An American Tragedy

by Theodore Dreiser

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How is the American Dream depicted in Theodore Dreiser's An American Tragedy?

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The American Dream is represented in a negative way by Clyde Griffiths' admiration of the wealthy people he reads about and eventually gets to associate with in Lycurgus, New York. Theodore Dreiser does not merely depict luxury and leisure as something to be desired by those who do not have it, but he actually shows the privileged men and women in their natural environment, living in big houses, vacationing at second homes at lakeside resorts, owning expensive automobiles and motor boats, employing numerous servants, having all the material things it was possible to enjoy at the time. Clyde is so enchanted by the world of the privileged class that he even considers committing a murder of his pregnant mistress in order to be able to hang onto his tenuous position in that society. That is the tragedy of An American Tragedy. Dreiser had strong socialist leanings at the time he wrote the novel. He thought there was something immoral about the vast divide between the haves and have-nots in America, and he depicted both classes in this classic book.

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