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Free Study Guide for An American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser

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FREE ONLINE NOTES FOR AN AMERICAN TRAGEDY

BOOK ONE

CHAPTER FIVE

Summary

Clyde eagerly anticipates returning to the Green-Davidson; by Monday afternoon, however, Squires had virtually forgotten about him but is now in desperate need of a new bell boy. Squires emphasizes the importance of a strong work ethic, especially since boys unused to the hotel and the income earned at such a place often succumb to various excesses and are fired for the resulting poor performance. He then introduces Oscar Hegglund, a bell boy, to help Clyde get fitted for a uniform and fill him in on the details of the job. Oscar, who speaks in a thick New Jersey accent, informs Clyde of the shifts he would work, the (relatively) enormous tips that can be earned, and the dollar paid to the captain for every shift worked. Clyde cannot believe the good luck of his new employment and all the opportunities it offers.


Notes

Squires asks Clyde about his father’s occupation; Clyde bends the truth, the second example where the family’s background is presented deceptively.


CHAPTER SIX

Summary

Having stayed at only the lowliest of hotels and unaware of how much can be made at one as prominent as the Green-Davidson, Asa and Elvira are unaware of Clyde’s new earning potential. Clyde, hoping to hold onto as much of his new earnings as possible, did not enlighten them on the topic. And while Esta’s departure made Clyde’s parents ponder a move to Denver more intensely, Clyde’s new position makes him more adamant about being in Kansas City. On Clyde’s first night as a bellboy, he’s the last of the eight in the shift waiting for his turn. His turn comes and he is sent to Room 882, where he’s asked by a stout man to fetch Boston silk garters from a haberdasher. Given a dollar for this task, Clyde is unsure about what a haberdasher is; however, he does know that you can get garters at a gents’ furnishing store. Asking the Negro elevator operator, he is directed to the haberdashery in the hotel. He fetches the garter and returns to the hotel guest, who lets him keep the change, which nets him a total of thirty-five cents. He later helps an older couple and fetches them water, receiving a tip of fifteen cents; then he gets drinks for some young people holding a party in a room, and is tipped twenty-five cents.

Notes

The finances of tips is itself a system. The haberdasher takes sixty-five cents for the garter, but feels it proper to say the amount is seventy-five cents and give Clyde a ten cent tip from that amount. This is a system where people take advantage but accept that as a fact of life.


CHAPTER SEVEN

Summary

Clyde enjoys the prospect of living a better life with more pleasures and comforts, but is warned by his coworkers about predatory homosexual customers, one of the hazards of the job. One day, Ratterer points out a girl who’s been at the hotel with eight different men, none of them her husband. Clyde becomes friendly with the other bell hops, especially the worldly Hegglund who hailed originally from New Jersey, and Ratterer who came from Wichita and supports his widowed mother with his sister. Clyde accepts the one-dollar tribute given to Squires for each shift as the way things work.

Notes

Clyde's horizons are widened, but not necessarily in a positive way. He becomes friends with other young men who'll eventually play a crucial role in his downfall. Further, his tacit agreement to Squires' tribute is a sign of his willingness to compromise his values in the face of material wealth.

 

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