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 top worst writers, with claims that he's an impurist with not anything yet genius. This tale, advised 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 applicable penance.

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Although outwardly respectful, he remains aloof from vulgarians both below and equal to his station. He cloaks his poor origins, secret indulgences, and suspect behavior in evasions and outright lying. His instinct to flee from obligations and accidents transforms his mental and moral cowardice into mental and "accidental" murder. In the Death House, he turns to his mother and to Reverend McMillan, trying to find the God he never believed in. So patient and sincere is McMillan that Clyde pours out his confession and achieves a sense of relief and belief.

He becomes sick when he listens to the hungry inmates eat--like animals, growling and scraping. Their insanity terrifies him. But numb and dumb, unable to think or even cry after witnessing his first ritual of death, he shivers and shakes. And unlike Nicholson on his own day of death, Clyde is sick and feverish. But even in jail he strains to deceive his mother. Telling her about his not intending to strike Roberta, he lies nervously about his intention to let the girl drown. To give his mother some comfort, he conceals how bad is the Death House; and he never tells her all that he has confessed to McMillan.

Unlike Clyde, Elvira Griffiths, as a crusading mother and correspondent, gets a good press, but in time Clyde's notoriety wanes. Nicholson, the condemned ex-lawyer, advises Clyde that in the event of another trial only a digest of the facts in Roberta's letters (not the emotional letters themselves) should be admitted as evidence. Sondra's unsigned typewritten note is alien to her early inanities. After destroying his own letters, the refined Nicholson leaves Clyde his copies of Robinson Crusoe and The Arabian Nights--titles symbolic of Clyde's being a solitary dreamer and a beached fantast.

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