Free Study Guide for An American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser|
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AN AMERICAN TRAGEDY STUDY NOTES
Clyde becomes more forceful with Roberta and wishes to exploit her feelings
for him. He has, in effect, become more like Hortense, withholding his
approval in order to gain more favors: but where Hortense was interested
in material gain from Clyde, Clyde desires sexual favors from Roberta.
Clyde’s manipulations are also as subtle as Hortense: he helped convince
Roberta to leave the Newtons and the clear moral boundaries they enforced;
now that she is outside of that household and its boundaries, Clyde tries
to convince her to go even further now that the opportunity - an opportunity
he helped bring about - is available.
In her room alone, Roberta agonizes over her decision to grant Clyde entry.
On the one hand, he made valid points about the weather limiting their
choices for being together in secret; on the other hand, she did not want
to become a “bad girl” and go against what she’d been taught all her life.
She also feared Clyde’s behavior the following morning at the factory,
that he would treat her coldly and ignore her. This disturbed her deeply
enough that she stayed awake and convince herself he would never do such
a thing. For his part, Clyde was still deeply attracted to Roberta but
instinctively knew the various advantages he had over her. Thus, the next
morning Roberta’s fears were confirmed: not only was Clyde acting indifferently
towards her, he flirted with the other girls in the stamping department.
Finally, she wrote a note and slipped it to Clyde in secret, asking him
to forgive her and to meet her that evening. Clyde finally looked at her
in a loving manner and, despite compromising herself morally, Roberta
was relieved and filled with love for him.
The hold Clyde exerts over Roberta is twofold: professionally and romantically. Though Clyde does nothing to make Roberta's workplace more difficult, their very interaction in that setting allows for expressions of disapproval that upsets Roberta and makes her capitulate.
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Mescallado, Ray. "TheBestNotes on An American Tragedy".
. 09 May 2017