Theodore Dreiser, Apostle of Nature

Theodore Dreiser, Apostle of Nature

Theodore Dreiser, Apostle of Nature

Theodore Dreiser, Apostle of Nature

Excerpt

Theodore Dreiser is a challenging figure. Arguing in the role of a determinist on the one hand that men are helpless, and assuming in the role of social reformer on the other hand that men can act and choose, he appears to have been the victim of contradictions that any highschool graduate should know enough to avoid. Yet it is impossible to follow Dreiser's career without realizing that he cannot be so easily dismissed. He cannot be dismissed as a confused genius; he cannot be dismissed as a foggy giant; he cannot be dismissed as a man who, despite a sophomoric philosophy, wrote great novels.

Whether he is a genius or a giant, and whether he wrote great novels, the present book does not attempt to decide. This is neither a study in esthetics nor a full-length biography of the kind that some day must be written -- numerous writings of his are not even mentioned. The interest here is primarily to investigate the apparent contradictions, trace their development, and interpret them in relation to Dreiser's career. How did the sensitive son of an ardently Catholic father come to be the Dreiser who wrote a novel that was labeled as lewd and profane? How did the author of The "Genius" come to be the author of An American Tragedy, or the author of Sister Carrie come to be the author of The Bulwark? How was Dreiser able to say in The Financier and The Titan that living in society is like living in the jungle and scarcely twenty years after insist that society is not and should not be a jungle? These are some of the questions to which the book should suggest an approach. If it suc-

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