Summary (Magill's Survey of American Literature, Revised Edition)
An American Tragedy, Dreiser’s longest novel, has often been hailed as his masterpiece. It is divided into three books, the first of which foreshadows the events of the second, while the third describes Clyde’s trial. The protagonist is Clyde Griffiths, the son of street preachers who live in dire poverty. Thus, Clyde grows up longing for material things he can never attain except through his own efforts.
After a series of dead-end jobs, Clyde ventures to Lycurgus, New York, hoping for a place in his uncle’s prosperous shirt factory. Before long, he becomes supervisor of the stamping room, where he meets Roberta Alden, a hardworking, pretty, vivacious young woman whose attraction to him matches his interest in her. After a few months of casual dating, the two become lovers and Roberta gets pregnant. In the meantime, however, Clyde has met Sondra Finchley, a girl of wealth and social prestige, whose way of life represents everything of which he has ever dreamed. Infatuated with Sondra, but being pressured toward marriage by Roberta (who cannot obtain an abortion), Clyde feels himself in a trap. As in Dreiser’s previous novels, however, two incidents of fate influence his actions.
The first is a news report of a drowning, in which the woman’s body was found but not the man’s. Shortly after reading this, Clyde discovers a chain of isolated lakes north of the resort where the Finchleys have their summer home. It occurs to him...
(The entire section is 1024 words.)
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Summary (Identities & Issues in Literature)
While a newspaper reporter in the 1890’s, Theodore Dreiser noticed a particular type of crime: A young man who was successful would murder his pregnant fiancée so that he might free himself from her and marry another woman who had more money and higher social standing. For years Dreiser collected these stories from the newspapers, planning someday to write a novel based on one of these crimes, because he felt that such a crime was typically American. This crime represented what was wrong with U. S. society. An American Tragedy is based on one such murder.
In 1906, Chester Gillette, a worker in his uncle’s skirt factory, drowned Grace Brown, a coworker. The crime was prompted by Grace Brown’s pregnancy, which restricted Gillette’s pursuit of a local socialite whose family was wealthy. Dreiser based Clyde Griffiths, the main character in An American Tragedy, on Chester Gillette. Clyde is born to a poor religious family, as were Dreiser and Gillette. Clyde longs for fine clothes, material goods, friends, and women. As a bellboy in various hotels, he improves his clothing and his financial status, but he always longs for more. Eventually he, like Chester, meets a wealthy uncle who offers him a position in the uncle’s factory—this position leads to further social and career opportunities. During Clyde’s advancement he develops a relationship with Roberta Alden, who becomes pregnant. While Clyde at one time promises Roberta that...
(The entire section is 397 words.)
Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
When Clyde Griffiths was still a child, his religious-minded parents took him and his brothers and sisters around the streets of various cities, where they prayed and sang in public. The family was always very poor, but the fundamentalist faith of the Griffithses was their hope and mainstay throughout the storms and troubles of life. Young Clyde was never religious, however, and he always felt ashamed of the life his parents were living. As soon as he was old enough to make decisions for himself, he went his own way.
At age sixteen, he gets a job as a bellboy in a Kansas City hotel. There the salary and the tips he receives astonish him. For the first time in his life he has money in his pocket, and he can dress well and enjoy himself. Then a tragedy overwhelms the family. Clyde’s sister Hester, or “Esta,” runs away, supposedly to be married. Her elopement is a great blow to their parents, but Clyde does not brood over the matter. Life is too pleasant for him; more and more, he enjoys the luxuries that his job provides. He makes friends with the other bellhops and joins them in parties that revolve around liquor and women. Clyde soon becomes familiar with drink and brothels.
One day, he discovers that his sister is back in town. The man with whom she ran away deserted her, and she is penniless and pregnant. Knowing his sister needs money, Clyde gives his mother a few dollars for her. He promises to give her more; instead, he buys an...
(The entire section is 922 words.)
An American Tragedy is based on the actual case of Chester Gillette, who murdered his pregnant girlfriend Grace Brown at Big Moose Lake in the Adirondacks in the summer of 1906. The protagonist of An American Tragedy, Clyde Griffiths, comes from a Midwestern town and a poor family of fundamental Christians, whom Clyde leaves at his first opportunity to pursue his dreams of a better life. Clyde's first taste of money leaves him hungering for more, and he sets out for larger cities and what he anticipates will be a life of success and pleasure. But things turn out much differently than he expects. The novel correlates Clyde's pursuit of success with his moral downfall.
As the title states, the tragedy of Clyde's life is representative of nationwide loss. In its depiction of the day-to-day struggle of working class Americans and the disparity between rich and poor, the novel attacks the early twentieth-century American social structure and its nineteenth-century "rags to riches" mythology. Dreiser's fatalistic views come into focus as he paints this picture of a young man as a victim of chance and a slave to the inevitable greed and selfishness nurtured by American capitalism. Clyde lives in a world ruled by opposing forces, and he is faced with the impossible task of reconciling wealth and poverty, greed and compassion, impulse and reason. As the story progresses, Clyde loses more and more perspective. Finally, he must pay the price for his...
(The entire section is 243 words.)
Book 1 Summary
An American Tragedy opens on a summer evening in Kansas City, Missouri, in the early years of the twentieth century. Dreiser introduces twelve-year-old Clyde Griffiths along with his family: his father, Asa, and mother, Elvira, poor evangelists who run a mission in a shabby part of the city; and his two sisters and one brother. From the beginning, Clyde is antagonistic toward his parents' beliefs and activities. He is entranced by the material world that his parents shun. As a teenager, Clyde gets a series of jobs in increasingly glamorous settings—from streetcorner (as a newsboy) to department store basement to drugstore to upscale hotel—that take him farther and farther from his parents' dingy life. All the while, Clyde daydreams about his rich Uncle Samuel who owns a factory in Lycurgus, New York.
In his bellhop job at the Hotel Green-Davidson, Clyde makes friends with other young men whose desires match his own. Together they indulge in alcohol, prostitutes, and other illicit pleasures. Clyde lies to his parents about his activities.
Clyde has a relationship with Hortense Briggs, a coarse girl who uses her sexuality to manipulate Clyde. The two go on a car trip with friends. A young man named Willard Sparser has stolen the car and, driving recklessly, he hits and kills a pedestrian, flees the accident scene, and finally crashes into a pile of lumber. Clyde runs away from the crashed car to avoid sharing responsibility for these...
(The entire section is 243 words.)
Book 2 Summary
Book 2 opens three years later. Clyde is now living in Lycurgus. He fled to Chicago after the car accident and, at his job at the Union League Club, encountered his wealthy uncle, who was on a business trip. Samuel Griffiths gave his nephew a job in his shirt factory.
Clyde's cousin Gilbert resents him. Being the nephew of the factory owner makes Clyde the social superior of the workers, but most of his relatives see him as an inferior. Clyde is briefly attracted to a lascivious factory worker named Rita Dickerman. When his uncle promotes him, though, he shifts his sights higher. He meets and is infatuated with the wealthy and beautiful Sondra Finchley; but she is out of his reach. Clyde then begins an affair with Roberta Alden, a poor but pretty and sensitive factory worker.
Clyde soon loses interest in Roberta. Meanwhile, Sondra pretends that she is attracted to Clyde, using him to punish Gilbert for acting cool toward her. Clyde hopes to marry Sondra, and she develops some degree of real interest in him. Roberta soon finds that she is pregnant and presses Clyde to marry her.
Desperate at the thought of losing his opportunity for wealth and status, Clyde agrees to marry Roberta but instead plans to kill her. He takes her out in a boat intending to capsize it and make Roberta's drowning look like an accident. Things do not happen as Clyde has planned. He changes his mind about killing Roberta, and when the boat overturns and hits...
(The entire section is 279 words.)
Book 3 Summary
Clyde flees the scene of Roberta's death, but circumstantial evidence, including letters to Clyde from both Roberta and Sondra, leads to his arrest for first-degree murder. Sondra leaves town, and her identity is never publicly revealed. Samuel Griffiths hires attorneys for Clyde, and they devise a complex defense strategy for a client whom they view as extremely inept. Clyde lies to everyone, including his attorneys, about his intentions and actions.
After a long trial, a jury finds Clyde guilty. His mother's efforts to have his death sentence overturned or commuted fail. Clyde tells the truth about his plan to murder Roberta to only one person, the Reverend Duncan McMillan. When McMillan shares this confession with the governor, Clyde's last hope is extinguished. Clyde is executed. He goes to the electric chair bewildered as to why McMillan was not willing to lie for him. Clyde also dies unsure of the extent of his own guilt and of the line between truth and untruth, reality and fantasy.
(The entire section is 165 words.)
Book 1, Chapters 1-2 Summary
The Griffiths family, consisting of father Asa, mother Elvira, oldest daughter Esta, oldest son Clyde, and a younger boy and girl, set up their preaching post on the streets of Kansas City. Surrounded by the skyscrapers around them, the Griffiths prepare to reach out to the passersby on their way home. Esta sits at the small organ and accompanies the family as they sing hymns, hoping some people will stop and listen to their message. The entire family gives the appearance of being “unimportant,” as Clyde thinks, although the mother has some appearance of strength and commitment that her husband does not exude, no matter how he feels. Clyde, at twelve, is described as more pagan than religious and clearly does not have any interest in what he is doing. Some passersby comment that such a young man should not be forced to participate when he clearly does not believe.
Clyde resents what his parents do for a living. For years he has submitted to teasing because of the over-religiosity of his parents. He is poor and resents that he has not had opportunities other children have had. The family has moved from placed to place, his father believing some other city was a more accepting “field” for his mission work. Thus, the children have not spent any time in school, and Clyde feels the inadequacy of his education. He has not been trained toward any career, and he cringes at having to go into “common” labor in a factory.
The family lives in a storefront building that also serves as their mission headquarters. With a few family rooms in the back, the home is often where the downtrodden of Kansas City can be found. It is also where Clyde’s parents pray in their constant need for food or finances. Despite their trust that “the Lord will provide,” Clyde does not see much evidence of God taking interest in the Griffiths family. His mother, Elvira, grew up the daughter of dirt farmers, without much thought of religion. When she inexplicably fell in love with Asa, she naturally took up his interest, especially once she discovered she had some talent of voice and persuasion. She was the strength of the family while Asa was the emotional center, a trait Clyde inherited. But as he grows into his teen years, Clyde is pulled more toward the opposite sex than to the works of the Lord.
(The entire section is 404 words.)
Book 1, Chapters 3-4 Summary
Clyde Griffiths’ mood becomes darker, a feeling increased when Esta runs away. Despite her sheltered, religious upbringing, Esta was fairly sensuous; coupled with a certain weakness, this put her in a precarious position. It started when boys began to make passing comments to her, which she began to respond to. Once her trained reserve broke down, she became susceptible to the attentions of boys. Things came to a head when an actor traveling through Kansas City took notice of her. Quite rapidly, their relationship came to the point that the actor suggested that his life—and hers—could not be complete unless they got married, and quickly. He told Esta that because of the “situation” in Kansas City, it would be better if they went to St. Louis where a preacher friend of his would marry them.
One evening, Esta said she was tired and going to bed. When her mother went to check on her, she found Esta’s room deserted, along with some clothes, personal articles, and a small suitcase. When she rushes to tell her husband, Clyde finds a note pinned to Esta’s pillow. Before he can read it, his mother takes it away from him, reads it, and shows it to Asa. The two go into their room to discuss the situation and then come out to tell the children that Esta has gone away for a while but will surely return eventually. Clyde, slightly repelled yet intrigued by the hint of sex implied in this situation, wishes he could find a way to run away from the restricted religious environment of home.
When he is sixteen, Clyde begins to look for a job. He eventually is hired as a soda fountain clerk at a local ice cream shop. He likes the late hours because it prevents him from having to attend his parents' mission services. When his parents discuss moving to Denver, Colorado, Clyde talks about staying in Kansas City. Still reeling from Esta’s disgraceful elopement, they are hesitant to have their older son start his life of independence already. Clyde looks for a place and decides to try the soda fountain inside the most luxurious hotel in Kansas City. He is told there is no opening at the soda fountain, but there might be a need for a bell hop in the hotel. Clyde talks with the bell-hop manager and is told to come back Monday to discuss it.
(The entire section is 407 words.)
Book 1, Chapters 5-6 Summary
Clyde is excited about the possibilities while working at the hotel. He walks past the hotel, looking in the doorways and imagining what his life might be like, when he is not at his job at the drug store. On Monday afternoon, Clyde returns to talk to Mr. Squires, the manager of the bellhops, who explains the rules: he must be on time for each of his shifts, with alternate evenings and mornings off; he must not go off partying once he has a little money; he must be willing, civil, prompt, and courteous to everyone. Clyde readily agrees to every condition and learns that he will receive fifteen dollars a month plus board and meals, along with any tips he earns, which might be four to six dollars a day. The manager sends Clyde off to get fitted for a uniform and a haircut. One of the bellhops from New Jersey serves as his mentor and teaches him the tricks of the trade. His job is to sit on a bench, waiting his turn. Once he hears a bell, he must hop up and go to service. He also learns that he has to give a dollar to the bellhop captain every shift, but he views his potential wages as large enough that this will not be a drawback.
