Characters Discussed

Clyde Griffiths

Clyde Griffiths, the tragic hero. The son of itinerant evangelists, he was reared in poverty amid an atmosphere of narrow-minded religiosity. He has thus always longed for the things that money can buy. At sixteen, he gets a job as a bellboy in a Kansas City hotel and uses his unexpectedly large earnings for his own pleasure rather than to help his family. When his sister is left penniless and pregnant, he contributes only a small sum; he is buying a coat for Hortense Briggs, a shopgirl whom he is trying to seduce. Because of a wreck in a stolen car, he has to leave Kansas City. In Chicago, he meets his rich uncle, Samuel Griffiths, who gives him a job in his factory at Lycurgus, New York. The job is an unimportant one, and Clyde is resented by his cousins, particularly by Gilbert. Clyde is forbidden to associate with the factory girls, but out of loneliness he becomes friendly with one of them, Roberta Alden, whom he persuades to become his mistress. Meanwhile he is taken up by Sondra Finchley, the daughter of a wealthy family, who wishes to spite Gilbert. They fall in love, and Clyde dreams of a rich marriage. Roberta, however, becomes pregnant and demands that he marry her, thus shattering his hopes. When their attempts at abortion fail, Clyde, inspired by a newspaper account of a murder, plans to murder Roberta. Though he intends to kill her, her death is actually the result of an accident. A long trial ensues; but in spite of all efforts, Clyde is convicted, and the story ends with his electrocution.

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(The entire section is 634 words.)

Themes and Characters

Dreiser uses the tragic life of Clyde Griffiths to expose inequality and victimization. Clyde is a weak-willed character, but he has an avid...

(The entire section is 1333 words.)