The un-natural woman: a study of Dreiser's major women characters
Carlitz, Barbara B
Liomar, J. D.
Master of Arts
The purpose of this study is the exploration of Dreiser's use of naturalism through the various women characters whom he created. Two novels (The Genius and The Bulwark) are eliminated. In the remaining six novels, the principal women characters are analyzed and compared with the essential aspects of naturalistic treatment of character, particularly feminine character. Secondarily noted are possible influences on Dreiser other than naturalism and the general trend of his literary and philosophic thought. A close analysis of characterization shows that for his earliest novels (Sister Carrie and Jennie Gerhardt), Dreiser was dependent on intuition and experience. His orientation is somewhat naturally "naturalistic," but his characters are rather sentimentalized. Later works (such as An American Tragedy) suggest that Dreiser deliberately attempted a naturalistic characterization; to some degree he succeeded. Final portraits (in his "Trilogy of Desire") indicate a turn to the mystic or spiritual emphasis in characterization. On the basis of such a progression of women characters, one finds some difficulty in endorsing wholeheartedly the view that Dreiser is a naturalistic novelist. One must admit with Dreiser himself that he is to a great degree "romantic." This paradox of two philosophic and literary points of view is quite apparent in the seven women characters under study.