Review of An American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser

An American Tragedy - Theodore Dreiser, Richard R. Lingeman, Margaret E. Mitchell

This book commits the ultimate sin. It's boring. Really, really boring. The story follows the life of Clyde Griffiths. Born to poverty in the early part of the last century and envisioning a better, shinier life for himself, Clyde grasps at every opportunity offered to him and resolutely throws each opportunity away for the dream of something even better. Ultimately this leads to an unwed pregnancy, murder, a trial and an execution.

 

You would think that a book about sex, greed and murder would be able to elicit at least a little interest, but no. Dreiser manages to stamp every ounce of empathy or suspense out of the reader with his run on sentences, repeated information, excessive - and I do mean excessive - use of exclamation marks, and colloquial language that is so dated it's off-putting. The book is monotonous. It's cumbersome. It's relentlessly heavy handed. I don't even want to get into Dreiser's attitude towards women. In short, this book was wretched and I'm so glad to be done with it.