Free and Other Stories

Boni and Liveright
11
3.2
11 total
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Additional Information

Publisher
Boni and Liveright
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Published on
Dec 31, 1918
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Pages
369
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Best For
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Language
English
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Content Protection
This content is DRM free.
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Theodore Dreiser’s An American Tragedy (1925) is nothing less than what the title holds it to be; it is the story of a weak-willed young man who is both villain and victim (the victim of a valueless, materialistic society) and someone who ultimately destroys himself. Dreiser modeled the story of Clyde Griffiths on a real-life murder that took place in 1906; a young social climber of considerable charm murdered his pregnant girlfriend to get her out of the way so that he could instead play to the affections of a rich girl who had begun to notice him.

But An American Tragedy is more than simply a powerful murder story. Dreiser pours his own dark yearnings into his character, Clyde Griffiths, as he details the young man’s course through his ambitions of wealth, power, and satisfaction.

The Indiana-born Dreiser (1871-1945) has never cut a dashing or romantic swath through American literature. He has no Pulitzer or Nobel Prize to signify his importance. Yet he remains for myriad reasons: his novels are often larger than life, rugged, and defy the norms of conventional morality and organized religion. They are unapologetic in their sexual candor--in fact, outrightly frank--and challenge even modern readers. The brooding force of Dreiser’s writing casts a dark shadow across American letters.

Here in An American Tragedy, Dreiser shows us the flip side of The American Dream in a gathering storm that echoes with all of the power and force of Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment. Inspired by the writings of Balzac and the ideas of Spenser and Freud, Dreiser went on to become one of America’s best naturalist writers. An American Tragedy is testimony to the strength of Dreiser’s work: it retains all of its original intensity and force.

"Sister Carrie … came to housebound and airless America like a great free Western wind, and to our stuffy domesticity gave us the first fresh air since Mark Twain and Whitman." — Sinclair Lewis
"It is a great novel and belongs on anybody's list, absolutely." — Garrison Keillor
An eighteen-year-old girl without money or connections ventures forth from her small town in search of a better life in Theodore Dreiser's revolutionary first novel. The chronicle of Carrie Meeber's rise from obscurity to fame — and the effects of her progress on the men who use her and are used in turn — aroused a storm of controversy and debate upon its debut in 1900. The author's nonjudgmental portrait of a heroine who violates the contemporary moral code outraged some critics, including the book's publisher, Frank Doubleday, who tried to back out of his agreement his firm had made with Dreiser. But others were elated — and Dreiser's compelling plot and realistic characters continue to fascinate readers.
"Sister Carrie stands outside the brief traffic of the customary stage. It leaves behind an inescapable impression of bigness, of epic sweep and dignity. It is not a mere story, not a novel in the customary American meaning of the word; it is at once a psalm of life and a criticism of life … [Dreiser's] aim is not merely to tell a tale; his aim is to show the vast ebb and flow of forces which sway and condition human destiny. The thing he seeks to do is to stir, to awaken, to move. One does not arise from such a book as Sister Carrie with a smirk of satisfaction; one leaves it infinitely touched." — H. L. Mencken
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