Clyde rushes home to tell his family. His father is hesitant, but Mrs. Griffiths is glad to see that Clyde is earning money. Clyde does not tell them the extent of his wages, fearing that they might expect some of the money. As he starts his job, he finds the hours convenient for getting away from his home, which has become increasingly constraining. His parents talk again about going to Denver, but Clyde says that he wants to stay in Kansas City, now that he is earning enough money to support himself.
Clyde shows up at the hotel early enough to change into his uniform and report to his post. He is the last of the bellhops on the bench, so his mentor from New Jersey gives him information about where to get things like ice water, drinks, and so on. Eventually, he is ordered to a room. The resident wants a pair of garters from the haberdasher’s and gives Clyde a dollar. Clyde figures out that a haberdasher is a men’s clothing store, and one is located in the hotel lobby. He buys the garters and returns to the hotel room, where the man gives him a twenty-five-cent tip. Throughout the evening, Clyde receives generous tips from other residents and is overwhelmed with the excitement of life in a hotel.
(The entire section is 443 words.)
Book 1, Chapters 7-9 Summary
Clyde becomes more familiar with the other bellhops and they help Clyde become more familiar with the “entertainments” that are available from connections made at the hotel. Clyde is intrigued by the men who hang around the hotel expecting to earn a reputation as "a man about town." The other boys warn him of men who prey on the bellhops for homosexual relationships. Some of the boys “fall for it,” Clyde is told. Most of the bellhops are from other places and come from broken homes, sometimes with widowed mothers to take care of. All agree that Kansas City is the best place they have visited, and that Mr. Squires is the best boss. The Green-Davidson Hotel is the most luxurious one in town, and the boys feel privileged to be connected with it.
Clyde wonders how to keep most of the money he makes. It is understood by his parents that Clyde should contribute three-fourths of his income to help out the family. Clyde, however, tells them that he usually earns only a dollar in tips, instead of the five or six dollars a night that he actually gets. They feel badly that Clyde has to work so hard and such long hours for so little money, but Clyde assures them that he does not work too hard, and this position will open up to something better.
The boys tell Clyde that one of their nights out is coming up, where they can visit bars, dance halls, and even brothels. They invite him to come along, and though Clyde is initially disgusted by the thought of their sordid activities, his interest in sex overcomes any hesitation; he agrees to join them. He buys some new clothes, which raises some suspicion in the minds of his parents, but Clyde tells them that this is nothing compared to what the other boys wear. He assures them that he is not spending too much money and guarantees them future pay as long as he keeps his job at the hotel. On a Friday night, the boys go to a bar and order drinks. Clyde, never having had alcoholic before, follows the other boys’ lead. After several hours, the boys head to a local brothel. Clyde is nervous, not sure that he should even be there, nor if he can do anything once the occasion arises. He is overwhelmed at the thought that the mystery of sex will be resolved for him, and he waits patiently for the prostitutes to arrive.
(The entire section is 418 words.)
Book 1, Chapters 10-11 Summary
Clyde was prepared to dislike his first encounter with sex, having been trained since the crib to view it with disgust and shame. However, now that he is this close, he finds himself fascinated. The girls sit on the laps of some of his friends and Clyde is surprised when one of them begins to talk to him. She recognizes that he is new, telling him that he is different from the other boys. He has more class than the others, she says, and tells him that he does not need to be afraid of her. Clyde drinks a whiskey and soda and talks to the girl, avoiding eye contact with her low-cut gown. The other boys move off to the rooms upstairs with the girls. Clyde is led by his partner to her room, where she disrobes in front of a full-length mirror.
After his adventure at the bordello, Clyde struggles with how he should think about it. On the one hand, he sees why his parents viewed sex as shameful and warned him to stay away from “loose” girls. On the other hand, he looks back on it with interest and pleasure. He convinces himself that, now that he has money, he may go back there or perhaps to an even better “establishment.” He becomes closer friends with Ratterer, who invites him to dinner before they go to the show. While he is waiting, two girls who are friends of Ratterer’s sister, Louise, show up. They begin to flirt with Ratterer, who brushes them off. Clyde is intrigued by one of the girls, Hortense, who turns her attentions to him. The girls are going to a dance and invite the boys to come. Clyde explains that he does not know how to dance. Hortense rectifies this, teaching him a few basic steps so that Clyde feels comfortable. Finally, Ratterer gives in and the two boys join the others at the dance. Hortense has paired up with Ben Gettler, but she makes time to dance with Clyde, who teases her about what a flirt she is. She is slightly offended, so Clyde apologizes and tells her how much he wished she would like him. He asks her to go to the movies with him some night, and Hortense agrees. However, she warns him not to pick her up at her house as Gettler might become jealous. They decide to meet at the Green-Davidson Hotel on Tuesday night.
(The entire section is 409 words.)
Book 1, Chapters 12-13 Summary
Clyde buys some new accessories in anticipation of his date with Hortense. He waits at the Green-Davidson Hotel until seven o’clock, but she does not show up. He is about to leave when he sees her coming down the street. She explains that she forgot she had two dates that evening, and had to break off the other one simply because she could not reach Clyde. She asks Clyde if he isn’t glad that she disappointed such a “good-lookin’ fella” for him? Clyde tries to suppress his jealousy and buys her some violets. They eat a good dinner and have cocktails, which impresses Hortense. Clyde becomes even more captivated by her and over time, he submits to buying her ever increasingly expensive presents. But after four months, Clyde feels that he has made no progress with her. He feels that she is stringing him along, but he can not quite convince himself to break it off with her. He continues his pursuit of Hortense, even though the promise of a solid relationship with her seems grim.
At home, Mr. and Mrs. Griffiths are still depressed because of Esta’s elopement. They have not heard from her since she left, though Clyde observes his parents awaiting a letter from her for several weeks. One day, Clyde comes home from work to find his mother reading a letter in a surreptitious manner; she hides the letter when she sees him. About a month after this, his mother asks him where she could get a hundred dollars quickly. She has some things to pawn and the promise of a small loan, but she asks Clyde to give her five more dollars a week until she has the money to pay him back. He agrees, though he is now giving her ten dollars a week (his parents still do not know how much money he earns).
Some time later, Clyde spots his mother walking through a run-down section of town; she enters one of the boarding houses. He overhears her asking about a room. After that, he sees her several times in that neighborhood, and once he thinks he sees Esta. Clyde tells his mother that he knows where she has been and that he has possibly seen his sister. Mrs. Griffiths explains that she is trying to find rooms for someone, and that the girl he saw most likely was someone who only looks like Esta. Clyde eventually finds Esta in the boarding house. She is pregnant, and the man with whom she eloped left her, unmarried, in a hotel room in Pittsburgh. She had written her mother, who sent her money as soon as she could. Clyde sees that sadness of the...
(The entire section is 467 words.)
Book 1, Chapters 14-15 Summary
Clyde reflects on Esta’s return to Kansas City, and he begins to think more about the problem in relationships between men and women. Although he is upset at the man who got his sister pregnant and then dumped her in a distant city, he recognizes that Esta must bear at least part of the blame. She had not known the man for very long before she went off with him. He thinks about his own relationship with Hortense Briggs and his intention to go to bed with her. He sees that Hortense would not have gotten herself into the same predicament as Esta because she and her friends are too shrewd.
Hortense is still stringing Clyde along, dating other men besides him. He does not know when she will finally submit to his advances, if she will at all. Sometimes she seems to like him but at other times she seems to dislike him. She is all he can think of, however, though even in his dreams they never have sex. He does not see why she holds him at an arm’s distance; she does not have a better background than he does. She gets him to buy things for her by hinting that there will be some sort of “payback” eventually.
While she is out shopping with a friend, Hortense sees a beaver coat with which she falls in love. The salesman, Isidore Rubenstein, tells her it costs two hundred dollars (though in fact the price is one hundred). He eventually whittles it down to one hundred and fifteen “for her” if she can pay him the money all at once. She considers which man she is dating will be most likely to buy it for her and eventually decides on Clyde. On a date, she walks him past the window and shows it to him. He nervously thinks that a coat like that would cost two hundred dollars, but Hortense tells him she cannot imagine that it would be more than one hundred twenty-five. She hints that there is “nothing” she would not do if he got her that coat. Clyde tries to reason out how he can afford it, as he is now paying his mother twice as much of his salary to help out Esta. He eventually decides that he can put twenty-five dollars down and pay the balance in two, fifty-dollar installments if the shop will accept time payments.
(The entire section is 406 words.)
Book 1, Chapters 16-17 Summary
Hortense returns to Rubenstein’s store to ask for a payment plan for the coat. The clerk explains that they accept cash only. The best Hortense can arrange is that he will accept a down payment and put the coat on layaway. Hortense tells Clyde that the coat costs one hundred twenty-five instead of one hundred fifteen dollars because she feels that now she needs a new hat to go along with the coat.
Clyde is ready to give her the last fifty dollars to get the coat out of layaway when his mother announces that she needs to speak with him. She tells him that Esta is back in town and is “in trouble.” Clyde debates whether to tell her that he already knows this, but he feels sorry for his mother and does not want to keep up the fiction of ignorance. He confesses that he has known for six weeks. She begs Clyde not to tell his siblings or his father, which Clyde thinks is ironic because she has not been able to keep the secret herself. Mrs. Griffiths explains that Esta is about to give birth and needs someone to look after her until she is back on her feet. She asks Clyde if he knows where she can get fifty dollars. She suggests that he ask his friends, but he replies that he does not know them well enough to start borrowing from them. He feels guilty as he gives her five dollars and explains that this is all he has (ignoring the fifty dollars in his pocket). She takes it, though she feels disappointed, especially in having to fall back on her son this way.
Clyde has invited Hortense to go on an automobile ride with him and some friends. Sparser has access to a Packard owned by his father’s employer. They decide to go north to Excelsior Springs, where there is a dance hall open on Sundays. It is a cold, snowy January day, but the youths enjoy the ride. Sparser puts his arm around Laura Sipe on the way. Of all the girls present, Clyde thinks none of them are as pretty as Hortense is. When they arrive at the Wigwam, the dance hall near Excelsior Springs, Clyde becomes upset when Hortense dances the first dance with Sparser. The two are holding each other tightly and Clyde is extremely jealous. Hortense thinks he is being silly and goes back to dancing with Sparser, whom she thinks is the nicest boy she has known in quite a while.
(The entire section is 426 words.)
Book 1, Chapters 18-19 Summary
That afternoon, the group decides to go out on the frozen river nearby. As they skate across the icy surface, Hortense once again finds herself in Sparser’s company. Slipping and falling, she shows no shame when her skirts fly up above her knees. Clyde is disgusted and argues with her. Hortense resents his sense of ownership of her and is fed up with him. Clyde hints that they should break it off, but Hortense remembers that her coat has not been paid for and begins to calm down. Clyde tells her once again that he is crazy about her but does not see why she must flirt with all the boys. They make up and return to the car for the trip back to Kansas City.
The weather turns even snowier on the return, but Clyde enjoys the peace and calm of Hortense’s head on his shoulder. The boys become nervous about getting back in time to go to work when they run into a traffic jam at the bridge. They discuss different ways to go, but all the roads are blocked by the traffic. It is now almost time for them to be at the hotel. Sparser, still at the wheel, decides he will cut across to a side street, but as he does so, a nine-year-old girl crosses in front of him. He hits her and drags her several feet before he can stop. A crowd gathers around, exclaiming at the tragic death of the little girl. Sparser panics and takes off in the car before the police can catch him. They try to stop him at several corners, but he manages to elude them. The passengers are hanging on tightly in the swaying car as Sparser steers the car around tight corners. He tries to move past a pile of lumber and stones on the side of the road but instead runs into them, causing the car to overturn.
Sparser and Laura Sipe, who is in the front seat with him, are struck unconscious on the windshield. Clyde is trapped in the back seat with the others. He sees that Hortense’s face is bruised. He manages to extricate himself and pulls Hortense out after him; the others follow. Clyde sees that Hortense’s face is cut and bleeding. When she realizes the extent of her injuries, Hortense becomes upset that her face may be disfigured. Hortense ignores her injured friends and the fact that they have just killed a little girl, and she takes off for home. The others are unable to get Sparser and Laura Sipe out of the car. They take off when one of the street’s residents comes to see what the matter is, explaining that his wife has called the police. Clyde overhears the police...
(The entire section is 476 words.)
