Free Study Guide for An American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser|
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AN AMERICAN TRAGEDY BOOK REVIEW
Ratterer and Hegglund refuse to take responsibility for the stolen Packard,
reasoning that they did not play a direct, conscious role in taking it.
Similarly, Clyde will refuse to take responsibility for the murder of
Roberta Alden, claiming he did not intend to hit her nor knock over the
boat when it happened. That he had planned for such an eventuality is
beside the point, showing a propensity to draw fine distinctions when
it suits his purpose - just like Ratterer and Hegglund.
Spurred on by Hegglund, the group runs to the frozen lake outside the Wigwam
Inn. Clyde tries to restrain his jealousy but remains wary of Sparser.
The group decide to hold hands and “crack the whip”: Hortense and Sparser
hold hands and when the whip is cracked, fall onto each other. Clyde watched
this and joined the next whip, but Hortense held Sparser’s hand and not
his. When Clyde and Hortense were alone, he again asked why she was spending
so much time with Sparser and she again placates him. He opines that she
only likes him based on what he gets for her; she gets angry about how
close he is to the truth, forcing him to back off on his statement. Though
Clyde strongly suspects she’s pretending, Hortense’s claims to love him
wins him over in the meanwhile. They’re holding hands and kissing when
Hegglund calls everyone, telling them it’s time to return to Kansas City.
Clyde shows a lack of self-control in his dealings with Hortense: while he
believes she has wronged him, she simply shows more affection to soothe
his anger. The temptation of immediate gratification often wins out over
common sense in Clyde, as seen by Roberta Alden becoming pregnant after
Clyde develops a relationship with Sondra Finchley.
The group speed back to Kansas City but are delayed by train crossings, then
traffic. In an attempt to take a shortcut so that the Green-Davidson bellhops
can get to work on time, the car runs over a little girl. Panicked that
the girl was killed, Sparser drives away from the scene. The police and
others chase after him, he turns off the Packard’s lights to avoid being
spotted and, taking a shortcut, hits paving stones on a construction site.
The car overturns, knocking everyone senseless and doing serious injury
to Sparser and Laura Sipe. Ratterer gets out and helps others out of the
car. Hortense panics at the blood on her cut face and runs home, unaware
and uncaring of the others. Sparser and Sipe were left in the overturned
car when a passerby sees the accident and offers to help. The police were
on their way and everyone else flees the scene; Clyde hears the police
arrive as he makes his escape.
The murder and escape obviously mirrors the events at the end of Book Two. In this case Clyde’s guilt is less clear than in Book Two, as he was not driving the Packard nor did he plan for such an eventuality. However, his refusal to take responsibility is similar and becomes a pattern that Clyde himself would acknowledge later in the book.
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Mescallado, Ray. "TheBestNotes on An American Tragedy".
. 09 May 2017