Dreiser's world of illusion: the imagery of the theater and the movies in his novels

dc.contributor.advisorAnderson, John Q.
dc.contributor.committeeMemberDixon, Terrell F.
dc.creatorTyssen, Muriel Harrop
dc.description.abstractDespite widely varying critical opinion of Theodore Dreiser's artistry or his purpose, many critics agree that the most praiseworthy facet of Dreiser's fiction is vivid imagery which effectively conveys the theme that life squandered in a pursuit of insubstantial dreams is tragic. The long list of images analyzed by critics is impressive, but theatrical imagery, an important metaphor for the illusions which deceive man, has received only cursory attention, a surprising oversight, since Dreiser relies on theatrical props to Indicate misplaced values and. In addition, frequently alludes to established dramatic traditions to heighten the tragic mood of his novels about mundane characters of lowly social station. Drawing from the traditions of the nineteenth-century melodramatic stage In his first five novels, Dreiser, to Illustrate the worthless goals which motivate his characters, parodies popular stage characterizations to provoke an ambivalent response to reality. In An American Tragedy, considered his best novel, Dreiser's Imagery derives from the world of the movies, an extension of the melodramatic stage traditions and twentieth-century man's favorite entertainment, to display the destruction of life by a belief In glittering, but false values, which prove to be optical Illusion, Dreiser's last novel, The Bulwark, becomes tragedy through his allegorical presentation of Solon Barnes as Oedipus, a modern man who suffers the same self-deception and possesses the same spiritual blindness as the ancient Greek king. Dreiser draws also from Elizabethan dramas and from the morality play conventions. In overt references to existing plays or in comparisons of such plays and their characters to his fictional world, the author expands the tragic potential in his modern dramas of common men, who become Faustus, or Hamlet, or Macbeth, as they struggle to find a purpose in life. The morality play tradition--noticeable in all the novels in Dreiser's use of names to represent situations and desires of his characters--provides an elemental response to the dllemmas of characters who become representatives of all men. Such diverse uses of theatrical imagery serve a dual purposet they illuminate Dreiser's views within a universal framework, and they display his artistry by suggesting insight into style, purpose, and philosophy. The theatrical imagery is like a continuous and timeless reflection of man in all ages of history. This thesis advances the theory that theatrical images, which consistently appear in Dreiser's stories, are more important than heretofore considered because they reveal that Dreiser was a conscious artist who wished to portray the totality of life—its value, its purpose, and its meaning.
dc.description.departmentEnglish, Department of
dc.format.digitalOriginreformatted digital
dc.rightsThis item is protected by copyright but is made available here under a claim of fair use (17 U.S.C. §107) for non-profit research and educational purposes. Users of this work assume the responsibility for determining copyright status prior to reusing, publishing, or reproducing this item for purposes other than what is allowed by fair use or other copyright exemptions. Any reuse of this item in excess of fair use or other copyright exemptions requires express permission of the copyright holder.
dc.titleDreiser's world of illusion: the imagery of the theater and the movies in his novels
thesis.degree.collegeCollege of Arts and Sciences
thesis.degree.departmentEnglish, Department of
thesis.degree.grantorUniversity of Houston
thesis.degree.nameMaster of Arts


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