страница 3

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two years later, he is abandoned by that society. He dies in the electric chair with little respect and no possessions. Until his last months, Clyde has no morals. He wastes 20 years chasing windmills. Then, in jail, with less than one year to live, he is forced to give up his chase. When the caring, friendly Reverend McMillan befriends Clyde, both of them discover God. Confession, Clyde feels, will save his soul. (Ironically, it takes his life.) He instantly has morals; when he reads the Bible and prays, he accepts and copes with his failure and guilt. From an early age, Clyde is a social and economic outcast. He blames his parents for his failure and vows not to live his life with them. After working in a malt shop for several months, Clyde finds a job at the Greene-Davidson

Hotel. There, he makes more than $40 a week there, not including room and board. Finally, he is able to dress well, enter a higher social class, meet females, and escape his family. His plans are never realized: his friend runs over a little girl during a joyride in a stolen Packard. Clyde flees to Kansas, but he is too poor to live immorally until he works at the Union League Club, where he meets his rich uncle, Sam Griffiths. Sam employs Clyde in his shirt factory, and Clyde quickly succumbs to sexual temptation. In months, his lower-class girlfriend is pregnant. This does not phase Clyde, who is now a prominent member of Lycurgus. He falls in love with a beautiful, respected, rich girl, and rejects his old girlfriend, who he promised to love forever. His pregnant girlfriend is

in despair; she will be fired for her relations with Clyde, and society will reject her for not being married. Her only way out is to threaten to expose his libido to everyone unless he marries her. Clyde is intelligent enough to realize that if she reveals his secret, he will never have his beautiful girlfriend. So, he plans his pregnant girlfriend’s murder. Under the guise of a honeymoon, he takes her to a deserted lake and drowns her. His crime backfires; it is so poorly planned that police have a warrant for his arrest less than one day later. He is arrested, tried, and sentenced to electrocution. Truly unconscious, Clyde does not contemplates his crime or his guilt for more than a year. With the help of a benevolent pastor, he finds God. Clyde accepts his guilt and fate,

and is reconciled. Finally, he thinks about someone other than himself. He prays that other people will understand his follies and save themselves, and for a time he believes they will. But he is too late: his “friends” are ruined, and he is going to die. Less than one week later, he is electrocuted, ending his moral conflict. His moral conflict continues: he is reincarnated into Russell, and the novel abruptly restart. Clyde’s reincarnation proves Dresser’s contention that all humans are seeking the same empty promises. Constantly at odds with is environment, it appears that Clyde must adapt. For example, when he moves to Kansas, he seems mellower and more meditative. In reality, however, he just does not have the opportunity to screw up his life. Clyde is a stock

character until his last days; he is greed. Regardless of the consequences, he wants more — more money, more social contacts, more sex, and more happiness (the one thing he will never have). His pursuit of the American Dream quickly becomes machinelike. In a typical novel, there would have to be a dramatic change for a little choir boy to become a murderer. Not this novel. For Clyde, each section of life further weakens his morals. During his early romances, he only courts girls for kisses and uses his money to drink and dress stylishly. Later, he uses influence, looks, and charm, to seduce Roberta. He uses these same qualities to make Sondra love him. Seeing an easy way out of his dilemma, he kills Roberta. That does not even seem to be a problem for him — his morals are so

lacking that murder is only step above below him. At the end of the novel, Clyde is born again. When Pastor McMillan visits, Clyde — for the first time ever, and despite the possibility that the pastor might ruin his chance to be freed from jail — confesses his crime. He begins to read scriptures and thinks that he is similar to fellow seekers of the Elusive American Dream. He regrets that he could have saved himself many times, but is now beyond help. He wishes he had followed his mother and father, who are happy and loving. Once Clyde trusts God, he dies. Long before Clyde was a character, he was Dreiser’s vehicle to enter the mind of the killer, whom he was unable to but wanted to understand (Lundquist 87). Every section of the novel details Clyde’s meaningless life