Book 2, Chapters 1-2 Summary
Samuel Griffiths, Asa’s successful brother, owns a shirt collar business in Lycurgus, New York. He and his family live in the nicest house in town; their social level is of the highest. Myra, the elder daughter, is not very attractive. She is unmarried and living at home at the age of twenty-six. She is intellectual rather than social, the complete opposite of her younger sister, Bella. At the moment, Bella is trying to convince her mother to build a summer home at a nearby lake where all the up-and-coming families are moving. Mrs. Griffiths, however, is suspicious of these “new” families and discourages Bella from socializing with them. Bella is unsuccessful at manipulating her mother, so she complains to her brother, Gil, who is also unsympathetic. The projection of spending the whole summer with the Finchleys does not appeal to him. He is unimpressed with Bella’s friends, especially when he plans on working the entire summer.
Samuel Griffiths returns home from a busy day at his office. His favorite daughter, Bella, meets him. He has a soft place for her energetic nature, compared to Myra’s bookish personality. Gilbert comes down to greet him, and asks if he may have a meeting with him the following morning; he has an interesting situation he wants to talk to him about.
At dinner, Bella continues with her report of the doings of the other families on their social level in Lycurgus. Her father interrupts her; he has something to tell the family. While he was on a business trip in Chicago, he ran into Clyde, his nephew. The other members of his family have never met the Kansas City Griffiths and only know that Asa is “some kind of preacher.” Mr. Griffiths explains that Asa is not preaching at the moment but is in Denver in connection with a hotel. Clyde is currently a bellhop in a hotel in Chicago and told his uncle that he wanted to find someplace better. Samuel Griffiths has presented him with the opportunity of working in his collar factory. The girls are ecstatic about a new cousin who looks like their brother, Gilbert. Gilbert, on the other hand, is jealous of his position and does not relish the prospect of competing for attention. Mr. Griffiths assures the family that Clyde is not coming as an equal on their social level. There need be no formal contact unless Clyde proves himself. Bella hopes Clyde is not as dull as her other cousins are; this remark earns her a reproof from her mother.
(The entire section is 427 words.)
Book 2, Chapters 3-4 Summary
It has now been three years since Clyde left Kansas City. Following the accident, Clyde hopped on a boxcar and went to St. Louis, where his watch and his overcoat were stolen. He sees in the Kansas City paper that Sparser and Laura Sipe are in the hospital and under arrest. Sparser gave the police the names of all the boys in the car, along with the address of the hotel where they worked. Mr. Squires gave them the addresses of the boys’ parents. The article reports the parents’ reactions. Mrs. Griffiths just stood there, wringing her hands, sure that Clyde would show up soon and clear everything up.
Clyde makes his way to Chicago, where he finds a job as a delivery boy, far below the status of a bellhop. After several months, he writes to his mother explaining where he is but begging her not to use his real name; he is now living under the name Harry Tenet. Her reply tells him that the family is now in Denver. Esta had a little boy and is now going by the name of Mrs. Nixon. She suggests that he contact his uncle in New York, Samuel Griffiths, about a job. Clyde soon changes jobs to a better hotel, where he reunites with Ratterer, another of the boys from the fateful car ride. With Ratterer’s recommendation, Clyde finds a job at the Union League Club. It is an exclusive men’s club and as such does not have the element of sex Clyde found so appealing in Kansas City.
Clyde soon learns from Ratterer that Samuel Griffiths is a member of the club; he arranges for Clyde to deliver some letters to his room. Clyde is unable to tell his uncle of their connection, fearing that he will be rejected as a low-class job hunter. Eventually, he finds the opportunity to identify himself to Samuel Griffiths as the sun of his brother. Mr. Griffiths thinks Clyde is a far cry from his brother, Asa, and so gives him an audience. Clyde explains that his mother recommended that he write to him about a job but was afraid to be presumptuous about their relationship. This impresses Mr. Griffiths, who tells Clyde there might be a place for him in his collar company, but it would be at the bottom and would pay less than Clyde is getting now at the club. Clyde understands and says he is willing to work up from the bottom. Samuel Griffiths feels that Asa had been given short shrift from their father in terms of his will, so he decides to give his nephew a chance. After a few weeks, Clyde receives a letter from his uncle, telling them to report...
(The entire section is 490 words.)
Book 2, Chapters 5-6 Summary
Clyde finds himself in Lycurgus, walking through the town on his way to the factory from the train depot. He is impressed with the evident prosperity of the business section and soon finds himself at the office of the Griffiths Collar Company. He presents himself to the secretary as Samuel Griffiths’ nephew. The secretary’s attitude immediately changes and she calls Gilbert’s office. Although Gilbert is said to be busy, Clyde is soon sent back to his office. Clyde is not impressed with Gilbert’s appearance; he sees him as inconsequential and as having attained his present position merely because of his status as the “heir-apparent.”
Gilbert is condescending but makes some effort to be amiable to this unwelcome cousin. His father had said that he was to be treated with some measure of respect simply because of his position as a member of the family; but beyond that, Clyde is to be treated as a regular employee. Gilbert explains that Clyde will start at the bottom of the manufacturing division. He presents Clyde to Mr. Whiggam, who is the foreman of that part of the business. Whiggam shows Clyde what he will be doing at first, showing him the deference required to a member of the family. Gilbert has also arranged that Clyde will be set up in a boarding house—one that is not on the same level of the Samuel Griffiths family but that is suitable for one bearing the name of Griffiths. Clyde is a little taken aback at the simplicity of the accommodations, but he takes it because it is probably the best he can get at his present salary. He wanders the street after dinner, viewing the other residents of this neighborhood as far below even the status of the bellboy he once was.
The next morning, Clyde shows up at the factory and begins his new life. The work is hard and far below his competence, but he appreciates that others assume he is an accepted member of the owner’s family and is learning all aspects of the business before taking his “rightful” place. Soon Clyde comes to like his new life, though he regrets the loss of Hortense, whom he learns went to New York with a man—wearing the fur coat he had so labored to buy for her. He finds his way to his uncle’s home and is overwhelmed by its opulence. He cannot believe he is related to someone who lives in such style. Gilbert tells his sisters that Clyde is not very interesting. Myra wonders why he would come to such an intellectual morass like Lycurgus, and...
(The entire section is 453 words.)
Book 2, Chapters 7-8 Summary
Clyde is not happy about his boarding house; he feels that the residents are not of the social class with which he wants to be associated. There is one particular person, Walter Dillard, who is trying too hard to strike up a friendship with Clyde because seeing him as a way to get into the social scene. Dillard thinks that Clyde must know more people that one would think of someone living in a boarding house simply because he is related to Samuel Griffiths. Clyde has relied on the family connection to be seen as someone who is on the way up, but Dillard is becoming a sycophant. Along with this, Clyde is troubled that Dillard is making more money than he is at the moment.
Dillard tries to get Clyde to go with him to a dance hall and invites him to dine with him that Sunday. Clyde tells him that he does not have anything planned at the moment, but something might come up. Clyde explains that he must be careful because of his relatives, to which Dillard agrees. He is very eager to become acquainted with one of the Griffiths. Dillard continues fawning on Clyde.
Clyde receives his first week’s pay and feels prideful when his supervisor calls him “Mr. Griffiths.” Dillard cannot meet with Clyde that Sunday because he is to return home that day, but he promises that the two of them can go to a gathering in the basement of one of the local churches the upcoming Wednesday. Once there, Clyde makes a connection with Zella Shuman; she is a nice girl but not rich. Dillard is making out to be quite the flirt, but Clyde is cautious after his downfall with Hortense in Kansas City. The church social proves more entertaining that he thought, especially when everyone is in awe of having one of the Griffiths in their midst. Dillard’s uncle and aunt are especially accommodating. Zella is evidently in some kind of a relationship with Dillard, and Clyde is more interested in her friend, Rita. Zella suggests that the four of them take off secretly and go to her house. At the Shuman home, Zella puts some records on the victrola, and the two couples begin to dance closely. Zella and Dillard go off to another room. Soon Clyde finds himself kissing Rita, and Rita is encouraging him to kiss her more. Clyde discovers that he has moved quickly into a relationship that will be difficult to escape.
(The entire section is 418 words.)
Book 2, Chapters 9-11 Summary
Clyde, increasingly aware of his position as a Griffiths in Lycurgus, is uneasy about his relationship with Rita. Eventually this situation is resolved when his family status increases. It is not until after a month that Samuel Griffiths asks Gilbert about Clyde’s work in the factory. From Gilbert’s response, Mr. Griffiths sees that his son is jealous of his nephew. He decides it is time for Clyde to come out to the house for dinner. He arranges it with his wife, who sends Clyde an invitation for Sunday night dinner. The main meal on Sundays is at noon, when guests are present, but Mrs. Griffiths feels it would be better for Clyde to come to a meal with just the family.
Dillard invites Clyde on a weekend excursion with him, Zella, and Rita. Clyde puts him off, saying he has too much work at the moment. He begins to talk himself into going when he receives the dinner invitation. He is excited at this turn of events; he thinks at last he is accepted into the family. He buys some new clothes for the dinner despite his aunt’s telling him that it is not necessary. When Clyde arrives, Mrs. Griffiths is impressed with his appearance and notes his resemblance to Gilbert while fighting down the realization that Clyde is more attractive than her son is. Myra is impressed when she arrives. Gilbert flies through, stating that he cannot stay for dinner. Bella arrives with two of her friends, Bertine and Sondra Finchley. Sondra strikes up a conversation with Clyde, who sees the contrast between her and Rita. Sondra is quite taken with Clyde; she sees how much better looking he is than Gilbert, who is not very popular around the younger set anyway. Afterward, Clyde hopes he may somehow meet Sondra again.
Not long after the dinner, Mr. Griffiths makes a tour of his factory. When he sees Clyde working at hard labor in his sleeveless shirt, he is bothered that a nephew of his should be found in this situation. He tells Gilbert to find Clyde a better position and to raise his salary to twenty-five dollars. Gilbert decides to put him in the stamping room, which is filled with female laborers. Clyde is to keep track of the pieces made by each worker. Gilbert warns him that, as a member of the Griffiths family, he will be given no latitude when it comes to his treatment of the female workers. Clyde understands completely and is eager to go to work, dressed in a suit for once.
(The entire section is 431 words.)
Book 2, Chapters 12-13 Summary
Clyde is overwhelmed by his overnight rise in status. The sum of twenty-five dollars a week is supplemented by being part of “management,” with all its advantages. His desk by a window gives him a commanding view, as compared to the basement where he had started out. He is able to dine in the executive’s dining room as well. He learns of a country club nearby that caters to upper-level management of the surrounding businesses, but this is discouraged by Griffiths and Company because it is not desirable for their officials to mix with those of other companies. Gilbert tells Clyde that as a member of the family, he can do what he wants about this. To further his entry into society, Clyde begins attending the same church that the Griffiths family does, though during the summer they spend weekends at the lake. He attends a parade in which Gilbert and some of the girls he met at the Griffiths are riding on floats. He begins to think that he should find a more socially acceptable place to live, in case anyone from the company stops by. He finds a room at the home of a widow, only a few blocks away from the Griffiths home.
At the factory, Clyde becomes the focus of some of the female workers. They are mostly foreign-born, but Clyde sees some measure of attractiveness in them. While the American-born girls are aloof and not as attractive, the foreign-born girls appear available to his advances; still, he sticks with Gilbert’s warning to stay away from the employees. When Clyde is allowed to hire new workers, he meets one with whom he is significantly impressed. Her name is Roberta Alden, and she has had some work experience in a factory. Clyde prolongs the conversation with her, giving her a tour of the factory rather than letting the secretary do so. He explains how the collars are made and how she will be working by the piece. She accepts the job and Clyde sends her off to be shown the locker room.
Roberta Alden had come from a small farm upstate. She did not like the confinement of such a setting and looked for outside employment. She had worked in a dry goods store, but she soon wished for a bigger workplace. She eventually found her way to Lycurgus on the advice of a friend and settled into life in a larger town.
(The entire section is 408 words.)
Book 2, Chapters 14-15 Summary
Clyde is intrigued by Roberta Alden, not just because of her beauty and her apparent admiration for him, but because he is lonely. One benefit of moving from his boarding house was to escape Dillard, Rita, and Zella, but his sole contact with people outside of work is Mrs. Peyton, his landlady. As for Roberta, she is struggling with the local taboo that a factory girl should not get involved with her supervisor. Though she and her roommate, Grace, are considered “outsiders” for having been born in another town, both of them try to become involved in the local social scene. Roberta, however, begins to fantasize about belonging to the social strata on which Clyde (she believes) dwells. The other girls at the factory discuss the attractiveness of Clyde Griffiths, who overhears their conversation. He is flattered with their views of him as a desirable catch, especially when Gilbert pales in comparison.
