Literary Precedents for The Executioner's Song

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The Executioner's Song reads like a latter day An American Tragedy (1926) because it emulates the size of Theodore Dreiser's huge, compelling epic.

Like An American Tragedy, The Executioner's Song has a documentary doggedness. It refuses to explain in definitive terms its main character. It follows Dreiser in projecting an ambitious appetite for encompassing the whole of American experience, for painstakingly recording the myriad details of individual lives, and — most importantly — for arousing wonder at the ambiguities of human identity. Dreiser's attention to the Western and Eastern voices in Clyde Griffiths's story, to the great social and psychological gap between the Western and Eastern branches of his family, and to Clyde's gradual absorption in the imperatives of the Eastern Establishment, including the "gross publicity . . . attending everything in connection with him," with his murder of his fiancee, Roberta Alden, strongly prefigures Gary Gilmore's story. Even in terms of...

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This section contains 174 words
(approx. 1 page at 400 words per page)
Buy The Executioner's Song Study Guide
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