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Theodore Dreiser’s stark realism brought the American novel into the twentieth century. He paid a heavy price for his candor.
February/march 1993 | Volume 44, Issue 1
During those same years, he engaged in a quixotic search for scientific proof of the existence of God, interviewing scientists, reading abstruse journals, and writing obscure essays. He intended to show that man was a mechanism, a mere tool of a higher power. He undertook a comprehensive work that would embody his philosophy but failed to complete it. Ultimately his conclusion was grounded more in faith than in science: to him, the beauty and design of all created things were proof enough of a creator. His acceptance of a divine order enabled him to finish The Bulwark before his death. Ironically the skeptical novelist’s story of a pious man had become an affirmation of faith.
But he did not, as Mencken often predicted, return to the bosom of the church, Catholic or any other. Theodore Dreiser, age seventy-four, died of a heart attack in Hollywood, on December 27, 1945. Had he found peace? All that can be said with certainty is that the restless, clashing atoms that composed him were finally at rest: equation inevitable.