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Theodore Dreiser(1871- 1945)  Focus of Study  Life Experience  Literary Career  Point of View  Writing Style  Major works  Significance.

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Presentation on theme: "Theodore Dreiser(1871- 1945)  Focus of Study  Life Experience  Literary Career  Point of View  Writing Style  Major works  Significance."— Presentation transcript:

1 Theodore Dreiser(1871- 1945)  Focus of Study  Life Experience  Literary Career  Point of View  Writing Style  Major works  Significance

2 Life and Literary Career Life and Literary Career  Theodore Dreiser was born in Sullivan, Indiana in 1871, a Catholic German immigrant family.  His schooling was erratic and left home at 16.  He attended Indiana University in1889 but left a year later.  A voracious reader who is interested in journalism.

3  In 1892, started to write.  His unhappy marriage life and the failure of Sister Carrie(1900) combined to drive Dreiser to the verge of suicide.  The causes of failure: 1. Naked presentation of American city life. 2. He illuminated the flaws of his characters but did not judge them and allowed vice to be rewarded instead of punished.

4  Dreiser's career was uneven, until the publication of his most commercially successful novel An American Tragedy (1925)  Trilogy: The Financier (1912), The Titan (1914) and The Stoic(1945)

5  Dreiser, a socialist, wrote several non-fiction books on political issues.  In the 1930s, Dreiser had traveled to Spain to support the socialist government. He joined the American Communist Party just before he died in Hollywood, California, on December 28, 1945.


7 Point of View  His vision was essentially that of social Darwinism.  He saw thousands of individuals fail through weakness and others rise up in their coarse determination to gain social eminence.  He was neither morally earnest nor emotionally sentimental.  His sympathies were always with the oppressed and the weak.  His novels convey a modern sensibility of dwarfed human beings in an inhuman city environment symbolic of money, sex, power and cultivation.

8 Writing Style Writing Style  Clumsiness of his style.  His power as an energetic writer offsets his weakness in style.  He developed the capacity for photographic and relentless observation, truthfully reflecting the society and people of his time.  His narrative method is natural and free from artifice.  He is good at employing the journalistic method of reiteration to burn a central impression into the reader’s mind.

9 Major works  An American Tragedy  Plot:  Clyde Griffiths  Roberta  Sondra Finchley  It is a challenge to the traditional American myth of “success”.

10 A Place in the Sun(Film)  Clyde begins with a dream of success and ends in a tragedy. His life shows his ignorance of a changed materialized society which prevents him from materializing his dream.  Biological and environmental elements are central to the understanding of Clyde’s tragedy.

11 Focus Study on Sister Carrie(1900)  The novel offended a genteel American society. It was significant because it brought to the age of innocence a modern sensibility of isolation and alienation typical of an urbanized, mechanized society.  Character Analysis: Carrie:  Drifting aimlessly and helplessly, Carrie blindly grasp any opportunity for a better existence.  With no freedom of will, she is a slave to her heredity and environment. She is entirely depends on her physical attractiveness and mental strength to move through an amoral world.

12  She does not seem to possess a moral fiber in her.  Instead of punishing her for her “sin”, Dreiser confirms her “sin” as a natural means for success.  Hurstwood: cannot help himself in his relationship with Carrie. No respectable job, no enough income, no decent family, away from the environment of success, he gradually declines into laziness and poverty and becomes an impotent modern man unfit for survival.

13 Significance  As an outstanding representative of American naturalism, his novels depict real-life subjects in a harsh light.  His fiction records “the coarse and the vulgar and the cruel and the terrible” in life in defiance of the genteel and evasive current literature.  His novels were held to be amoral, and he battled throughout his career against censorship and popular taste..

14 Study Questions  1. What is Dreiser’s naturalistic point of view?  2. An American Tragedy tells a young man’s struggle, rise and fall. Why it is titled as an American Tragedy?  How does economic class govern the individual's relationship to money in Sister Carrie?  What is the relationship between money and sex in Dreiser’s novels?

15 For Further Reading For Further Reading  Theodore Dreiser: A Primary and Secondary Bibliography by D. Pizer (1975)  The Novels of Theodore Dreiser by D. Pizer (1977)  Theodore Dreiser: At the Gates of the City, 1871-1907 by Richard Lingeman (1986)  The Gospel of Wealth in the American Novel by Arun Mukherjee (1987)  After Eden by Conrad Eugene Ostwalt (1990)  Theodore Dreiser: An American Journey 1908-1945 by Richard Lingeman (1991)  Dearest Wilding by Yvette Eastmaned, ed. by Thomas P. Riggio (1995)  Love That Will Not Let Me Go, ed. by Marguerite Tjader (1998)  An American Tragedy by Paul A. Orlov (1998)  Dreiser and Veblen Saboteurs of the Status Quo by Clare Virginia Eby (1999)  Reading the Sympton by Mohamed Zanyani (1999)

16  Thank You Very Much for Attending This Lecture

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