Clyde struggles with his feelings for Roberta, knowing that she is off limits, as he is her boss. Also, she does not belong to the social world where he would like to be, though she misunderstands his own place in that world. Alone, Clyde spends time at nearby Crum Lake, where a canoe can be hired by the hour. He has seen that swimming and diving would come in handy should he ever be invited by the Griffiths to visit them at their summer home, but it is canoeing that has specifically attracted his attention. He enjoys the solitude that is by choice, rather than the loneliness of his rented room at Mrs. Peyton’s. One Sunday afternoon in July, Clyde rows by himself amongst the summer crowd on the lake. He thinks of the happy days in Kansas City before the accident. He wonders if socializing with Dillard, Rita, and Zella would be better than the loneliness that he now experiences. On the bank, he sees a young girl picking water lilies. He joyously realizes that it is Roberta Alden. He rows up to her and greets her. She is astonished that he has approached her outside of the factory. He invites her to go rowing with him. She is hesitant, since her roommate Grace is somewhere nearby and should not be abandoned. She calls for Grace, but her roommate does not appear. Roberta finally agrees to go rowing with him. As they glide along the water, Roberta trails her hand over the side as she has seen other girls do when in the company of their boyfriends and thinks how handsome Clyde Griffiths is.
(The entire section is 428 words.)
Book 2, Chapters 16-17 Summary
After that afternoon, neither Clyde nor Roberta can think of anything but the boat ride, though they are frightened at the intensity of the immediate intimacy that they had felt. They think that perhaps it would be best after all just to maintain their professional relationship. After they rowed back to land, they picked up Grace and returned to the boathouse. Both Roberta and Clyde think silently about the best way to get back to town without arousing suspicion. While Clyde is worried that Gilbert will find out about the outlawed relationship between supervisor and employee, Roberta is worried about what people will think of her moral character as one seen to be out alone with her boss, something that just is not done. Grace and Roberta see someone who lodges at the same boarding house and are given a ride back to town. When Clyde declines to go along, Roberta is grateful that he is sensitive to the situation.
The next morning, Clyde is more anxious than ever to see Roberta. He sees her at the factory and asks her if she wishes they were back out at the lake again, as he does. Roberta hesitates, knowing that she has reached a crucial juncture: if she says yes, she had started downward into a moral quandary; if she says no, she will lose the opportunity to be with such a beautiful man. Clyde sees that she is in love with him but hesitates about what to do. Instead of forcing her, he says nothing and goes back to his desk. The next day, Roberta comes to him with a problem, stating that she has stamped the collar size incorrectly. Clyde offers to send the collars downstairs to be washed so they can be restamped. He begs her again to meet him. She explains that the family, the Newtons, she is living with is very strict. She had plans to go with them to a church social the next evening, but she eventually agrees to meet him later in the evening.
On the proposed evening, Roberta tells the Newtons that she is going to visit Mrs. Braley from the factory to learn how to stitch. She meets Clyde and tells him her plans. Clyde is taken aback at the talk of her moving to another department, assuming that Mr. Whiggam, the foreman, is already planning to put some distance between the two. He tries to put his arm around Roberta’s waist, but she chides him for his forwardness. Eventually he cannot hold back, grabs her face and kisses her. She protests at first, but soon relaxes and responds to his caresses. Clyde has never felt so happy...
(The entire section is 453 words.)
Book 2, Chapters 18-20 Summary
Both Clyde and Roberta are happy to have found each other, but Roberta does not want Clyde clinging to her. She holds back when Clyde pushes, which has a tendency to frustrate him. When Grace suggests that Clyde is attracted to her, Roberta calls the idea ridiculous, reminding her roommate that it is against company rules for a supervisor to date a worker.
Clyde wants to see more of Roberta and begs her to think of a way that they can be together. She tells him that her sister lives upstate. She explains that she might be able to pretend to visit her sister, take a trolley to nearby Fonda, where Clyde can meet her later, and then go on to her sister’s on a later train. Clyde agrees, but he wants to see her before then. He suggests that she tell the Newtons that she is going to visit another church and then meet Clyde somewhere. Roberta refuses this suggestion of lying about church.
When they meet in Fonda, Clyde and Roberta find a nearby park, where there are some rides and also boats to rent. There is also a dancing pavilion. Roberta objects to dancing, stating that it has always been against her religion and besides, she cannot dance. Clyde insists, and the couple goes out on the dance floor. It does not take Roberta long to get the hang of it. They soon part, with Roberta going to her sisters and Clyde returning to Lycurgus.
Roberta thinks that she has successfully managed to elude Grace and the Newtons, but the next morning, two of the other boarders confront her as they saw her dancing with a man at Fonda. Grace is upset that Roberta lied to escape from her. Mr. and Mrs. Newton are also disapproving that Roberta went dancing with a man. Roberta explains that she met him as part of a group at her sister’s, but the damage has been done. She begins to look for another place to live and finds one with a family who has a room with a separate entrance. She moves into it almost immediately, glad to get away from the strict atmosphere at the Newtons’.
Clyde begins to pressure her for a more intimate relationship, but Roberta is not ready to go there yet. Clyde becomes upset, asking her why she got a single room then, if it was not to provide a place for them to be together. He walks off and ignores Roberta’s calls to come back. It is then when Roberta realizes that she is desperately in love.
(The entire section is 435 words.)
Book 2, Chapters 21-22 Summary
Roberta is confused about her feelings for Clyde. She is upset that he is angry with her, but she will not go against her principles of morality by having sex with him, even if it means losing him. She thinks that Clyde should be ashamed for even asking her to go to bed with him. Clyde feels that there is no other place for them to go and not be recognized. He is sure that the Griffiths would look at Roberta as beneath their station; after all, she is an employee.
Roberta anticipates seeing Clyde the next day at the factory. She hopes that she can somehow get a chance to talk to him and apologize for making him angry. She wonders if he would pressure her to go to bed with him without having any intention of marrying her afterwards. She convinces herself that he would never do that. She contemplates giving in and letting him have his way. She thinks about getting a room somewhere where the two of them could be alone without being recognized.
At the factory, Clyde ignores Roberta and pays attention to the other factory girls. He looks them over and is not displeased with what he sees, though he does not view them as favorably as the “higher class” girls he has known. Still, he knows that the attentions he is showing them will cause Roberta to rethink her rejection of his advances. She gives him a note, begging him not to be angry and asking him to meet her at the end of Elm Street at 8:30 that night, promising that he will not be sorry. He is pleased with the note, and Roberta sees him looking at her with a smile on his lips. This gives her some hope that they might make up and not quarrel anymore.
Clyde considers Roberta’s seeming change of heart. If she is willing to sacrifice herself for him, then there might be others. The Griffiths have evidently forgotten all about him, despite having him for dinner in their home. He thinks of Roberta, but he knows he has no intention of ever marrying her, seeing her as below the level at which he wants to be. The Griffiths have been out of town all summer but will soon be returning. He hopes that he may once again make some social contact with these people who are his family and thus join their circle, which is his primarily goal at the moment.
(The entire section is 416 words.)
Book 2, Chapters 23-25 Summary
Clyde thinks about how much better his life in Lycurgus is compared to that in Kansas City and Chicago. He is not making nearly as much money here as in the past, but he is happier. He and Roberta continue to meet in her room without being detected, so far. He realizes that she will probably have to get a new living place soon to continue the charade. As he walks along Wykeagy Avenue, where the Griffiths live, he sees a large car pull up to one of the houses and Sondra Flinchley’s face in the car window. Seeing Clyde in the dim light, Sondra thinks he is Gilbert and offers him a ride. When he approaches, she sees that it is Clyde instead and apologizes for the error. Hurt, Clyde begins to walk away, but Sondra insists that he may still have a ride, admitting that she likes him better than Gilbert anyway. Clyde tells her the changes in his life since they last met and that he has kept up with her social life as reported in the papers. As Sondra drops Clyde off at his home, she thinks that the Griffiths must not be making too much of him.
Clyde misses a date with Roberta because of his encounter with Sondra. He decides he will tell Roberta a lie and make up some excuse. As for Sondra, she thinks of how Clyde is much more appealing than his wealthier cousin, Gilbert. She meets up with her friends and tells them about Clyde and the impression he made on her. They decide to invite him to an upcoming dance and thus get him involved in their social scene. They laugh at how Gilbert will react when they have accepted his “poorer” cousin as an equal and in preference to him.
Clyde is overjoyed when he receives the invitation. He feels that at last he is reaching the social station to which he belongs. He thinks of Sondra and the possibilities that lie ahead. At the dance, Clyde is introduced to Sondra’s friends, who discuss college football rivalries. Clyde immediately feels left out, not having gone to college and in fact ignorant of many of the college names the others bat back and forth. He decides to say that he went for a time to the State University of Kansas, which is one of the only colleges he knows. Clyde makes a hit at the dance, and Sondra has clearly taken him under her wing.
(The entire section is 418 words.)
Book 2, Chapters 26-27 Summary
At dinner, Clyde is quizzed by the other guests about his background. Since the truth is unacceptable, Clyde tells them that his father runs a modest hotel in Denver. He had come to Lycurgus because his uncle wanted him to learn the collar business, though he is not sure if he wants to pursue it or to find something more promising to his future. Sondra, as well as the hostess Jill, decide that Gilbert had spread rumors about Clyde’s lower-class background out of jealousy, because obviously Clyde must be a person of some means. Sondra is relieved by this, because she is finding herself more attracted to him than she would have been to a man of lesser quality.
As the two dance, Clyde tells Sondra that he has been keeping track of her social life as reported by the local newspapers, but Sondra insists that the newspapers only report “silly things.” They discuss Sondra’s love for outdoor sports and Clyde pretends to be more capable in that area than he actually is. The topic of boating especially appeals to both of them. Anything that has to do with life on the water is attractive. They then go outside to watch the falling snow.
As the holidays approach, Clyde becomes more involved with Sondra’s social circle, at times even without Sondra present. Jill Trumbull invites him to a Christmas dance when she sees him in town buying presents. He accepts, though it means he must break a date with Roberta, who is leaving town over the holidays. He knows she will be disappointed, as this will be the last time they will have a chance to get together before she leaves, but he tells her that he is having dinner with his uncle. She accepts this, slightly impressed that her boyfriend moves in such elevated circles. She broods, however, thinking that at least he might have come to see her for a short while before she leaves.
At the Christmas dance, Clyde is invited to a New Year’s Eve party, which involves an overnight stay. Of course, he accepts, though he knows this will prevent him from seeing Roberta when she returns. Although he likes the girls he now associates with, he finds them cold compared to Roberta. However, Roberta cannot give him the social entrance that he desires. Sondra confesses that she has not yet decided how much she likes him, but she believes she may like him better than the other men she knows. She asks for his phone number, which he readily gives.
(The entire section is 430 words.)
Book 2, Chapters 28-29 Summary
Clyde sends Roberta a note, telling her that he will not be able to go to Fonda with her because he must attend a meeting with department heads. Her disappointment rapidly sinks to depression. She struggles through the rest of the day with an indifference and sluggishness that Clyde notices. Clyde feels bad about this, but he thinks that he can do little otherwise, with the prospect of Sondra and what she has to offer for his future. When he meets with Roberta later, he gives her the toilet set that he had bought her for Christmas. She gives him a pen set, which she says does not compare in elegance with what he gave her, causing her to become even more morose. When she asks him if he had a good time at the dinner at his uncle’s, Clyde explains that it turns out that the family took him to other events, which meant that he could not come over to see her as he had promised. As he kisses her good-bye, Roberta withdraws, saying that she doesn’t want him to be late for his meeting. She says that she will come back Christmas afternoon, hoping to meet him, which he agrees to do, since he has nothing else scheduled at the moment.
Roberta arrives at her parents’ home, depressed even further by the obvious decline she sees on the farm. Her father picks her up at the station in a horse-drawn carriage. Roberta has always been his favorite child. She looks at her surroundings, knowing that the farm is failing and is under a two thousand dollar mortgage. She is overjoyed to see her mother, thinking that she needs a confidant, though Clyde does not want anyone to know of their relationship “yet.” Roberta answers her mother’s questions and admits that she is interested in Clyde Griffiths, her supervisor, adding that no one is to know. Since the supervisors are not supposed to date the workers, Roberta thinks of finding another job, believing that this will help her relationship with Clyde. Roberta’s mother is immediately concerned, sensing that this situation is not as positive as Roberta thinks it to be. Her siblings arrive for dinner and her brother brings the Lycurgus paper with him. He asks her what her “friend’s” name is, seeing something about a Clyde Griffiths in the news. He points out that Clyde was in attendance at a Christmas party and not at the factory meeting as he had told her. There is also mention of his being at a New Year’s Eve party. She realizes that Clyde has lied to her in order to shed her from his new...
(The entire section is 483 words.)
