Free Study Guide for An American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser|
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Squires asks Clyde about his father’s occupation; Clyde bends the truth, the
second example where the family’s background is presented deceptively.
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.
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.
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
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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Mescallado, Ray. "TheBestNotes on An American Tragedy".
. 09 May 2017