An American Tragedy

by Theodore Dreiser

I've read this one before & so purposely bought a paperback off ebay with the same drab Hudson-River-School cover as the one I had back in high school. So having already read An American Tragedy once, this re-reading hereby makes it two times too many. Additionally, the narrative (at three parts and 814 pages long) is bookended by religion, thereby making An American Tragedy, per se, two parts too long.

Have at it if you want. It's the story of a social climber who causes his own undoing & downfall when he tries to slough off one girl (of a lower social order & of whom he's fatigued) for a girl of higher social order, now that he's climbed a rung or two. He isn't a likeable character, & he gets what he deserves.

I liked Sister Carrie better, yet it ranks lower on the American Library's list. Dreiser is simply not that skilled a writer and was never able to really occupy Caroline Meeber as protagonist, so at least the tone was even throughout that book. But here in An American Tragedy, he gets you hooked on protagonist Clyde Griffiths in the main section of the narrative only to abandon that relative intimacy & have the last 200 pages make you feel like you should have quit reading a long time ago. Hard to care about what happens if you don't care for the main character to begin with, and then the author goes and makes him even less accessible.

Would be writers, take heart. If An American Tragedy can end up in the top TWENTY of a list of great novels, anybody can write. I'm just not sure what's good about this book.