Book 2, Chapters 30-31 Summary
Roberta is disappointed when Clyde does not show up at her place on Christmas night. Though he had intended to keep his appointment with her, Clyde’s plans changed. Mrs. Griffiths and Gilbert saw the notice in the paper about Clyde’s attendance at the dance. Gilbert is convinced that Sondra is using Clyde to get back at him for his own treatment of her in the past. Mrs. Griffiths resents his suggestion that she lets Bella run with the crowd that has taken Clyde in; she cannot see what the fuss is all about. He suggests that they should invite him for Christmas dinner, having failed to invite him to the lake during the summer as Mr. Griffiths had wanted. Mrs. Griffiths, and to some extent Gilbert, resolve to make the best of the situation and invite Clyde. When he receives the invitation, Clyde is ecstatic to be accepted into the family at last.
At the dinner, Clyde is surprised to see several members of the upper crust of Lycurgus in attendance. He manages to make quite an impression on the other guests and is invited along after dinner to other festivities. It is thus almost eleven thirty before he is free. He walks by Roberta’s house to see if she is still awake and finds a light in her window. He taps on it gently, and Roberta mournfully lets him in. He begins to tell her that, even though he had gone to the Griffiths’ just the week before (when he been to the dance in actuality), they had invited him for Christmas dinner tonight and could find no way to refuse such an invitation. He rattles on, mixing truth with lies. She listens but knows that he is lying about the Friday night “dinner.” She begins to see that, despite his enthusiasm at the beginning of their courtship, his feelings for her have waned. She confronts him with the news article about the dance, though it has no mention that his cousins were there. Clyde insists that they were, telling her that the papers do not always get the facts straight. Roberta tells him that he does not need to lie to her and that he could go anywhere he wanted just so long as he was honest. Clyde assures her that she is the only girl he thinks about, though he knows this is a lie. He comforts Roberta as she sobs, which leads her to believe that, once again, her position with him is secure.
(The entire section is 421 words.)
Book 2, Chapters 32-33 Summary
Clyde continues to advance in the social circles, often independent of Sondra. Sondra meanwhile is unsure how far to let her relationship with Clyde go, since she knows her parents would not countenance marriage with someone who comes from a background of poverty. One evening, as Clyde takes Sondra back to her house, she invites him in for hot chocolate. He is overwhelmed as he sits gazing at her white satin evening gown. He observes his surroundings and imagines what it must be like to live like this: no need for work, servants meeting his every need, social events crowding his calendar. Clyde expresses his passion to her, promising that he would do anything that she wanted. However, she does not really want to be the master, so she tells him that it is late, hinting for him to leave. Clyde senses that he should not say anything more, so he departs.
Roberta has become even more desperate to hang on to Clyde and consequently finally submits to his wishes. Several times, when he visits her room late at night, they make love. But neither was experienced enough to know of any types of contraception. In February, Roberta discovers with horror that she is pregnant. She wonders if there may be something wrong with her besides pregnancy, but she soon realizes there is not. She has no one but Clyde to turn to. She is ashamed of herself for submitting to Clyde’s insistent advances. She knows from overhearing conversations of other factory girls what happens to unmarried pregnant girls. She sends a note to Clyde that she must talk to him, feeling that he would know what to do to “take care of her problem.” When Clyde receives her note, he senses her panic but does not suspect the truth of the matter. In fact, Roberta’s becoming pregnant had not even occurred to him when he talked her into sex: this kind of thing did not happen to him. He is stunned when she tells him the news. She begs him to find some way to “fix” it. He has no idea where he can turn. He contemplates going to a drug store and surreptitiously asking the pharmacist what can be done, but he realizes that, with his resemblance to Gilbert, the secret might come back to the Griffiths, and Clyde’s plans for his future would be destroyed. He decides the only thing to do is to find a doctor who will perform an abortion.
(The entire section is 418 words.)
Book 2, Chapters 34-35 Summary
Clyde is in a quandary about where to turn for help. He has no friends of whom he might ask for information on ending a pregnancy. He decides that it is better if he goes to a doctor or druggist outside of Lycurgus, since anyone in town would be sure to recognize his resemblance to Gilbert. He boards the trolley to Schenectady, hoping to reach there before the pharmacies close. When he arrives, he goes to the nearest druggist, but loses courage when he sees that the middle-aged man would be unlikely to provide him with information. He leaves and goes to the next one but cannot bring himself to ask. He steels himself and returns to one of the pharmacies, relating the story that he is a young married man whose wife is pregnant, and that they are not able to support a baby. The druggist gives him some pills, saying that they might work. He returns to Lycurgus and immediately visits Roberta. He informs her that she is to take one pill every two hours for eight to ten hours. He suggests that she stay home from work until she miscarries, as it might be an unpleasant experience. Roberta is grateful to him for taking care of her as he promised, which makes Clyde fearful that she might be expecting them to become even closer together as a couple. Clyde has already decided that he must rid himself of Roberta in order to clear the way for his relationship with Sondra.
When Clyde checks on Roberta the next day, there has been no effect. He returns to Schenectady and the druggist tells him that his “wife” might not be pregnant but just skipping a monthly period. Clyde asks about a doctor who might perform an abortion should the second round of pills not work. His desperation is evident, and the druggist becomes suspicious and dismisses him, reminding him that abortion is illegal. On his return to Roberta, he says that finding a doctor to perform an abortion is their only hope. He says that he cannot go with her without arousing suspicion: she must go alone, claiming that the father abandoned her. Roberta is overwhelmed with shame at this, telling Clyde that there is no way she can do this alone. Clyde insists that his reputation would be destroyed if this got out, which it would be sure to do if he went with her. Clyde knows he must find a doctor for her, but assures himself that, after this was all over, they would part ways.
(The entire section is 429 words.)
Book 2, Chapters 36-37 Summary
Over a week goes by, and Roberta has not heard from Clyde about finding a doctor to perform an abortion. Clyde is unsure where to turn but thinks that Orrin Short, a clerk at a local clothing store, might be able to help. Pretending to look at ties, he tells Short a story that one of the workers at the factory had turned to him for help to find a doctor that could end an unwanted pregnancy. Short is taken aback that so classy a gentleman would ask him such a question. He admits that he is new in Lycurgus himself and knows no one local. However, in his hometown of Gloversville, Short knew of a doctor who might help. He gives Clyde the name and directions, for which Clyde is extremely thankful. After Clyde leaves, Short wonders why Clyde would risk himself for a factory worker and decides that it is more likely Clyde himself is in trouble, perhaps having gotten Sondra Finchley pregnant. Short thinks that this would be quite a story in the future.
Though having the name of a doctor is a relief, both Clyde and Roberta know that there is no complete relief possible until this matter is “taken care of.” Roberta is more conducive to going to the doctor alone, so long as Clyde comes with her to Gloversville. Even though Clyde no longer cares for Roberta, he is anxious to stand by her until this is over. They take separate trolleys to Fonda, where they meet and continue on the way to Gloversville.
Roberta finds the office of Dr. Glenn, who is just finishing his dinner. He takes her into his office and questions her about her need for his services. She stutters, trying to muster the courage to tell her story. Eventually, she is able to tell him that her name is Mrs. Ruth Howard, newly married, and unable to afford a baby at this time. Dr. Glenn wavers in his trust in the truthfulness of her story, but tells her that he does not perform abortions unless the mother’s life is in danger. He tells her not only is it dangerous for the woman, but that it is illegal for him. He strongly believes in the unethical nature of abortion and urges her to face the truth with her husband and try to find some way to make do with this new addition. Roberta breaks down and tells him something somewhat more truthful: that she is unmarried and cannot face her parents with this news. Dr. Glenn is disgusted with young people who are willing enough to have sex but unwilling to face the consequences. He refuses to give her an abortion and urges her to...
(The entire section is 472 words.)
Book 2, Chapters 38-39 Summary
Both Roberta and Clyde are shocked over Dr. Glenn’s refusal to perform the abortion. They cling to his suggestion that perhaps Roberta just missed one period and that there is no real reason to worry until she misses a second month. When the second month passes, they return to Dr. Glenn’s, but he again refuses. Clyde has written to his Kansas City friend, Ratterer, for advice, but the only thing that Ratterer can tell him is that abortion is “safe” up through the third month. Around town, he hints at the situation, hoping for some inside information, but all he hears is that it is illegal and no doctor will do it.
Roberta begins to blame Clyde, first for pressuring her to have sex and then for not finding a doctor. She wonders why she should be asked to sacrifice herself for his social position. She arranges another meeting with Clyde, this time telling him that they must be married immediately, or else they will risk being found out when the baby is born only a few months after their wedding. Clyde looks only at the difficulties this will place on his own life. He is too young to be married, he tells Roberta, and he did not plan to marry so soon, not until he has made a sufficient amount of money. He tells her that if they marry in secret as she has suggested, then the Griffiths will be upset that he married out of their social class and without their knowledge. They also might site the company rule that supervisors cannot date factory workers and could fire him. In that case, he and Roberta, along with the baby, will be destitute. He suggests that she might go off alone and have the baby by herself, and promises to send money to her. Roberta, right then, knows that Clyde has no intention of marrying her. She becomes irate and now demands he marry her. She will not be left alone, facing her family with an illegitimate child, while he enjoys his newfound social prestige.
Meanwhile, Sondra has become firmly attached to Clyde, much to her mother’s chagrin. Sondra tells Clyde that her mother is considering taking her on a two-year tour of Europe. She explains that she will not be of age until October; otherwise she would elope with him. If he can wait until then, she will try to discourage her mother from the tour. Clyde is at his wits’ end now with the prospect of losing Sondra for two years, if not forever, in addition to being badgered by Roberta. He thinks of his sister Esta, who found herself in the same...
(The entire section is 475 words.)
Book 2, Chapters 40-41 Summary
Roberta sees Clyde talking to Arabella Stark, one of his society friends, and finds her symbolic of the freedom of responsibility that has so enthralled Clyde. She sees herself as offering him nothing and understands the depths of his rejection of her. She also sees Clyde’s behavior as utterly wrong, having ignored her for some time now. She is overcome by the sadness of their lost love.
Clyde, on the other hand, is off for a weekend at the lake with a group of his friends. They become lost on the road and Clyde is deputized to go up to a farm house to ask directions. He stops when he sees the name on the mailbox: Titus Alden. This is the home of Roberta’s family. He is dumbstruck, which causes Sondra to ask him what the matter is. He regains control of his emotions and walks up to the farm house, which is decrepit and dilapidated. Mr. Alden gives him directions and Clyde is moved by how poverty-stricken he looks. He is more convinced than ever that he must rid himself of Roberta, who stands in such a stark contrast to the life he is building for himself with Sondra and her friends. And yet, Clyde fears what Roberta might do: if she talks to Gilbert or his uncle, he would be done for. He berates himself for falling for Roberta instead of waiting to see where his family connections might lead.
On the fifth of June, the Finchleys take off for the summer at the lake. Sondra reminds Clyde to come up in a few weeks’ time. Clyde is nervous that Roberta will pressure him to stay with her until the baby is born and hopes that a plan will materialize. Meanwhile, Roberta decides that the time has come to buy a dress for her wedding; she convinces herself that Clyde will indeed marry her, even if only temporarily. She worries that, at four months, her pregnancy might be noticeable to the other factory girls. As she prepares to go to her parents' house, she thinks about how some men grow fond of the mother of their child, no matter how indifferent they were previously; she is hopeful that this will be the case with Clyde.
(The entire section is 379 words.)
Book 2, Chapters 42-43 Summary
Clyde receives a gushing, "baby-talk" letter from Sondra, relating her time at the lake. He also receives a letter from Roberta, describing her long, tiresome journey to her family’s home. Roberta says she stopped to see her sister and her family, in case she should never see them again; she is determined that they not lay eyes on her lest she is respectable. She talks about her mother and her fear of hurting her in any way. She tells Clyde that she is getting ready for their wedding and elopement, begging him not to disappoint her.
Clyde ponders the significance of these two letters. He is in despair over Roberta and wants to be rid of her so that he can concentrate on Sondra, whom he hopes he may marry this upcoming fall. He writes a letter to Sondra, telling her that he is on his way. He decides not to write to Roberta at all.
Clyde reads in the paper of a drowning at a nearby lake. The body of an unidentified woman was found, but that of her male companion was still missing. The article gives details as to the woman’s appearance, hoping that someone will recognize them and identify her. This story interests Clyde only slightly at first, since drownings are frequent occurrences at lakes during the summer. When he begins to think about it, he imagines himself and Roberta out on the lake and Roberta drowning, thus solving all his problems. He quashes the thought violently, horrified that he would actually contemplate murder, but the thought keeps popping back up to the surface. That night he dreams of being chased by a vicious dog, only to run into a nest of snakes.
While Clyde does not write to Roberta, he does call her, engaging in an indifferent conversation, telling her that he is trying to earn some money for a certain “project.” He then goes to the lake where he meets Sondra, who is staying next door. Sondra tells him later that her mother is suspicious, believing that Sondra instigated Clyde’s visit. She warns Clyde to refrain from showing any interest in her. They manage to sneak a few moments alone together. Sondra suggests that they might even find a way to elope before she comes of age in the fall. Clyde thinks again of drowning Roberta, but insists to himself that he will not become a murderer. Still, he wonders how he can rid himself of Roberta and the baby and win Sondra.
