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159 internautes sur 172 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Long but Worthy 6 juillet 2003
Par Jeffrey Leach - Publié sur
Theodore Dreiser (1871-1945) is one of the giants of American letters. His novel "Sister Carrie," written in 1900, is a cathedral of naturalist literature. Almost as epic as his novels was the constant state of warfare that existed between Dreiser and publishers who consistently refused to publish his books because of the shocking themes the author wrote about. One of his biggest battles involved "An American Tragedy," a sprawling book based on a real murder case that occurred in New York at the beginning of the 20th century. Dreiser used the Chester Gillette/Grace Brown episode as the basis for a story that strongly criticized America's infatuation with materialism and social status. In the Gillette case, a young dandy with an eye for the ladies impregnated a young woman and then drowned her in a lake when her condition threatened to put an end to his social life. During the subsequent trial of Chester Gillette, all of America readily soaked up the sordid details of the case. Gillette, vehemently denying that he had anything to do with Grace Brown's murder despite his conviction on a first-degree murder charge, died in the electric chair at Auburn State Prison on March 30, 1908. Dreiser went to such lengths investigating the case for his book that he even took his wife out on the lake where Gillette committed his crime, apparently worrying his spouse that he might recreate the crime.
In "An American Tragedy," Chester Gillette becomes Clyde Griffiths, the son of itinerant evangelists who roam the country operating missions for the destitute. His parents often take Clyde and his siblings out on the streets of the city in order to sing hymns and hand out religious tracts. While in Kansas City, Clyde reaches the age of sixteen and decides to strike out on his own. Tired of the austere life led by his family, Clyde secures a job as a bellboy at a big hotel downtown. The money he earns and the friends he makes at the hotel quickly lead to Clyde's indoctrination into the fast life of fine clothes, fine food, and fast women. An unfortunate incident with a "borrowed" car leads to his hasty departure from Kansas City to points east.
After a few years of drifting from job to job under an assumed name, Clyde happens to run into a rich uncle at a hotel in Chicago. The uncle, moderately impressed with his nephew's appearance and attitude, offers the young man a job at his collar factory in Lycurgus, New York. Clyde jumps at the opportunity, picturing himself rising quickly at the factory into a world of wealth and privilege. The reality turns out to be quite the opposite. His uncle is indifferent to Clyde's presence, rarely inviting him out to the family estate and starting him at the lowest, dirtiest job in the factory. A cousin named Gilbert also proves troublesome to Clyde's aspirations. Gilbert sees his poor cousin as a real threat to his own position as heir apparent at the factory. Moreover, Gilbert and Clyde are astonishingly similar in appearance. Despite these obstacles, Clyde is optimistic that he will win over his cousin and uncle after a few months time. But he needs to move fast when he meets Sondra Finchley, the daughter of one of the richest families in Lycurgus. If only Clyde could woo this pretty girl and get a good position at the factory! All his dreams would come true!
Clyde's dreams nearly do reach fruition until he finds himself in a spectacularly scandalous position. For when Sondra finally decides to make a move for Clyde, she doesn't know about his involvement with a poor factory girl named Roberta Alden. The inevitable eventually happens: Clyde impregnates Roberta at a time when Sondra professes her love for him. Griffiths is in a real pickle now, for he must drop Roberta so he can position himself with Sondra. Clyde convinces Roberta to seek a way out of the pregnancy but various methods fail to work. All seems disaster until Clyde remembers an article in the paper about a drowning at a local lake, and an unthinkable plan begins to form.
The minute detail of Clyde's rise and eventual fall leaves no stone unturned. The chapters covering the defense and prosecution's questioning of Clyde during his murder trial cover some seventy pages. Sometimes the details are too much, such as a description of a car accident that takes up way too many pages. Dreiser's mania for detail may be the biggest failing of "An American Tragedy" because the reader quickly becomes impatient with the pace of the story as the narrative bogs down under a mass of minutiae. Moreover, the author's convoluted prose style leaves a lot to be desired. His language is often so dense that even H.L. Mencken commented on it in the introduction to the story.
BUT, and this is a big but, Dreiser's story is deeply affecting. It is well worth reading 850 pages to experience the mind blasting intensity of the story. This is truly a tragedy, as Clyde's crime ruins dozens of people's lives. And such a powerful conclusion! Clyde's march to the electric chair brought tears to my eyes, especially when his mother chucks all the religious chatter, grabs her son, and murmurs "my son, my baby." Then note how Dreiser brings the story full circle after the execution. That is what the author does with this story: he makes you feel for nearly every character in the narrative. Ultimately, "An American Tragedy" is a great book with a few niggling problems. You will be glad you read it, though.
57 internautes sur 59 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 A Simple Plan 6 janvier 2004
Par brewster22 - Publié sur
The film "A Simple Plan" could have easily been called "An American Tragedy," and the book "An American Tragedy" could have just as easily been called "A Simple Plan." The plan at the book's center seems so simple indeed. The novel's protagonist, Clyde Griffiths, impregnates a girl below his social station, and he's so terrified by the idea of being exposed and ruining his chances at a life as part of the social elite (and losing the local well-to-do beauty to whom he's hitched himself) that he actually finds himself driven to kill her as his only escape. But Clyde has a simple mind, and his efforts to claw his way out of a desperate situation that inexorably suffocates him is compelling fiction.
Theodore Dreiser has been called one of the worst great writers in the history of literature, and that claim is justified. He can hardly compose a sentence that doesn't drop like lead from the tongue. He's especially fond of the double negative, which can become pretty tedious in a 900+ page novel. And in retrospect, the amount of plot on display in his novel does not seem to warrant its length, but somehow, I was able to overcome these two factors and find myself engrossed in it anyway. It doesn't for one second become boring or slow. And it offers some especially candid and frank ideas about the nature of guilt and the culpability of those who take lives, whether they're working on the side of crime or the law. Most fascinating for me were the novel's final pages, when Clyde tries to turn to religion for solace when he's at his loneliest, but can't get around the notion that there's really nothing to turn to.
Dreiser pulls off quite a feat by making all of his characters sympathetic. I didn't want Clyde to get away scot-free with what he'd done, but my heart couldn't help but go out to him. Likewise, Roberta, the girl he wrongs, could have come across as shrewish in another author's hands (she does in the film version, "A Place in the Sun," if you're interested in a literature to film comparison) but she doesn't here. Even Sondra, who could have been so unlikeably spoiled, comes across as essentially a warm character.
1925 was the literary year for deconstructing the American Dream. Both "An American Tragedy" and "The Great Gatsby" came out that year, and while I have to admit that "Gatsby" is a better written book, "Tragedy" just has a visceral appeal for me, and it's the one I enjoyed more.
48 internautes sur 52 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
3.0 étoiles sur 5 American dream, American nightmare... 11 septembre 2003
Par ca-bookshelf - Publié sur
Inspired by the sensational details from a famous 1906 murder case -- in which a young man named Chester Gillette killed his girlfriend Grace Brown for being 'inconveniently' pregnant -- Theodore Dreiser had all the elements to paint a great portrait of American society on its rise as an industrial power at the turn of the 20th century.

