american tragedy book by theodore dreiser
A 1948 edition of the 1925 classic book ©Author Adventures

Theodore Dreiser

Theodore Dreiser (1871-1945) was born in Terre Haute and lived in Indianapolis, Warsaw, Sullivan, Evansville, and Bloomington.

Best-Known Books

Dreiser was considered to be ahead of his time when writing Sister Carrie and An American Tragedy. Sister Carrie was almost rejected by its publisher for fear that its plot, especially the ending, would stir an uproar. An American Tragedy, which was published the same year as F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, was also intended to be a social commentary about greed and materialism. In both cases, the characters and plots are just as likely today as when they were written a century ago, which is why they remain on high school and college reading lists.

“Words are but the vague shadows of the volumes we mean. Little audible links, they are, chaining together great inaudible feelings and purposes.” –Theodore Dreiser

Read more about Dreiser here: britannica.com.

Indiana Historical Society

The Indiana Historical Society at 450 West Ohio Street, in Indianapolis, has an impressive collection of Dreiser’s work, including books, magazine articles, letters, anthologies, and bibliographies. (See www.indianahistory.org for details.)

His Editor, H.L. Mencken

Also see our page on his connection to the legendary editor H.L. Mencken here: H.L. Mencken in Maryland. According to that page: “Dreiser’s now classic 1925 novel, An American Tragedy, became the basis for a 1931 feature film of the same title and the 1951 feature film, A Place in the Sun, starring Elizabeth Taylor and Montgomery Clift. Neither film included much of the material in the first portion of the novel that Mencken thought was unnecessary but included anyway. A comparison  between the novel and the two films is here: Library of America.”

This is the third stop on our Indiana Author Adventures Trail.

Patricia Smart