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American Passages: A Literary SurveyUnit IndexAmerican Passages Home
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3. Utopian Promise   

9. Social

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Activities: Author Activities

Theodore Dreiser - Author Questions

Back Back to Theodore Dreiser Activities
  1. Comprehension: In "Old Rogaum and His Theresa," what attracts Theresa to the streets? Why is she reluctant to return to her home when her father calls her?

  2. Context: What kind of neighborhood do the Rogaums live in? Does Dreiser give readers an idea about the different ethnic groups and socioeconomic classes that inhabit the neighborhood? How do you think the community compares to some of the New York neighborhoods whose pictures are featured in the archive?

  3. Context: In "The Art of Fiction," Henry James claims that writers have a responsibility to represent "the strange irregular rhythm of life" rather than organized morality lessons, pat conclusions, or happy endings. How do you think James would have responded to "Old Rogaum and His Theresa"? Does it meet his criteria for good fiction? Why or why not?

  4. Exploration: Much of the drama of "Old Rogaum and His Theresa" centers on the problem of female chastity. Theresa's exposure to the unscrupulous Connie Almerting and the elder Rogaums' encounter with the suicidal prostitute thematize the potential for young women to "go astray" in an urban setting like New York. Why does Dreiser focus on this issue? Does he seem to draw any conclusions? How does his portrait of young women's desires and temptations compare to earlier American treatments of the same subject (Susanna Rowson's Charlotte Temple, for example?)

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