Free Study Guide for An American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser|
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BOOK SUMMARY FOR AN AMERICAN TRAGEDY
While Clyde’s parents are largely unaware of what goes on in large hotels,
Clyde is almost as ignorant. The only difference is in his willingness
to take part in such a world, something his parents do not share. Thus,
his reaction to the “joy-night” supper is hesitant but also intrigued,
aware of the moral lapses involved but strongly tempted by such behavior.
The night of the dinner arrives and Clyde joins the group; the others are
Hegglund, Ratterer, Shiel, Higby, and Kinsella. While walking to Frissell’s,
Hegglund recounts a Green-Davidson customer who arrived with a young woman
he falsely claimed was his wife, only to leave her behind with a very
high bill. At Frissell’s, Clyde drinks alcohol for the first time - Rhine
wine and seltzer, a mild drink that Ratterer chose for himself. The group
fondly discusses previous experiences at the brothel, which they visited
before. After dinner, they walk to the nondescript house of ill repute
and are let into a waiting room. Nine women in various kinds of bedroom
clothing are called into the room by the Madam.
The bell hops had heard from cab drivers that Frissell’s is one of the best
places in town, and thus believe it. They are highly susceptible to the
opinions of others, especially when dealing with issues of status and
pleasure. In that sense, they’re as ignorant as Clyde’s parents - unaware
of higher standards and more refined pleasures, they believe what they
have is the best. Clyde starts out light with his moral lapse, with a
very mild alcoholic drink. However, it will only worsen as the night’s
plans clearly indicate.
Clyde is both scandalized and attracted to how quickly intimate relations
are formed between customers (his friends) and clients (the women). A
blonde approaches him, asking him to dance; he refuses as he doesn’t know
how, but she gets him to buy them both drinks. Clyde now has a whiskey.
She recognizes the crowd Clyde’s with - specifically Hegglund - but opines
that he’s different, more refined, than the rest of his group. In turn,
Clyde thinks this girl is better than the other women here, and wonders
if she’s had problems like Esta. He then notices the other couples had
gone off to separate rooms; the blonde takes her to her own room and disrobes.
The prostitute is taking advantage of Clyde’s inexperience, making him feel special. Note how the narration shifts to Clyde's perspective, emphasizing the change in attitude and perception as he becomes more and more enamored of the girl.
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Mescallado, Ray. "TheBestNotes on An American Tragedy".
. 09 May 2017