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Free Study Guide for An American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser

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AN AMERICAN TRAGEDY FREE BOOK SUMMARY

BOOK TWO

CHAPTER TWENTY-NINE

Summary

Arriving in Biltz, Roberta is greeted by Titus, her father, and taken to the family farm, where the rest of her family greets her. She is upset by the poor living conditions of the town and of her home, concerned about how this influences her relationship with Clyde. Sensing something amiss, Roberta's mother asks her why she left the Newtons. Roberta responds that Grace Marr was too needy and had no male friends, making Roberta's own situation uncomfortable. With the topic of men brought up, Roberta confesses to being romantically involved with Clyde Griffiths, though she asks her mother not to tell anybody. Her mother seeks assurances that all is well in this secret love, but before Roberta can answer Gifford, her older brother, arrives home.

Later, Roberta prepares dinner with her mother and assures her she's old enough to take care of herself and there's no need to worry. Sunday morning, Roberta's sister Agnes and her husband, Fred Gabel, come for a visit and share news of their good fortune. Fred brings a copy of the Lycurgus Star, and asks Roberta about his boss, who's listed in the paper as one of the attendees of Vanda Steele's Christmas party. Roberta already knew of this but compares the list of other attendees to what Clyde told him, and realizes there were no other Griffiths and the girls she asked about - including Sondra Finchley and Bertine Cranston - did indeed attend, contrary to Clyde's denial. She also sees mention of a New Year's party which Clyde had not brought up with her at all. Upset by all this, Roberta can only wait until she returns to Lycurgus to see Clyde, even more unsure of where their relationship is heading. She wants to hold onto him but is unsure how she can go about doing so.


Notes

The bleakness of Biltz is used to heighten the emotions Roberta is feeling. She considers her hometown and the family homestead poor, shabby, and below Clyde's ambitious lifestyle - and while she tries to distance herself from this, she knows she's a part of it as well, which furthers her sense of inferiority and helplessness.


CHAPTER THIRTY

Summary

Roberta returns to Lycurgus on Christmas night but Clyde does not meet her. It turns out that Sunday, Gilbert Griffiths became livid upon reading the same article in the Lycurgus Star and discovering Clyde's been introduced to the same social circles he inhabits. His mother wonders how that happened and Gilbert blamed Sondra Finchley. Elizabeth takes this bit of news - and Gilbert's opinion - to her husband. Samuel is more circumspect, seeing this as proof of Clyde's worthiness and pointing out that the family now cannot be seen as ignoring their poorer relation. Therefore, they have no choice but to invite Clyde to their Christmas Day party. Gilbert is aghast at this news but does not protest. On Monday, Clyde receives an invitation to the Griffiths party, signed by Myra, beginning at two. As he agreed to meet Roberta at eight that night, he figured he could keep both commitments. He's happy at this turn of events - acceptance by his richer relations, a chance to be closer to Sondra, and confounding Gilbert's anger.

Notes

Samuel Griffiths continues to act as the conscience for his family, aware of Clyde's mistreatment and willing to act - albeit in a small way - to help out his nephew.


CHAPTER THIRTY-ONE

Summary

Clyde finds himself too attracted to the party and its guests to leave early. Though aware of his obligation to Roberta, at six he accepts an invitation from Violet Taylor to attend the Anthonys' Christmas party after leaving the Samuel Griffiths home. He feels restless but heads to Roberta later than promised. He lies to her about his uncle's party beginning later than expected, and Roberta is skeptical. She confronts him about the Lycurgus Star article and who exactly was at Vanda Steele's party. Clyde sticks to his original story, claiming the newspaper was wrong in its coverage. Roberta asks specifically about whether Clyde likes Sondra Finchley; he tries to answer neutrally but in a positive manner, which nevertheless upsets Roberta, who wishes aloud that her background and poverty didn't work against her. Clyde reassures her that he loves her, leading to physical intimacy. For the moment, Roberta is happy, believing that while other girls had some advantages, at least she and no one else had Clyde.

Notes

Clyde takes issue with the article in the Lycurgus Star, claiming, "The papers don't always get everything right." It's a clear foreshadowing of the press coverage he would face.

 

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