An American Tragedy, Perils of the Self Seeking “success”

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This book’s premise is that a novel’s ideas about the human drama are not necessarily the same as those its author consciously holds – meaning that a close reading of Theodore Dreiser’s artistic portrayal of modern America in An American Tragedy reveals the idea that he transcends the empirical premises of his presumed naturalistic thought to affirm the reality of the self and the importance of selfhood. Based on this crucial premise and intensive analysis of the novel’s text, Professor Orlov’s study develops an argument offering many original views of the Tragedy’s meanings and artistry. There is new light here on the fact that Dreiser sees the subversion of the idea of self in a highly materialistic society as the heart of his characters’ tragic experiences. Ultimately, then, this study suggests that An American Tragedy is an antinaturalistic statement about the self’s intrinsic importance.

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