(The entire section is 421 words.)
Book 2, Chapters 44-45 Summary
Roberta sends Clyde a long, rambling letter in which she complains that the seamstress who is making her trousseau dresses is ill and cannot work. Her parents are talking about taking her on a trip for a few weeks, and she herself is nauseous and blue. She has done nothing but cry since she got home, which has worried her mother. She begs Clyde to write to her.
When Roberta does not hear from Clyde (since he is not in town to receive her letter), she writes him again to tell him that she is returning to Lycurgus, unhappy that all she has heard from him are a few short telephone calls. This news upsets Clyde, who realizes something must be done. He calls her and submits to a long, whining conversation. He tells her that he has been very busy and thus it has been difficult for him to write as often as she desires.
The day before, Clyde had gone out on the lake with Sondra and the thought of the news article about the drowned couple haunts him. He is jumpy and nervous. As he listens to the others' conversations, he learns how solitary this region is. He thinks that this would be a good location to murder Roberta, but he is horrified at the thought that he, the nephew of Samuel Griffiths, should be contemplating murder. He thinks about the implications, especially if Roberta, who cannot swim, managed to save herself after all. His mental struggle continues, as he thinks of killing not just Roberta but their unborn child too. He decides to return to Lycurgus where he can be around people. But even there, the “demon” in his mind that he calls the Giant Efrit continues to plot out the nefarious plan that would free him to marry Sondra. He thinks of taking Roberta to a secluded camping spot, which will limit the number of people he encounters, and take her out in a rented boat. If he strikes her on the head, he thinks, she would drown more quickly. He diverts his mind from this by writing several notes to Sondra, saying how much he loves her. The prospect of marrying Sondra overwhelms any other consideration. In bitterness, he continues to think of Esta, his sister, who did not force anyone to marry her. He receives a letter from Roberta, telling him that if she does not hear from him by that Friday at noon, she will tell everyone how he has treated her. He decides to take her to the secluded camping spot as a “pre-wedding honeymoon” and there carry out his plan.
(The entire section is 440 words.)
Book 2, Chapters 46-47 Summary
Clyde agrees to meet Roberta in Utica. They take separate trains. He sees her at the station and positions himself so that she can see him. He compares her drab appearance with the rich style of Sondra. Roberta looks at him with relief, glad that he kept his promise to come take her away. They avoid speaking to each other so that no one will make a connection. However, she looks at his classy appearance and thinks that once again he is “her Clyde.”
Clyde plans to buy a second straw hat in Utica to leave at the lake after the drowning. The Utica label will throw off any investigation linking them with Lycurgus. He decides he must be pleasant around her to avoid upsetting her and ruining his plans. They ride in separate cars, with Clyde thinking of all the details he must make sure are in place for this plot to succeed. They meet in Utica and plan to go to Grass Lake in the morning.
As they travel to the lake, Roberta sees a religious camp and wonders if they could find a minister over there to marry them. Clyde is shaken by this but suggest they find out later. He cries out silently to Sondra to help him. They arrive at the site of their supposed honeymoon and learn from the proprietor that there are only seven or eight people there at the moment, but the day before had seen a large group of young people camping out. This disconcerts Clyde, fearful that there may be more witnesses around that he had hoped. He registers them as Clifford Golden and wife. The proprietor suggests that they can leave their bags in the cabin, but Clyde plans on taking everything with him so as not to leave anything behind that could be traceable to him.
They rent a boat and row out onto the lake. Clyde stops so that Roberta may pick some lilies. He then rows into the middle of the lake, though Roberta points out that it is getting late. He ignores her, and all of a sudden she can see a strange expression on his face. As Clyde holds his camera, Roberta reaches out to him, which causes him to jerk back; the camera strikes her face, cutting her nose and lip. She falls over, tilting the boat into the water. Both are thrown out, and the edge of the boat strikes Roberta on the head. She calls out to Clyde to rescue her, but he lets her drown. He swims to shore, overjoyed that in the end he did not have to kill her directly and is able to claim that it was just an accident. When he reaches shore, he starts walking south through the...
(The entire section is 464 words.)
Book 3, Chapters 1-2 Summary
Fred Heit, the coroner of Cataraqui County, receives a call with the news that a couple drowned at Big Bittern Lake. He tells his young assistant, Earl, to take notes as he hears the facts: the body of the wife is found, but not that of the husband; the boat was upset on the south shore; a straw hat without any lining was recovered, the body had bruises around her mouth and eye; her coat and hat had been left at the inn, but a hat and a veil had been found; a letter in her pocket addressed to Mrs. Titus Alden. The sheriff’s officers were still dredging the lake to find the husband’s body. Mr. Heit tells Earl to grab some subpoena forms to fill out on the train up to Big Bittern Lake. Earl is elated at the excitement caused by the tragedy. He tells Miss Saunders, the secretary, to call his mother when she calls Mrs. Heit to tell her that they will not be home any time soon.
At the inn, Heit learns that the woman had been young and attractive, while her companion had been a young man of some means, by his appearance. John Pole, a local woodsman, had recovered Roberta’s body and noticed the bruises on her face. This immediately arouses suspicions, especially since they cannot find her companion’s body. The two names, Carl Graham and Clifford Golden, had been given to the two innkeepers, which leads the officials to suspect foul play. They do not believe that the “husband’s” body ever sank into the lake. Heit reads the letter found in Roberta’s pocket. It is addressed to her mother, telling her that she is going to be married but it must be kept a secret. Due to the fact that she and her companion had registered as Mr. and Mrs. Carl Graham, Heit sees the truth of the matter: that the couple had been pretending to be married. He thinks this case might help his friend, the district attorney, who is up for a judgeship. A local guide described a stranger who fits Clyde’s description, and Heit deduces that this is the one who was with Roberta. The word immediately spreads out across the state that a young woman was murdered by a male companion who has since escaped. The public outcry is swift to call for his capture and punishment for this tragedy, which might conceal an even more sinister crime.
(The entire section is 417 words.)
Book 3, Chapters 3-4 Summary
As Heit examines Roberta’s body, he is moved by her youth and innocence. He remembers, however, that he has to go to Biltz, the home of Titus Alden, and inform Roberta’s mother that her daughter is dead. He thinks again about his friend, Orville Mason, the district attorney. Should Mason be involved intimately in the progress of this case, it would help him immensely in the upcoming election. Heit goes to Mason’s home and informs him of the details. While it is not right to use a murder for political advancement, Heit says, there is no reason he cannot use the situation to gain a competitive advantage. Heit gives Mason all the details of the case, including the sighting of Clyde in the woods by some hunters. Mason gives Heit instructions to have Earl photograph the crime scene, silently thanks Heit for letting him take care of this case, and then begins the investigation as to whether a Titus Alden really lives in Biltz.
Mason drives fifty miles to reach the Alden home. He sees by the dilapidated buildings that the family has gone through tough times, much as he had as a youth. He greets Mr. Alden in the yard, introducing himself and asking if he had a daughter by the name of Bert or Alberta. Mr. Alden corrects him by saying his daughter’s name is Roberta. Mason asks him if he knows a Clifford Golden or a Carl Graham, but these are names Mr. Alden has not heard of. Mr. Alden keeps asking what this is all about, but Mason continues to question him, trying to find out as much information as he can before he breaks the news. He learns that Roberta had been up to visit recently, but is back in Lycurgus, where she works at the Griffiths Collar Company. Mr. Alden begins to suspect the worst, so Mason finally tells him that Roberta is dead, having drowned in Big Bittern Lake. Mr. Alden is overwhelmed by this news. He asks Mason if he may tell his wife alone, and when he does, Mrs. Alden collapses on the floor. Mason goes to the neighbor’s to call for a doctor. Later, he learns from the Aldens that Roberta had been seeing a Clyde Griffiths, and then corroborates this from the postmaster who says Roberta had sent several letters to a Clyde Griffiths. While he at first did not think that so reputable a man as a Griffiths would be involved with Roberta, the initials of all three names are the same. Mason takes Mr. Alden to identify Roberta’s body. Mr. Alden begs Mason to catch and punish whoever did this.
(The entire section is 449 words.)
Book 3, Chapters 5-6 Summary
As Mason returns to his office, his anger toward the wealthy class grows. He views Clyde as an idle, evil, rich man who must be punished to the fullest extent of the law. He examines Roberta’s bag and finds the toilet set that Clyde had given her for Christmas, along with his card bearing his first name, but not his last. He begins to suspect that Roberta was pregnant, which means an autopsy must be performed, and travels to Lycurgus with a search warrant.
Mrs. Peyton is aghast when she learns the crime that Clyde is suspected of committing. In Clyde’s room, Mason finds some old invitations from the social set, along with a locked trunk. He forces the trunk open and finds a cache of old letters from Roberta, Sondra, and Clyde’s mother. He sees that some of these letters are addressed to “Harry Tenet” and assumes that Clyde has long been a suspicious character. Mason reads several of the letters from Roberta, which validates the nature of her and Clyde’s trip to the lake. It is the letters from Clyde’s mother that give Mason a picture of the wanted man. The letters detail the Kansas City crime from which Clyde was fleeing. Mason intends to check with the district attorney in Kansas City to find out more. From Sondra’s letters, Mason ascertains this as a case where a poor but ambitious young man from a religious background has fallen in love first with a poor girl and then a rich girl, necessitating the riddance of the poor girl. Mason’s hatred of Clyde grows. He calls the Finchleys at the lake and learns that Clyde is off with a group camping but is expected to return in a day or two. Mason calls the local sheriff there and arranges for a search party to track down Clyde Griffiths.
In the meantime, Clyde is in a turbulent mental state. He worries over the people who spotted him in the woods as he was escaping from the crime scene. He continues to rationalize that he is not guilty of murder because he relented at the last minute and did not actively kill Roberta, but just let her drown. He jumps at every sound, sure that someone will come to get him. He has removed as many clues to his and Roberta’s identity as he can, though he fails to make a thorough job of it. He attempts to come up with a story to cover his tracks when he reaches Sondra, but is overwhelmed with the fear of discovery.
(The entire section is 436 words.)
Book 3, Chapters 7-8 Summary
Over the weekend, Clyde suffers from mental visions of being hunted down and caught. He obsesses about the three men who saw him in the woods. Sondra worries about his seeming distraction, wondering if he is feeling all right. He resolves to act normally lest somehow he would be suspected. He throws his wet suit into the lake, wrapped to a stone, in an effort to cover his tracks.
Clyde joins the group on a boat trip to the golf club. One of the men, Burchard, rocks the boat back and forth, and Jill asks him if he is trying to drown them. This causes Clyde to wince as if he had been struck. He thought that things would be different after he rid himself of Roberta, but now everything is at risk if he cannot pull himself together.
Clyde wonders if Roberta’s death would be in the papers already, but they have not arrived. Sondra, however, receives a phone call from a friend with the news that a couple was drowned at Big Bittern Lake. The groups hopes it is not someone they knew (since, as Burchard states, it would put a crimp on the fun for a while). Suddenly, Clyde thinks of his footprints on the lake shore. He also fears that the three men who met him will be able to identify him.
The papers soon arrive and Clyde is horrified to find that Roberta’s “companion” is suspected to be the killer. The three men have given a description of Clyde, and an all-points bulletin is out to catch him at all nearby train stations. He thinks again about giving his name as Clifford Golden and Carl Graham, and only now realizes that the initials are the same as his. Sondra again wonders what is wrong with him.
Mason, Heit, and several local officials have determined that the group Clyde is with has gone up to Bear Lake, and so they set out to catch him. Clyde has indeed gone camping with Sondra and the others, but he wanders off into the woods by himself. An inner voice warns him to take off running, but he does not. A man, Nicholas Kraut, approaches him and asks if he is Clyde Griffiths. Clyde thinks about denying this, but he decides to tell the truth. Kraut explains that he is a deputy sheriff sent to arrest him for the murder of Roberta Alden. Clyde decides to deny everything, but Kraut says that he must take him in anyway. He draws out some handcuffs, but Clyde says they will not be necessary. He begs Kraut not to take him back to the camp where Sondra and the others are sure to see him. Kraut agrees and...
(The entire section is 464 words.)
Book 3, Chapters 9-10 Summary
Mason wonders if the prominent Griffiths family will hire a powerful lawyer to defend Clyde. He also fears whether he will be politically cast off and unable to convict Clyde for murder. He approaches the campers and asks them if they know Clyde Griffiths. Harley Baggott acts as spokesman and says that they do, and that he should be back soon. Mason sees Sondra and understands why Clyde would throw off a working-class girl like Roberta for a society princess. Mason returns to the other officers as Kraut escorts Clyde in from the woods. He asks Clyde if he is familiar with what has happened at Big Bittern Lake, but Clyde denies any knowledge; in fact, Clyde has decided he cannot admit to any knowledge of Roberta. This infuriates Mason, who confronts Clyde with the letters found in his trunk, along with the card and toilet set in Roberta’s belongings, proving that he does in fact know Roberta Alden. Clyde continues to state that he has no knowledge of her, which makes Mason even angrier. He sees Clyde as a rich kid who believes he can do anything to anyone of a lower class.
