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Herman Theodore Dreiser

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1 Herman Theodore Dreiser
Sister Carrie (1900) An American Tragedy (1925)

2 I. A brief biography (born Aug. 27, 1871, Terre Haute, Ind., U.S. — died Dec. 28, 1945, Hollywood, Calif.) U.S. novelist. Dreiser was the foremost American literary naturalist and author of two of the most significant works of early-twentieth-century American fiction, Sister Carrie (1900) and An American Tragedy (1925).

3 I. A brief biography Born to poor German immigrant parents, Dreiser left home at age 15 for Chicago. He worked as a journalist, and in 1894 he moved to New York, where he had a successful career as a magazine editor and publisher. His first novel, Sister Carrie (1900), about a young kept woman who goes unpunished for her transgressions (违犯; 犯规), was denounced as scandalous.

4 I. A brief biography Dreiser always thought of himself as a man of ideas--he had been deeply affected, for example, by Herbert Spencer's evolutionary thought and by Freud's theories--and he devoted the last two decades of his life to philosophical speculation. But like many American writers of the late 1920s and the 1930s, he was also increasingly drawn into social activism and support of the far Left.

5 I. A brief biography These interests culminated not long before his death in his joining the Communist party in 1945 and completing his long-delayed last two novels, The Bulwark (1946) and The Stoic (1947), works in which he expressed his final ideas about the relationship of spirit to matter in humanity and in the universe.

6 I. A brief biography A pioneer of naturalism in American literature, Dreiser wrote novels reflecting his mechanistic view of life, a concept that held humanity as the victim of such ungovernable forces as economics, biology, society, and even chance.

7 I. A brief biography In his works, conventional morality is unimportant, consciously virtuous behavior having little to do with material success and happiness. While his style and language tended to be clumsy and plodding, he played an important role in introducing a new realism and sexual candor(直白, 直率) into American fiction.

8 I. A brief biography After the success of Jennie Gerhardt (1911), he began writing full-time, producing a trilogy consisting of The Financier (1912), The Titan (1914), and The Stoic (published 1947), which was followed by The Genius (1915) and its sequel, The Bulwark (published 1946). An American Tragedy (1925), based on a murder trial, made him a hero among social reformers.

9 II.Sister Carrie 1.Sister Carrie (1900) is a novel by Theodore Dreiser about a young country girl who moves to the big city where she starts realizing her own American Dream by embarking on a life of sin rather than by hard work and perseverance.

10 II.Sister Carrie Theodore Dreiser based his first novel on the life of his sister Emma. In 1883 she ran away to Toronto, Canada with a married man who had stolen money from his employer. At the time of its first publication, the novel caused a minor scandal and Dreiser had difficulty finding a publisher for it. This was due to the blurred division line between good and bad in the plot and the fact that, at the end, Carrie is rewarded rather than punished for her immoral life.

11 II.Sister Carrie Although Dreiser's moralizing narrator does assert that, despite the fame and the money she has amassed, Carrie will not be able to achieve peace of mind in her life, the apparent lack of poetic justice -- the notion that immorality should pay in the end, even if only up to a point -- was a concept the reading public were altogether unused to at the time.

12 II.Sister Carrie In addition to the book‘s theme of sexual impropriety (不适当, 不正当), the public disliked the fact that Theodore Dreiser presented a side of life that proper Americans did not care to acknowledge.

13 II.Sister Carrie He wrote about infidelity and prostitution as natural occurrences in the course of human relationships. Dreiser wrote about his characters with pity, compassion, and a sense of awe.

14 II.Sister Carrie 2. Literary significance & criticism
In his Nobel Prize Lecture of 1930, Sinclair Lewis said that "Dreiser's great first novel, Sister Carrie, which he dared to publish thirty long years ago and which I read twenty-five years ago, 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".

15 II.Sister Carrie It captures the exuberance (充沛,繁茂,生气勃勃)
and social transformation of turn-of-the-century America. Littered with the nation's slang and its distinctive personalities, the novel traces the vagaries (变幻莫测) of fortune in the developing capitalist society. Simultaneously a tale of rags-to-riches and riches-to-rags, the novel confronts the reader with a vision of both the comic and the tragic aspects of American capitalism.

16 Thank you!

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