could Dreiser ever truly love anyone?

 

 

The answer is NO.

 

 

*****************************************************

 

 

Roger W. Smith, email to Thomas P. Riggio, November 4, 2016

 

Dreiser (who was not a good husband and never became a parent) was incapable of really, truly loving another person in his adulthood and never did. (See Harry Stack Sullivan’s oft quoted definition of absolute love.) A corollary was that he could never freely accept love or kindness nor trust anyone’s good intentions towards him.

As Sullivan wrote: “When the satisfaction or the security of another person becomes as significant to one as one’s own satisfaction or security, then the state of love exists. Under no other circumstances is a state of love present, regardless of the popular usage of the term.” — Harry Stack Sullivan, Conceptions of Modern Psychiatry (1940)

Dreiser NEVER attained this.

 

 

*****************************************************

 

Thomas P. Riggio, email to Roger W. Smith, November 4, 2016

 

The issue I thought we were discussing was Dreiser’s relationship with women. As to his ability to love another person, that’s another matter — one too complicated, for me at least, to make any judgments about.

It’s tough enough dealing with that topic in regard to people we know well in our own lives, never mind someone long dead whom we’ve never met. And then there are so many different criteria that people use to determine what it means to love. For instance, you mention only two, not being a husband and not having children, but that could be applied to Christ as well! Philandering husbands might still love their wives: Bill Clinton seems to “love” Hillary, for instance. As I said, it’s too complex for my simple mind to understand, so you may well be correct.

 

*****************************************************

 

The issue is not too complex! Biographers and psychobiographers make such judgments all the time.

Dreiser scholars don’t want to go to deeply into his psyche because of what they might find.

The Dreiser archives are massive. He saved practically every letter, telegram, and scrap of paper that ever came into his hands. His love affairs and romantic entanglements have been well documented.

There is much, also, in Dreiser’s own autobiographical writings that reveals how he habitually dealt with other people, his family, relatives, and his spouses. What is notable is that he was constantly worried that someone would be unfaithful to him — or, in the case of non-intimate acquaintances, such as people he had business dealings with — that someone would cheat him. He had many acquaintances, but hardly any in the category of what you would call a best friend. He just plain could not trust or give himself to anyone. In the case of intimate relationships with women, he demanded that they pledge and observe absolute fidelity to him, but would not pledge it to them. See my essay

“Theodore Dreiser, Ervin Nyiregyházi, Helen Richardson, and Marie Pergain”

on this site at

https://dreiseronlinecom.wordpress.com/?s=pergain

for just one example — a very telling one –of how this played out in real life.

 

 

— Roger W. Smith

   September 2017

4 thoughts on “could Dreiser ever truly love anyone?”

  1. Fascinating! I’d read about Helen’s hoping to have an affair on the side with TD’s approval in her memoir!

    I’ve been folllowing up on Dreiser stuff and soon may have some news!

    Hope all is gong well with you!! Thanks for keeping me on you post list!

    Cheers,

    Michael

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Not that I know that much about Dreiser, but look at the dysfunctional family he came from! He probably never learned to love.

    By the way, we had the Dresser birthplace open on Saturday and 31 people came in 2.5 hours.

    I’m hoping to have it open more frequently.

    Tamie

    Like

    1. Yes, Tamie. Dysfunctional family. It seems that their hardscrabble existence and frequent separations were factors not inimical to warmth and closeness. And, there were many examples in later years of cold, distant relationships among siblings and extended family, although Dreiser did show family feeling on occasion and attempt to help siblings financially now and then.

      Like

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