Theodore Dreiser is a master of American prose, and writing criticism on his works is a great responsibility. Although Subramanian (2007) takes such a responsibility, his article Evolution of Spiritual Thought in the Novels of Theodore Dreiser cannot be assessed as a perfect writing.
The work has its strengths and weaknesses that are assessed in this paper.Writing a good introduction is very important, as after familiarizing with it, one is usually able to decide whether the whole article is worth reading. Subramanian (2007) offers a very good “hook” writing that “…most critics were reluctant to accept the sincerity and validity of his [Dreiser’s] affirmation” (1). However, this excellent hook is not followed by a strong thesis statement. The thesis statement is rather flat: “…he also exhibited characteristics, which are totally different from those of naturalism and even opposed to it” (Subramanian 1).
This statement cannot be called perfect for two main reasons. The most important reason is that it does not offer a provocative assertion. The article does not require a reader’s intellectual efforts, as he gets all the answers from the very beginning. The second reason is that the thesis statement is too broad. It would be more effective, if Subramanian examined Dreiser’s naturalism in some specific context, for example in Sister Carrie or Water-work Extension.However, Subramanian manages to benefit from the broadness of his thesis.
The author has collected a large amount of evidence that Dreiser was not a naturalist, as many critics insisted. This evidence is taken from Dreiser’s works, for instance from a very detailed analysis of Sister Carrie. It is also retrieved from Dreiser’s statements about himself and his own life. While citing these statements, Subramanian proves that many of Dreiser’s characters reflect his life or the life of people whom he knew very well, which is typical of a naturalist writer. In fact, citations make the greater part of Subramanian’s work, which cannot be assessed definitely.
On the one hand, it demonstrates the author’s good preparedness. A five-page article contains references to sixteen academic and literary works. On the other hand, there is no place for Subramanian’s own ideas, while it is usually interesting to know what the author thinks on the matter.The use of a large number of sources helps Subramanian not only to defend his position that Dreiser was not a naturalist, but also address the opposition. The main opinion to which Subramanian opposes is that of Tinker (1944) noting that Dreiser was “an acknowledged leader of naturalistic school in America” (as cited in Subramanian 1). In order to challenge this idea, Subramanian has two strategies. Firstly, he suggests a definition of naturalism, and it serves as a framework to analyze Dreiser’s works. Secondly, he examines a number of the writer’s works to prove that Dreiser was a romanticist, a realist, but not naturalist.Although Subramanian’s thesis is not strong, and some of his conclusions are questionable, the organization of his work is very good. The author has …