Study Help Essay Questions

1. Was Clyde Griffiths guilty of murder in the first degree?

2. Discuss the American city as a symbol of twentieth-century materialism.

3. Compare the attitudes of Mason, Burleigh, Heit, Belknap, and Jephson toward the law.

4. Discuss the irony of Clyde Griffiths as a dreamer.

5. How does Dreiser as omniscient narrator deal with the physico-chemical view of man?

6. Discuss Dreiser’s variations on clock time.

7. What is the meaning of Clyde’s several nightmares?

8. What is the relationship between Clyde’s differing views of Roberta and Sondra?

9. Describe the role of Asa Griffiths in terms of the narrative. Is his effect on Clyde more or less significant than that of his wife?

10. How do films influence Clyde?

11. Does Clyde change during the long course of this novel?

12. How does the Reverend McMillan contribute to Clyde’s death?

13. Discuss the east-west theme in An American Tragedy.

14. How does Hortense fail Clyde? How does Rita? Roberta? Sondra?

15. Analyze Dreiser’s style. What are its strong and weak points?

16. With respect to probability, how does Dreiser establish the likelihood of events occurring which would be most unlikely in ordinary life? Which would be likely in ordinary life but not in fiction?

17. How does An American Tragedy achieve its greatest moments of tension?

18. What are the advantages and the disadvantages of Dreiser’s omniscient point of view?

19. How does Dreiser attempt to individualize speech? How successful is he?

20. What social problems does Dreiser regard as unsolved? Have they been solved since 1925?

21. Discuss the regional aspects of Dreiser’s novel. Discuss its universal aspects.

22. What is Dreiser’s attitude or the attitude of the “implied author” toward the idea of moral purpose in the universe?