Biography Of Theodore Dreiser

A biography of the life of american author Theodore Dreiser, including his early life as part of a poverty-stricken family.

Herman Theodore Dreiser, son of German immigrants, was born in Terre Haute, Indiana, on August 27, 1871. He was the ninth in a family of ten children. In 1869, his father's woolen mill was destroyed by fire, and the family remained in poverty and was forced to move numerous times out of financial necessity. Dreiser was a sensitive child, stuttered, and was often humiliated by his family's poverty. All these experiences had a profound effect on his writing. Because he came from a poor family, he developed a preoccupation with wealth and success at an early age. Many of his novels describe the moral decay of people who become obsessed by a desire for wealth. He was educated at various public and parochial schools in Indiana. When he was twelve years old, the family moved briefly to Chicago and Dreiser developed a fascination with the city that lasted his entire life. As a young man, he attended Indiana University, however, he only remained in college for one year, from 1889 to 1890.

For a while, Dreiser drifted from job to job; he worked as a driver for a laundry, in a real estate office, and as a collector for a furniture store. He began his writing career by working for the St. Louis Globe Democrat. He also worked for newspapers in Pittsburgh, Chicago, and New York, where he finally settled in 1894. He was a voracious reader and was influenced by the writings of Poe, Hawthorne, Balzac, Freud and philosopher, Herbert Spencer. He eventually came to view people as helpless victims of indifferent natural forces. In 1898 he married Sara White, a school teacher from Missouri, however, Dreiser found it very difficult to remain faithful to one woman. He had numerous affairs, sometimes several at once. During these years he earned a living as an editor for several magazines for women.

His early writings include Sister Carrie, which was published in 1900. This was the story of a young unmarried woman who lived with two successive men, but was not corrupted by the experience. The book was extremely controversial due to its immoral nature. The publishers refused to market it. However, after his second book, Jennie Gerhardt, was favorably received in 1911, Sister Carrie was reissued. This was the beginning of Dreiser's successful writing career.



His later writings include his most commercially successful novel, An American Tradegy (1925) which was twice adapted into film, in 1931 and 1951. In this famous story he showed that the real criminal was not Clyde Griffiths, the killer, but the slum environment in which he grew up. He also wrote an autobiography, A Book About Myself, later re-titled Newspaper Days, which was published in 1922, and Dawn, published in 1931.

He also published accounts of his travels through the United States and abroad. A Traveller at 40 was published in 1931. A Hoosier Holiday was published in 1916; and his articles about Russia, Dreiser Looks at Russia, which were originally published in the New York World, was published in 1928. In 1932 he published Tragic America, in which he applauded the achievements of Russia. This book was followed by America is Worth Saving, published in 1941. Later his writing took him out west where he died in Hollywood, California on December 28, 1945.

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