Rufus and Hannah Barnes are good Quakers, highly respected in their new community of Dukla, Pennsylvania and strictly loyal to their faith. They pass this loyalty on to their children, including Solon Barnes, who must hold on to his Quaker convictions while living in an increasingly materialistic modern society.
After falling for the lovely Benecia—a daughter of the wealthy Wallin family—Solon is given a position at her father’s bank in Philadelphia, poised to work his way up from the bottom.
Solon’s faith is challenged by his position at the bank, as his moral values cause him to butt heads with corrupt executives driven by financial gain. Meanwhile, his own children start rebelling against the strict principles they were raised with. Yet even as the weight of the world bears down on the noble foundations at the core of his principles, Solon remains a bulwark for his faith.
The Indiana-born Dreiser (1871-1945) has never cut a dashing or romantic swath through American literature. He has no Pulitzer or Nobel Prize to signify his importance. Yet he remains for myriad reasons: his novels are often larger than life, rugged, and defy the norms of conventional morality and organized religion. They are unapologetic in their sexual candor--in fact, outrightly frank--and challenge even modern readers. The brooding force of Dreiser’s writing casts a dark shadow across American letters. Here in An American Tragedy, Dreiser shows us the flip side of The American Dream in a gathering storm that echoes with all of the power and force of Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment. Inspired by the writings of Balzac and the ideas of Spenser and Freud, Dreiser went on to become one of America’s best naturalist writers. An American Tragedy is testimony to the strength of Dreiser’s work: it retains all of its original intensity and force.
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