Free Study Guide for An American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser|
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AN AMERICAN TRAGEDY SHORT SUMMARY ANALYSIS
Clyde is both excited by his contact with Rita and worried of its consequences, though both regain their composure when Dillard and Zella return from fetching their drink. At 2 AM, Rita has to go home; Dillard decides to stay with Zella, so Clyde escorts Rita, still unsure despite the young woman’s ardor. Now five weeks since Clyde arrived to Lycurgus, Samuel Griffiths asks Gilbert how his nephew is doing. Gilbert opines that Clyde may be looking for favors because of the family relationship, which Samuel doesn’t quite believe. He decides to invite Clyde over for dinner the following Sunday; Gilbert makes sure he has another appointment and can only be present briefly for said dinner. Back at Mrs. Cuppy’s, Dillard proposes a weekend trip with the Girls, which Clyde demurs on, fearful of rumors of his behavior getting back to Gilbert.
Soon after, an invitation arrives from Elizabeth Griffiths, requesting Clyde’s
presence for Sunday dinner and confirming Clyde’s decision to stay aloof
from Dillard and his friends. Interest in getting to know his relatives
quickly diminishes any romantic plans he had for Rita. Sunday arrives
and Clyde finally meets his aunt, who mentions his parents, whom she’s
never met. Samuel greets Clyde, asks how he’s doing, and Clyde expresses
a wish to move up in the company. Clyde meets Myra, who is cordial; Gilbert
drops by, but must leave soon for an auto drive with friends.
Elizabeth shares the same initials as Clyde’s mother. Like Elvira, Elizabeth
is protective of her son and wishes him the best. However, what they see
as being the best is different - Elizabeth looks out for Clyde’s status
in the factory and in Lycurgus in general, while Elvira is concerned with
her son’s moral and spiritual values.
When dinner is served, Gilbert departs. Elizabeth asks if Bella has phoned,
as she has yet to appear. Questions are asked about Clyde’s father and
the hotel business, which embarrasses Clyde. Bella finally arrives, bringing
two friends with her, Sondra Finchley and Bertine Cranston. Clyde is immediately
smitten with Sondra, who has her dog with her, a French bull named Bissell.
Introductions are made, Sondra and Bertine whisper to each other of Clyde’s
resemblance to Gilbert but that Clyde is better looking - and more malleable,
as opposed to Gilbert’s strong-willed, contemptuous personality. The two
girls are invited to stay, but Bertine has to make sure her horse receives
some medical attention - a problem that greatly impresses Clyde. Myra
tries to be friendly to Clyde and as a result he felt more comfortable
with her, preferring her company for the rest of the evening. As Clyde
leaves at the end of the night, Samuel mentions inviting him again in
a few weeks. Clyde is elated at this prospect.
There are two qualities to Clyde that make him attractive to Sondra and Bertine: he is better looking than Gilbert but also more malleable. This reflects a desire to control, similar to why Hortense kept Clyde as a boyfriend in Book One. Such weakness is an asset for Clyde in this respect, but it also leads to his inability to take action when it’s necessary later in Book Two.
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Mescallado, Ray. "TheBestNotes on An American Tragedy".
. 09 May 2017