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"An American Tragedy" Characters

  • Date Submitted: 11/02/2015 01:20 PM
  • Flesch-Kincaid Score: 57.2 
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Theodore Dreiser “An American Tragedy”
Clyde Griffiths
Clyde Griffiths, the tragic protagonist of the novel. The weak but rebellious central character who aspires to wealth, luxury, and beauty. A typical chaser of the American Dream. Behind his charm and respectful manners, Clyde suffers from a weakness of mind and morality that eventually leads to his undoing. 
“For to say the truth, Clyde had a soul that was not destined to grow up. He lacked decidedly that mental clarity and inner directing application that in so many permits them to sort out from the facts and avenues of life the particular thing or things that make for their direct advancement.”
He yearns for amorous adventures, both erotic and romantic. He trusts in adventurous companions, pleasure seekers like himself who indulge in parties, brightly lit and full of music. And, finally, he deems personal freedom and independence of utmost importance, as a way to escape pain, responsibility, restraint, and family.
Throughout his short life, Clyde has seen his family's narrow reliance on prayer and precept brings no success, only trouble. His resigned father, unlike his rich uncle, is a failure. Clyde loathes his family's poverty and ignorance, their inability to help him and to give him the things he craves. He resents his parents' embarrassing religious labors in dreary mission houses and on city streets. Their rootlessness has contributed to his irregular education and to his sense of feeling always an outsider.
“His life should not be like this. Other boys did not have to do as he did.”
He is fascinated by wealth and what a person might do with it. He wants to elevate himself in every way, as far as wealth and social position are concerned. This is the dominating passion of his life. He thinks that the rich must live wonderful lives, and he yearns to become one of them. He becomes a bellhop at a prestigious hotel, but is forced to leave Kansas City to avoid being apprehended by the...


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