By Martin Bucco
Known as the best writers at the American scene, Dreiser can be known as one of many world's most sensible worst writers, with claims that he's an impurist with not anything yet genius. This tale, advised in ugly element and with dependable realism, recounts the dilemmas and offerings of a "loser"; we watch him ascend to temptation, fall in transgression, and obtain his acceptable penance.
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Additional resources for An American Tragedy (Cliffs Notes)
8. What is the relationship between Clyde's differing views of Roberta and Sondra? 9. Describe the role of Asa Griffiths in terms of the narrative. Is his effect on Clyde more or less significant than that of his wife? 10. How do films influence Clyde? 11. Does Clyde change during the long course of this novel? 12. How does the Reverend McMillan contribute to Clyde's death? 13. Discuss the east-west theme in An American Tragedy. 14. How does Hortense fail Clyde? How does Rita? Roberta? Sondra? 15.
Dreiser's pattern of irony pushes toward his circular conclusion. To escape publicity, the suffering Griffithses of Denver move, but their address is revealed by the van company. In aiding Elvira, the reporters and newspapers also exploit her, as Samuel Griffiths expected. He himself is sorry that, out of sentiment, he ever involved himself with Clyde. Like the western Griffithses, so now the eastern Griffithses, reflecting notoriety, move because of their status and their children. Ironically, Elvira thinks that the newspapers (the source for Clyde's murderous plot) might help save him.
When Mason dramatically shows him a lock of Roberta's hair, he shrinks back. He is determined not to let Mason bully him, but he feels weak and unable to draw strength from Jephson's eyes. In answer to his partner's soothing contention that the uncourageous Clyde had the best possible defense, Jephson counters with his soothing belief that Clyde really did kill Roberta. From the beginning, Dreiser illuminates the elusiveness of truth. Trapping Clyde in little lies, Mason hopes to discredit the explanation of a change of heart.