An American Tragedy by Theodore Drieser

And now, An American Tragedy in quotes and comments.


For the necessity of thought had been obviated by advice and law… her religious notions, not being grounded on any conviction or temperamental bias of her own, were not likely to withstand the shock [of being challenged].

Esta, raised by religious, conservative parents with strict rules, didn’t know what to do when real life came a-knocking and she had to think for herself. Did she really believe all that her parents had told her her whole life? She didn’t know because she had never had to think for herself.


Here was youth and geniality and freedom and love of life. 

In Clyde’s time, the roaring 20s, youth and geniality and freedom and love of life were equated with money and social status. If you were rich, you didn’t have to work! How genial and free and lovely.


The thought of being content with one not so attractive almost nauseated him.

One of my favorite parts of An American Tragedy was how Clyde had no idea how awful he was.


Indeed her effect on him was electric – thrilling – arousing in him a curiously stinging sense of what it was to want and not to have – to wish to win and yet to feel, almost agonizingly that he was destined not even to win a glance from her. It tortured and flustered him. At one moment he had a keen desire to close his eyes and shut her out – at another to look only at her constantly – so truly was he captivated. 

An American Tragedy: 800 pages of the difference between love and infatuation and a young man who can’t tell the difference.


There was something so warm and welcome about her that he felt that if he could persuade her to love him he would be among the most fortunate of men.

Until someone prettier and richer comes along that is.


It was so hard to be poor, not to have money and position and to be able to do in life exactly as you wished.

Tell me about it. But even more so back in the day, ya know. Not a lot of rags to riches stories in the early 1900s. It was certainly all in who you knew.


He was so eager to be of her world.

The first sign of danger – Clyde was so eager to be of this fancy, rich, carefree world, so eager, he would do anything, as we will see.


People like money even more than they do looks.

True is true. When push comes to shove, when people get the opportunity to change their life, their real priorities always come to light.


Just love and summer and idyllic and happy progress toward an eventual secure and unopposed union which should give him to her forever.

Oh what might have been.

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