March 31, 2011


Theodore Dreiser wrote his best seller, “An American Tragedy,” in 1925 after flunking out of college, turning to journalism to make a living and finally succeeding as a novelist and Hollywood screen writer. In 1951, “An American Tragedy” became a film starring Montgomery Clift, Elizabeth Taylor and Shelly Winters. The central character, George Eastman, is a blue collar worker who thinks he is getting his chance at the good life when his uncle, a wealthy industrialist, gives him a menial job on an assembly line in one of his factories. As for the rest of Eastman’s wealthy relatives, they tend to ignore him. But he is undeterred and intends to make the most of his opportunity. While on the assembly line, he makes friends with a young woman and eventually they become lovers. She discovers she is pregnant with his child just as Eastman meets a girl from the wealthy set who turns his head. His efforts to break off with his former girl friend end in tragedy when she drowns in a lake in his presence. Easton, though innocent of premeditated murder, is charged and convicted of her death, his punishment for having reached too far for his dream.

The novel’s title, “An American Tragedy,” adequately describes the injustice meted out to Eastman; but the movie’s title, “A Place in the Sun,” better describes the genesis of that injustice. Eastman wants to find his place and like every human being, ambition drives him. There is no shame in it. One could argue ambition is a direct response to ecological conditioning … light being the necessary element of all but the most primitive life forms. The dark side of this truth is that being deprived of light leads to injustice and evil in the human sphere. 

(Leto Kruler: “The Shadow”)

The world, at the moment, seems to be suffering from too much over-reach on the part of a few at the expense of the many. Financiers of Wall Street have brought our country to a low with their greed; and for too long, tyrants have blighted the dreams of their citizens by holding them prisoners in political states that are little more than dungeons. Unlike the victims of natural disasters whose suffering can be understood, the devastation wrought by avarice boggles the mind.

As to the wars for independence, there seems to be no remedy but bloodletting.  As to our own country, my hope is that the 1% of the population who control the nation’s wealth will come to their senses and avert a real American tragedy. The ecology of greed can kill the democracy upon which it thrives.