Mason continues to question Clyde; he asks about the the straw hat found at the lake, as well as the other straw hat, and where he got them. This throws Clyde and he fumbles an answer, saying he left the straw hat at the cabin when he had come up to the lake earlier in the summer and got it when he returned. Mason threatens to take Clyde back to his friends and question them about him. This causes Clyde to fold, begging Mason not to do that. Mason tells him to admit what he knows about Roberta or else he will have to face his friends. Clyde finally tells them the basic truth about what happened in the boat, saying that he did not rescue Roberta because he was afraid she would drag him down and they both would drown.
Mason returns to Clyde’s friends and tells them that Clyde has been arrested for murder and asks for his belongings. Sondra faints at the news while the others are stunned. Since Clyde’s grey suit is missing, Mason asks Clyde where it is. Clyde denies having had one, claiming that the only suit he had was the one he was wearing, which he had cleaned when he got back from the lake.
Clyde is taken first to a farmhouse, where he is kept overnight. The local people gather around, curious as to what the accused murderer looks like. The next morning, Clyde is taken to prison, having to face a large crowd at the jail, who call out...
(The entire section is 477 words.)
Book 3, Chapters 11-12 Summary
The results of the autopsy are returned; it states that the blows to Roberta’s face were not fatal, but that the head wound, presumably from the blow from the edge of the boat, resulted in her death. This report corroborates Clyde’s testimony. From the amount of water in her lungs, it is determined that Roberta was not dead when she fell into the water. The cause of death is attributed to drowning. Mason wants to make Clyde confess that he struck her before throwing her into the water, but Clyde still refuses to say anything. Earl Newcomb tells Mason that a tripod had been discovered buried near the scene of the crime. This leads Mason to deduce that there was a camera present, which might be the weapon with which Clyde struck Roberta. The camera is eventually found, but there is no trace of blood on it. Mason is so incensed and so sure that Clyde is guilty that he considers placing some hairs from Roberta’s head on the camera just to have incriminating evidence. Mason also thinks that the timing of the trial will prove beneficial to him in the upcoming elections.
The news of the murder spreads across the country, causing something of a sensational scandal. Interest turns to Sondra, the beautiful, wealthy girl who is the cause of Clyde’s attempt to rid himself of the poor but pretty Roberta Alden. Mr. and Mrs. Alden are interviewed by the press, creating a portrait of grieving parents of a much-loved daughter, who had been reared in a moral, religious home. The Griffiths in Lycurgus are shocked beyond belief that Clyde has been accused of murder. Mr. Griffiths has difficulty imagining that his nephew could have done such a vicious act and assigns his attorney, Smillie, to talk to Clyde until he can get his main lawyer to take the case.
Sondra, overcome by the reality that has been thrust upon Clyde, confesses in tears to her father. Mr. Finchley tells her to say nothing to anyone, hoping that his attorneys can keep the family clear from as much scandal as possible. Smillie, in the meantime, talks with Clyde, but is unable to get him to confess, which will make it easier for him during the trial. He tells Clyde that the company’s chief counsel, Mr. Brookheart, will be back in town soon and will come to discuss the case with him. In the meantime, he urges Clyde to continue to say nothing to anyone.
(The entire section is 420 words.)
Book 3, Chapters 13-14 Summary
Smillie gives his report to Mr. Griffiths and Gilbert. Gilbert points out to his father that he tried to warn him. Silently, he is glad to see Sondra Finchley put on the spot, believing as he does that she took up with Clyde only to get back at himself. Mr. Griffiths partially blames himself for leaving Clyde to his own devices, especially being put in a supervisory role over a group of women. Smillie informs Mr. Griffiths that Mr. Brookhart has returned; Mr. Griffiths requests Smillie to ask Brookhart to come to see him. He vows that he will not spend one penny on Clyde to rescue him of the consequences of his crime, should he be proven guilty.
Mr. Brookhart is unable to get anything out of Clyde, so the matter is turned over to Mr. Catchuman, another attorney attached to Mr. Griffiths. When Catchuman interviews Clyde, he is deputed to find a lawyer who will be able to represent him, thus putting as much distance as possible between Mr. Griffiths and his nephew. Mr. Catchuman cannot elicit any more information from Clyde that has not already has been discussed. Mason takes Clyde to the shores of Big Bittern Lake where he uncovers the tripod, but Clyde still refuses to answer any of Mason’s questions, saying that the tripod is not his and he did not take his camera with him.
Meanwhile, Mason basks in popularity among both Republicans and Democrats, which speaks well for the upcoming election. He asks for a special sitting of the Supreme Court, which would require an immediate session of the Grand Jury. Kellogg, a high-ranking Democrat in the county, is incensed that Mason has risen to such heights. He suggests Alvin Belknap as a defense attorney for Clyde. Belknap had been involved in a similar situation between two women in his youth, though his father had taken care of the pregnant one financially. Belknap visits Clyde, carrying a letter from Catchuman authorizing him to represent Clyde. His understanding manner disarms Clyde’s defensiveness, and he tells Belknap the true version of the story, though he insists he did not plan to take Roberta up to the lake to murder her. Belknap secretly doubts that he can get a jury to believe that, but he assures Clyde that he will do his best. He warns Clyde not to speak to anyone but himself or his partner, Mr. Jephson. Belknap sees Clyde's remorse and begins to feel sorry for him.
(The entire section is 416 words.)
Book 3, Chapters 15-16 Summary
Belknap and Jephson discuss the difficulties of the case in defense of Clyde Griffiths, with Clyde present. If they present the story just as Clyde gave them, the jury will convict him of premeditated murder. Jephson asks Belknap if he thinks Clyde is guilty, and Belknap says that he does not necessarily think he is. Clyde seems like a nice person from a simple background, unlike the spoiled rich kid that Mason sees. Belknap speaks of Clyde’s run-in with the law in Kansas City, which he says he should not mention unless Mason brings it up.
Belknap gives Jephson a full account of Clyde’s background up until the time of Roberta’s murder. He presents Clyde as a young man caught in a love triangle. It is perhaps Sondra who is guilty of manipulating Clyde to such an extent that he goes against his morals. The possibility of “brain storm,” or temporary insanity brought about by intense love or passion, is raised as a defense strategy. Belknap relates the news article about the other drowned couple on which Clyde based his own crime, which might have struck Clyde at a vulnerable time and thus led him to a copy-cat version.
Belknap and Jephson agree that Roberta’s letters might sway the jury with their sentimental and heart-rending pleading. Jephson asked if it were possible that Roberta could have been seeing some other men at the same time she became pregnant, but Clyde was adamant that Roberta would not do such a thing. She could be stubborn, but she was of good character. Jephson asks Clyde if there were any cases of insanity in his family, but Clyde does not know of any.
The two attorneys discuss the possibility of presenting Roberta’s death as a suicide brought about by the shame of her condition, but this appears to be a weak case. They ask Clyde about the suit which he sank in the lake. If they could find it, they might be able to dry-clean it to corroborate Clyde’s story, but Clyde is not allowed out to show them where it is.
Belknap and Jephson decide initially that temporary insanity is the best case, but they realize that they will have to prove previous incidents of instability which would require the Griffiths family to testify untruthfully. They then decide to present the case as one of accidental death. Clyde had planned to take Roberta to a private spot to tell her about his love for Sondra. He would give her the choice of his marrying Sondra and having enough money to...
(The entire section is 513 words.)
Book 3, Chapters 17-18 Summary
Belknap and Jephson publicly present Clyde as a misunderstood youth, at the mercy of a defense attorney who has a personal political agenda. They say that they must file a formal protest at the state capital against Mason’s request for a special term of the Supreme Court, just so that he will be in the public eye at the time of the elections. Mason dismisses this, claiming that the evidence is clearly against Clyde and so there is no need to delay the proceedings. The special session of the Supreme Court is granted, and Justice Frederick Oberwaltzer is appointed judge of the case, with the Grand Jury set for August fifth, where Clyde is indicted for premeditated murder. Belknap requests a change of venue because of the “stirring up” caused by Mason. Oberwaltzer denies the request, stating that the case has been in the newspapers across the country.
Mason revisits Lycurgus and learns where Clyde purchased the camera and told Mrs. Peyton that he planned to take the camera to the lake. He also learns from Orrin Short that Clyde had asked him where an “employee” could take his wife to get an abortion. When Dr. Glenn is questioned, he identifies Roberta but not Clyde, never having seen him. He also learns about Clyde’s purchase of the two straw hats. A woman comes forward, claiming that she heard a woman’s cries during the time of the murder, while she and her husband had been camping at Big Bittern Lake. He decides to keep this information quiet for the moment. Belknap now exhumes Roberta’s body to examine the marks on the face, to determine if they could really have been made by a camera. He manages to locate Clyde’s suit in the lake, has it dry-cleaned, and keeps it in his closet. However, he is unable to find the camera, leading him to conclude that Mason has it in his possession.
No family member has come forward to support Clyde, but Esta comes across an article in the newspaper in Denver, where she has now married and settled. She takes the paper to her mother, who is in disbelief. They send a cable to Clyde’s attorneys, offering money if he needs it. Belknap advises her to keep her money, as Clyde is adequately represented, and to stay in Denver for now. If word gets out about the Denver Griffiths, they would be hounded by the press. In prison, Clyde is visited by curious country lawyers, preachers, and local girls. Clyde wonders if he could get his brother or sister, or possibly one...
(The entire section is 452 words.)
Book 3, Chapters 19-20 Summary
As October 15th arrives, crowds gather around the courthouse in preparation for jury selection. Jephson has worked with Clyde for weeks, drilling into his head that he is not guilty. He also reminds Clyde that they have invented a story in which Clyde had a change of heart before the accident. They both know this is not true, but it is also not true that Clyde killed Roberta intentionally.
Belknap and Jephson walk over to the courthouse while Clyde is escorted by police officers from the jail. Crowds in the courtroom eagerly await Clyde’s arrival. He sees that they are typical farmers or small town residents. As the judge enters, Clyde looks around at the people in the audience. The prospective jurors are interviewed one by one, and Clyde recognizes people who have come to be witnesses against him. He sees Emily, Roberta’s sister, looking almost identical to Roberta and causing Clyde to shake. He sees the rest of Roberta’s family, looking at him with hate in their eyes. He sees the Gilpins, the family at whose home Roberta lived. He sees Mr. and Mrs. Newton and their sister Grace, who had been Roberta’s roommate before she met Clyde. He sees Orrin Short, the store clerk of whom he asked about a doctor who would perform an abortion. He sees Heit, the coroner who examined Roberta’s body.
The jury is selected after five days and the opening arguments begin. Mason presents Clyde as coming from a poor but moral family, who deserted all that his parents had taught him in favor of a “better” life. Clyde was a wanderer, who came to Lycurgus to benefit off the family name. He went against company regulations by dating Roberta. He pressured Roberta out of the Newtons’ home and into a solitary room where he could seduce her. He quickly used his family name to enter into the highest social circles in Lycurgus, where he met “Miss X,” as Sondra is called, both parties agreeing to leave her name unspoken. Mason reads the letter that was in Roberta’s coat pocket, which indicates that Clyde had lured her up to the lake to marry her, which Clyde did not intend on doing. He took her out to the lake and drowned her, thinking that the secluded area would render no witnesses. But, Mr. Mason says, Clyde was mistaken. There was a witness who will be presented later. Belknap and Jephson, along with Clyde, are shocked to learn of the letter and a witness. Clyde’s attorneys begin to think that Clyde lied to them after all....
(The entire section is 465 words.)
Book 3, Chapters 21-23 Summary
The prosecution calls one hundred and twenty-seven witnesses to take the stand. Belknap and Jephson object to most of them, stating that their testimony is either weak or in error. Titus Alden, Roberta’s father, is called, giving a tearful identification of Roberta’s bag and trunk. As her belongings are revealed, the Alden family sobs. Belknap accuses Mason of putting on a show for his political future, which creates an argument between the two attorneys. Judge Oberwaltzer warns them that he does not want to hear any mention of politics for the remainder of the case.
One by one, the witnesses come forward, painting Clyde as a manipulative, cold, and aggressive young man. Grace, Roberta's former roommate, states that Roberta was religious and conventional in manner until Clyde entered her life. Witnesses report seeing and hearing Clyde argue with Roberta and that he was pushing her to have sex with him while she remained steadfast. The people whom Clyde contacted after Roberta’s pregnancy identified him and his purposes in securing medicine that would induce a miscarriage, and then finding someone who would perform an abortion. The Aldens’ neighbors reported numerous contacts, by phone and by letter, between the two. Clyde and Roberta’s presence at the lake was also identified, including his attempts to disguise his identity. The camera was said to be the one purchased by Clyde, and on it were a few hairs, the same color as Roberta’s. The doctors testify that the blow to Roberta’s face stunned her, but she was still alive when she went into the water. A woman says that she heard a woman’s cry of pain at the time of the crime.
