An American Tragedy (Cliffs Notes) by Martin Bucco

By Martin Bucco

Referred to as the most effective writers at the American scene, Dreiser is additionally 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, instructed in grotesque aspect and with loyal 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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Sample text

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.

Pondering his case, Clyde wonders if his false form of defense is in itself sufficiently mitigating to warrant an appeal. Furthermore, if he is now truly contrite, fit for life and action, the state's killing him compounds crime with crime. Out of his need for sympathy, yearning, and deliverance, Clyde confides more in McMillan than in his mother; from McMillan's manner, Elvira fears that Clyde is guilty. Although Clyde declares his Christian conversion, true to his own nature he seems to backslide onto the island of himself, where (like Robinson Crusoe) he must try to construct his own consolation.

Mason's threat of a witness shocks Clyde into picturing the truth for himself: (1) the unintended blow, (2) the boat's upsetting, (3) Roberta's cries for help, (4) his passivity, (5) his swimming to shore, (6) his changing clothes, and (7) his flight. Downhearted after Mason's dynamic presentation, Clyde is heartened by Belknap's opening defense. To distract the jury from the charge of murder, Jephson attacks the defendant as a moral coward. Hesitating and stumbling through his memorized answers, Clyde shows himself a weakling, incapable--Jephson hopes to prove--of murder.

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