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Friday, February 19, 2010

An American Tragedy by Theodore Dreier, 1925, * * * *

This novel by Theodore Dreiser presents Clyde Griffiths, an ordinary young man who is the discontented offspring of a family of street preachers. Readers are immersed in his social background so they can understand how dreams of improving his economic status and social relevance are involved when  Clyde is accused of a vicious murder.  Dreiser offers the reader complex insinuations about the extent of Clyde's guilt which result in an examination of sexual hypocrisy, financial pressures, and governmental dishonesty. Even to the end, before his execution, Clyde's inability to comprehend his own blame is a true representation of human nature. Dreiser's triumph is his talent to provide a magnificently ominous picture of how evil can sneak up on a situation and render it poisonous. Dreiser based the book on a notorious criminal case. On July 11, 1906, resort owners found an overturned boqat and the body of a 20-year-old named Grace Brown at Big Moose Lake in upstate New York. Chester Gilletee was put on trial, convicted, and executed by electric chair in 1908. The murder rial drew international attention and the book was the inspiration for the award-winning film "A Place in the Sun". This is an American Classic.

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