Social Constraints and the Quest for a Spiritual Identity: A Comparative Study between Theodore Dreiser’s An American Tragedy and Richard Wright’s Native Son

GOUFFI, I Mohammed (2012) Social Constraints and the Quest for a Spiritual Identity: A Comparative Study between Theodore Dreiser’s An American Tragedy and Richard Wright’s Native Son. Masters thesis, UNIVERSITÉ MOHAMED KHIDER – BISKRA.


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The present research delves into the social constraints, behind the tragedies of Clyde Griffiths and Bigger Thomas: protagonists of An American Tragedy and Native Son .The study equally endeavors at shedding light on the protagonist’s journey of quest for a religious identity. The dissertation therefore aims at (1) eliciting the various societal constraints (2) identifying the different aspects necessary to the establishment of a spiritual identity (3) disclosing the influence of the social constraints on the establishment of a spiritual identity within the materialistic confines of America’s twentieth century society. In their fictional renditions, Theodore Dreiser and Richard Wright denounce society for holding responsibility of the protagonists’ acts. For them, Griffiths and Thomas are not culprits, since they do not act out of their free will. Society imposes on them heavy restraints and compulsion. Accordingly, their criminality is the inevitable ramification of society’s restrictions. From a naturalistic perspective, societal constraints are to censure, not the weak Thomas and Griffiths, entirely ignorant to the law of social deterministic game. Dreiser and Wright, in other words, view them as blameless products of a disclosed environment, which predetermined their actions. In a sense, the two novels constitute an excruciating testimony to the consequences of the social constraints. On the other hand, Thomas and Griffiths make a spiritual journey towards a greater understanding of the Christian faith. Yet, attainting an inner spiritual meaning is once more inhibited by an outer struggle against societal strains. Thomas and Griffiths recognize that although belonging to a Christian nation, their spiritual selfhood is a matter of question. For them, religion is a source of pain and suffering as it makes them acknowledge the fact that they are killers without any considerations of their human condition. It is very appalling dilemma; the feeling of the spiritual unbelonging or the pain of assuming the other’s faults. In fact, the nature of this work - two long novels and writers coming from different backgrounds - entails recoursing to eclectic approach in which psychoanalysis and biographical criticism play a significant part. Besides, the research will equally employ some other theories such as Historicism, Marxist theory and Race Critical Theory.

Item Type: Thesis (Masters)
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PE English
Divisions: Faculté des Lettres et des Langues > Département d'anglais
Depositing User: BFLLA
Date Deposited: 16 Apr 2018 09:14
Last Modified: 16 Apr 2018 09:14

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