The social barriers between the poor and the (new) rich, the tugging materialism, and an underlying puritanism made up the social fabric around which Dreiser recreated Clyde Griffiths as Gillette and Roberta Alden as Brown. Driven by their human impulses and then trapped by social and moral prejudices, the outcome was a monumental tragedy of wasted young lives for both characters.

This novel is long (over 800 pages), and the writing style is torturous. It could probably be more appreciated for its social-historical value than as 'classic literature'. If you haven't read anything by Dreiser previously, you may want to try 'Sister Carrie' before tackling this one.
23 internautes sur 23 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 STOP! Don't read any summaries, just read the book. 31 décembre 2011
Par Roman - Publié sur
I chose this book simply because it was on Modern Library's 100 Greatest books of the 20th century list. I knew nothing about the author and from the title and the summary on the back, knew only that probably something bad would happen. This is the way to read the book.

People have said that it is overly long or wordy. It may seem like this in the begining, but even at this part the book is not boring or dry. It is the story of a boy growing and maturing at this point, and it is precisely this personal growth (in detail) that makes the book so powerful. You, as the reader, become one with the protagonist because you have witnessed his entire life.

The preface in the version I read said something to the effect that the story builds slowly like a tsunami, finally striking you with all that built-up force. I am a 29 year old male who does not often cry, and I was in tears for the last hour of this book. After finishing I looked at myself in the mirror and I was shaking and my eyes were completely bloodshot. My only thought was what a terrible book that was, and why anyone would write something like this.

I read a lot of the supposed "best books" like the ones on the Modern Library list, and this is the most immediately powerful novel I have ever read.
18 internautes sur 20 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 An American Masterpiece 9 octobre 2004
Par crazyforgems - Publié sur
Theodore Dreiser captures the American spirit in his brilliant portrait of early 20th century commerce and society. His observations are as relevant in the early 21st century as they were one hundred years ago.

Clyde Griffiths is the hero and the anti-hero of the novel. Clyde grows up poor with parents who preach on the streets for a not very good living. He lives the American dream as he rises both economically and socially. He moves from the position of bellhop to factory manager through cunning, avarice, and hard work. He rises from social outcast to man about town using the same skills.

Eventually he is forced to choose between two loves: his pregnant poor mistress and the wealthy small town social whom he dreams of as his wife. How he extricates himself from this situation causes his downfall and eventual ruin.

Through Griffiths rise and fall, and further fall, Dreiser weaves the themes of the importance of money and social class in America. His character has no moral compass, no conscience. Ultimately this leads to his annihilation.

I highly recommend this book to those who love American literature. It is not a book for the fainthearted. You need to dedicate yourself to this book when you read it. But your efforts will be rewarded by the gifts of an American masterpiece.
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