Free Study Guide for An American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser|
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Clyde is pleased with his new situation: earning $25 a week, 25 women working under him, and wearing a suit to work instead of shirtsleeves. Whiggam and Liggett defer to him, as all sense that Clyde is apparently on an upward track. Now that summer is underway, the rich of Lycurgus are spending their weekends at their resort homes by the lakes. Clyde reads in the Lycurgus Star of what the Samuel Griffiths family are doing and watches them in an annual intercity automobile floral parade. Sondra is there as well, and his interest in her remains unabated.
Clyde leaves Mrs. Cuppy’s boarding house and moves into a room in a Mrs. Peyton’s
house on Jefferson Avenue, closer to Wykeagy. However, Clyde is tempted
by some of the girls working under him; and as he is well-dressed, good-looking,
their superior, and the only man in their presence all day, some of the
girls are smitten by him, as well. He’s able to resist such temptation,
however, until Roberta Alden enters his employ. Unlike the other, less
refined girls, Roberta seemed more intelligent, pleasing, and spiritual
to Clyde, of a better class that made her more acceptable. Roberta’s family
hails from Biltz, but she more recently lived in Trippetts Mills, where
she worked at a hosiery factory. When Clyde hires Roberta, his extra attention
to her is noticed by the other girls, including a now jealous Ruza Nikoforitch.
Dreiser goes out of his way to emphasize the ethnic mix among the workers
employed in the stamping room under Clyde.
Roberta is the daughter of Titus Alden, who was the youngest of three brothers.
Tutus led a life of uninformed conformity, a farmer because his father
was a farmer, but also a strongly moral and religious man. Roberta was
more than ambitious than her father: she worked at a dry goods store,
then moved to Trippetts Mill to work at the hosiery factory. When her
young sister Agnes became engaged, Roberta feared for her own future and
moved with her friend Grace Marr from Trippetts Mill to Lycurgus. All
along, her wages helped her family and, while she hoped to save enough
to further her education, was unable to do so as yet. Life in Lycurgus
was very narrow, however, as she was boarding with the strictly religious
George and Mary Newton, who were Grace’s brother-in-law and sister. So
while shocked at the loose men and women she saw on Lycurgus’ streets
at night, she also felt lonely and yearned for more in her life. Now working
at the Griffiths factory under Clyde, she felt hopeful again.
Titus makes for an interesting comparison to the other two fathers in the novel, Asa Griffiths and Samuel Griffiths. If Asa is the dissipated dreamer and Samuel the aggressive businessman, Titus falls somewhere in-between. He has neither Samuel’s business resolve or Asa’s spiritual impulses, which propelled the Griffiths brothers down two very different paths in life. Instead, Titus is guided by a kind of native tradition, continuing the path set out by his community and family and seeing no alternative to such a path. However, this lack of imagination also provides a kind of strength, as his unquestioning belief in traditional moral values provides clear guidance for how he should go about his life.
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Mescallado, Ray. "TheBestNotes on An American Tragedy".
. 09 May 2017