An American Tragedy and the Futility of the American Dream

3919 WordsOct 8, 199916 Pages
An American Tragedy is an intriguing, frighteningly realistic journey into the mind of a murderer. It is a biography of its era. And, it is also historical fiction. But what makes this novel a classic? While society has changed dramatically since 1925, Dreiser's novel, which shows the futility of "The American Dream" and the tragedies that trying to live it can cause, accurately summarizes social mores of this and any time period. <br> <br>Before Theodore Dreiser was born, his father, a devout German immigrant, lost everything when his large wool mill burned down ( 1). After a beam hit his head, Dreiser's father was subject to dramatic mood swings; this brain damage caused him to became an evangelist (Survey of American…show more content…
<br> <br>An American Tragedy was based on the infamous Chester Gillette case. Chester abandoned his missionary parents and wandered, working anywhere he could, until he met Grace Brown. They had an affair. When she became pregnant, she moved into her parents' house. After she begged him to marry her, he took her on a "honeymoon" to the Adirondacks, where he planned to murder her. He caught before he began; he left her trunk and hat -- valuable evidence in public places. After registering under an obvious alias, they went boating, and he drowned her. He fled and stayed at the Arrowhead Hotel until his arrest three days later. During his trial, Chester said his girlfriend had committed suicide to escape public humiliation. The DA proved that he hit her with a tennis racket (which numerous people saw him carry). Chester was found guilty of first degree murder and electrocuted ( 1). Gillette's trial and An American Tragedy have surprising similarities. Chester's attorneys, girls, rich uncle, and settings were identical to Clyde's, albeit with minor name changes ( 1). Both Clyde and Chester had poor parents, fell in love with a garment-factory employees and a good-looking upper-class girls, botched their girlfriends' drownings, and were electrocuted. So, while Dreiser's theme was not original, his flair for
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