Free Study Guide for An American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser

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Taking place in the United States in the first quarter of the twentieth century, An American Tragedy follows the travels of its hero, Clyde Griffiths, starting in the American Midwest before moving to upstate New York.


Major Characters

Clyde Griffiths
A young man who aspires to rise out of poverty but commits murder to pursue this goal.

Asa Griffiths
Clyde’s spiritually dedicated but otherwise dissolute father.

Elvira Griffiths
Clyde’s spiritually dedicated and psychologically strong mother.

Hester “Esta” Griffiths
Clyde’s older sister, who becomes pregnant out of wedlock.

Samuel Griffiths
Clyde’s uncle and Asa's brother, a successful businessman who owns a collar factory in Lycurgus, New York.

Oscar Hegglund
A bell boy at the Green-Davidson who befriends Clyde.

Thomas Ratterer
A bell boy at the Green-Davidson who befriends Clyde.

Hortense Briggs
A friend of Louise Ratterer who Clyde romantically pursues.

Willard Sparser
A friend of Hegglund who borrows his boss’s Packard for the fatal automobile trip.

Elizabeth Griffiths
Samuel Griffiths’ wife.

Myra Griffths
Samuel Griffiths’ older, more reclusive daughter.

Bella Griffiths
Samuel Griffiths’ younger, more social daughter.

Gilbert Griffiths
Samuel Griffiths’ only son and Secretary of the Griffiths Collar Company, he bears a strong resemblance to Clyde.

Sondra Finchley
A friend of Bella Griffiths and eventual romantic interest of Clyde.

Bertine Cranston
A close friend of Bella Griffiths and Sondra Finchley.

Titus Alden
Roberta Alden’s father.

Fred Heit
County coroner of Cataraqui County.

Orville Mason
District attorney for Cataraqui County.

Alvin Belknap
Attorney for Clyde Griffiths and a local Democrat, up for the same judgeship that Orville Mason is running for.

Reuben Jephson
Attorney who works with Alvin Belknap and Clyde's defense lawyer.

Justice Frederick Oberwaltzer
New York State Supreme Court justice and a Democrat.

Reverend Duncan McMillan
Clyde’s spiritual advisor while he’s in jail.

Governor Waltham
Governor of New York at the time of Clyde's execution.

Esta's illegitimate son.

Minor Characters

Julia Griffiths
Clyde’s younger sister.

Frank Griffiths
Clyde’s younger brother.

Albert Sieberling
A drug store soda clerk who hires young Clyde as an assistant.

Mr. Kinkle
Owner of the drug store where Sieberling worked.

Mr. Secor
Manager of a drug store more prominent than Kinkle’s.

Mr. Squires
Captain of the bell hops at the Green-Davidson hotel.

Mr. Whipple
Clyde’s immediate supervisor at the Green-Davidson.

Mr. Barnes
Another of Clyde’s supervisors at the Green-Davidson.

Man in 882
A stout customer of Green-Davidson who needs garters.

Negro elevator operator
Works at the Green-Davidson.

Works at the Green-Davidson store.


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An American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser Free BookNotes Summary

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