Mason reads Roberta’s letters to Clyde aloud, portraying her as a lovesick young woman who is desperate to be married to take away her shame. She had left her home, sure that she would never see it again. She wrote to Clyde that the best thing would be if she were dead. At the end of the prosecution’s case, Mrs. Alden collapses. The audience is firmly of the opinion of Clyde’s guilt.
Belknap begins his opening statement with a picture of Clyde as a misunderstood young man, who had always been virtuous. The “incident” in Kansas City had not been a permanent stain. He was a boy in love who changed his mind. Belknap appeals to the memories of youth of the jury members. He tells them that there is only one witness who knows how Roberta Alden died. The crowd is so...
(The entire section is 485 words.)
Book 3, Chapter 24 Summary
Jephson leads Clyde carefully through his testimony. He describes his childhood and traveling around from place to place until he was twelve years old, when the family settled in Kansas City. He states that he did not do well in school because of this, being a year behind. He confesses that he did like going out at night to preach on street corners. Jephson tries to ascertain that after the car accident in which the little girl was killed, Clyde could have returned to Kansas City, most likely being put on probation and placed in the custody of his parents as he was still underage. Mason objects to this as being unclear what the legal consequences would have been. Jephson also tries to reveal that Clyde could have returned to his job at the Green-Davidson and presents a letter from Mr. Squires, the manager of the bellhops, stating this to be the case. Instead, Clyde traveled around, using the name of a childhood friend, Harry Tenet, to conceal his identity.
From his testimony, Clyde paints a portrait of himself as being in love with Roberta almost from the start, which was against the regulations of the factory. He says that he did not pressure Roberta to leave the Newtons’ and had no part in finding her a new place. He also says that there was no way that he could enter Roberta’s room at the Gibsons’ secretly, as the door was next to the main entrance. He says that he and Roberta were in love with each other, eventually entering into an “illicit” relationship in which Roberta got pregnant. Clyde continues that he still loved Roberta when he met “Miss X,” though eventually his feelings for her began to wane. Jephson’s questioning gives the impression that Clyde’s love for Miss X was that of a poor boy infatuated with an unreachable woman.
In the testimony of the incident of Roberta’s death, Clyde becomes nervous because he is now telling deliberate lies. He testifies that he had no intention of plotting to kill her, but he wanted to go somewhere remote so that Roberta could calm down enough to think logically about the matter. He states that when he saw how worn out Roberta was, he decided to marry her after all. In the boat, Roberta had thrown herself toward him out of gratitude. Clyde says that he had the camera in his hand, which might have hit her hand or face. The boat tipped over, hitting Roberta on the head. She was flailing so badly that he was afraid to come near her lest she drown them both....
(The entire section is 494 words.)
Book 3, Chapter 25 Summary
Mason’s questioning of Clyde is aggressive and confrontational. He begins by focusing on Clyde’s assertion that he did not have a camera at the lake, which Clyde now admits was a lie. To Mason, this is a sign that Clyde is a known liar. He moves on to the sad nature of Roberta’s letters to Clyde. Clyde claims the letters were a means to his change of heart about his intentions toward Roberta. Belknap objects to Mason’s speechifying with every question, but Judge Oberwaltzer overrules this.
Next, Mason brings in the boat they were in when the crime occurred. This rattles Clyde, especially when he is made to sit in it and act out what he testifies happened. Mason appears amazed at Clyde’s assertion that he was too dazed to swim the thirty-five feet to reach and save Roberta but could swim the five hundred feet to the shore, where he had the presence of mind to hide the tripod and change his clothes. He asks Clyde if he has ever heard of a drowning victim being resuscitated, calling into question Clyde’s so-called decision that Roberta was already dead and beyond help. He also wonders how a fully grown, healthy man could be afraid of being overcome by a one-hundred pound woman, as Clyde claims to have been.
The boat is removed and Mason produces a lock of Roberta’s hair in order to match it with that caught in the camera. Clyde hesitates to feel it, as he is instructed, and Mason points out that it is just a lock of hair from his dead lover. This affects the mood of the court significantly against Clyde. Mason continues to call Clyde a “mental and moral coward,” using Jephson’s evaluation of him. He questions Clyde about his evident knowledge of the surroundings of Big Bittern Lake, indicating that he had previously planned an escape route, something that Clyde vigorously denies. Clyde repeats that he cared for Roberta even after he met “Miss X.”
Mason then reveals the fact that, despite Clyde’s testimony that he had only fifty dollars, he in fact had over eighty dollars in his pocket and had bought dinner for his friends that amounted to over thirteen dollars. Clyde cannot bring himself to confess that he borrowed the money from Sondra. Mason then shows pictures of a seemingly happy Roberta, despite Clyde’s testimony that she was sad, a condition which caused him to change his mind about leaving her. The brochures are revealed to be from Lycurgus rather than Utica, where Clyde says he...
(The entire section is 482 words.)
Book 3, Chapters 26-27 Summary
For the remainder of the trial, witnesses are called but quickly eliminated by both sides. In his closing argument, Belknap presents Clyde Griffiths once again as a mental and moral coward, but not a murderer. He may have acted cruelly to Roberta, but who has not been cruel to someone they loved? Clyde may have let Roberta drown, but he did not kill her. He hesitated fatally, but not criminally, to save her. Mason, in his statement, gives the jury the inconsistent points of Clyde’s testimony. Judge Oberwaltzer instructs the jury to give the defendant the benefit of the doubt. Evidence is not to be discounted simply because it is considered “circumstantial.” He tells them that if they decide that Roberta involuntarily or accidentally fell out of the boat and Clyde made no attempt to rescue her, that does not make him guilty and they are bound to find him not guilty.
The jury is dismissed and Clyde is taken back to the jail. For five hours the jury deliberates. One member, who is against Mason and taken with Jephson’s style of argument, expresses doubts about Mason’s proofs. However, when the others warn him what will happen to his business if they should declare a hung jury, the reluctant member casts his vote. Clyde is brought back in and stares at, and beyond, the jury as he is pronounced guilty of first degree murder. The judge declares that sentencing will be passed on the following Monday. Clyde writes a note to be sent to his mother: “I am convicted.” Back in his cell, he focuses on the circumstance that Sondra never sent one word, despite the fact he did this for her love. The Griffiths in Lycurgus decide that they will not pay for an appeal, and Belknap and Jephson decide they will not ask for a new trial for which they will not be compensated.
In Denver, Clyde’s mother is overcome by the tragedy that her son has been convicted of murder. She had been sending him a constant stream of letters, declaring her love and belief in his innocence. She has moved to a remote section of Denver, but the press discovers her location and asks for an interview. In response to their question why she did not go to the trial, she says that, not only was she asked not to go by Clyde’s attorneys, but she did not have the money. She asks one of the reporters to drop off a telegram for her. The reporter agrees and offers to pay for it, intending to print the contents in his article. The other reporters demand to know the...
(The entire section is 512 words.)
Book 3, Chapters 28-29 Summary
Mrs. Griffiths arrives at the jail late one night, but waits until the next morning to see Clyde. He is overjoyed to see her, and she thanks God that He has gotten her this far and is sure that He will see to Clyde’s release. She tells Clyde that she is acting as a reporter for a Denver newspaper in order to make money to come back East to see him and be with him. While she initially believed in Clyde’s innocence, his weak positive response shakes her faith in him.
Mrs. Griffiths sees Belknap and Jephson and asks them to pray for her success in getting her son freed. The Griffiths of Lycurgus want nothing to do with her or with Clyde and adamantly refuse to pay for attorneys to launch an appeal. Belknap and Jephson, seeing Mrs. Griffiths, are sure that she does not have the two thousand dollars necessary for an appeal. They are, however, impressed with her faith. They come up with a plan by which Mrs. Griffiths will give lectures about Clyde’s innocence, relaying the facts as she sees them, and raise money for the appeal. She agrees with this, seeing this as yet another of God's provisions on her mission to free Clyde.
When the day comes for the sentence to be passed, Clyde is accompanied by his mother, who sits near him to take her correspondence. Judge Oberwaltzer proclaims that Clyde will be sentenced to death. He will be transferred to the state prison in Auburn, where he will await execution. Mrs. Griffiths only smiles, sure that God will see that her son lives. She explains to the reporters that she agreed to act as a correspondent as the only means of procuring money to be with Clyde.
Clyde is transferred to Auburn. He is given a prison hair cut and the striped uniform of the state penitentiary. He is appalled at being included with the other criminals on Death Row. He is even more upset that he is so close to the place of execution. Mrs. Griffiths comes to see him on the weekly visiting day, shocked by his haggard appearance. She explains her plan to give lectures to raise money. The appeal has been filed, so it will be over a year until it can come up before the court. After she leaves, Clyde hears the despairing cries of a man who is awaiting his execution.
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Book 3, Chapters 30-31 Summary
The days in prison begin to drag for Clyde. His mother, however, spends most of her time touring the state, giving lectures in churches and missions wherever she can. She finds that there is very little interest in her story among Christians, which makes her feel that they are not as Christian as they could be. They feel that even if he were innocent of the murder, Clyde had confessed to getting Roberta pregnant, a sin almost as bad as murder to many of them. One morning, she finds a Jewish movie theater owner who allows her to use his place to lecture, selling tickets for twenty-five cents apiece. She makes two hundred dollars that morning, an amount that encourages her. She soon makes a total of eleven hundred dollars, over and above the personal costs she has. She learns from Frank and Julia that her husband, Asa, is not well, and so she returns to Denver. Before she leaves, Mrs. Griffiths hands over the eleven hundred dollars to Belknap and Jephson, who are thus encouraged to put effort into preparing for the appeal.
Clyde becomes acquainted with his fellow inmates, all on Death Row for horrendous murders. Miller Nicholson is a lawyer who poisoned an elderly, wealthy man. He assures Clyde that he will soon get used to prison life. Pasquale Cutrone, an Italian who murdered his brother for attempting to seduce his wife, has lost his mind due to worry. He crawls on his knees on his cell floor, licking the feet of a brass Christ that had been given to him. The day comes when Cutrone must go to the electric chair. Clyde listens, imaging each step of the execution as if he were there. When the lights dim, he knows that the switch has been thrown. He hears the executioner pronounce the death of Cutrone. This is the first execution since Clyde’s arrival, and he does not get used to it as his other acquaintances are sent to the chair.
In Denver, Asa Griffiths’ condition improves enough for him to sit up. Mrs. Griffiths tries to resume her fund-raising, but she finds that interest in Clyde’s case has faded. She returns to New York and meets Duncan McMillan, a young preacher who, though convinced of Clyde’s guilt, feels sorry for Mrs. Griffiths. He agrees to visit Clyde at Mrs. Griffiths’ request. He preaches to Clyde and Clyde sees that McMillan is different from the other preachers he has known. Through his positive impression of McMillan, Clyde becomes interested in faith.
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Book 3, Chapters 32-33 Summary
Reverend McMillan continues to visit Clyde frequently over the next several months. He continues to share Bible verses with Clyde, who is attracted to McMillan’s appealing nature. But Clyde cannot quite bring himself to accept the faith the McMillan personifies. McMillan questions Clyde, and Clyde begins to accept the wrongness of his actions concerning Roberta. Eventually, Clyde confesses that he was not sorry that she drowned, though it was still unintentional.
Almost a year after his incarceration, Clyde receives a letter from Sondra Finchley. It is opened by the prison warden, who deems that it is acceptable, perhaps necessary, to deliver to Clyde. In it, Sondra, speaking in the third person as “someone once dear to you,” says that he is not forgotten and that, though she cannot understand how he could do what he did, she feels sorrow and sympathy and wishes him freedom and happiness. The finality of this letter merely depresses him. He listens to the spiritual sung by an African-American prisoner, as well as the chanting of a Jewish inmate nearby. He responds to the words, feeling the depths of his own wickedness. He asks McMillan if he could request to be moved to another cell in order to escape the tortured thoughts that filled it, but nothing comes of this. Roberta's death becomes more and more clear to Clyde, and begins to understand more truths about himself. He discusses this with McMillan, admitting that even as he let her drown, he had murder in his heart. McMillan is shaken by the evil he sees in Clyde and leaves, needing to pray and think over what Clyde has said. Later, he returns to try to convince Clyde that, no matter how deep the sin, God’s grace will forgive it. Still, Clyde believes more in McMillan as God than his mother’s God.
The Court of Appeals denies Clyde’s request for a new trial, feeling that all the evidence had been placed before the first court and the verdict was valid. Clyde is sentenced to die within six weeks. McMillan is the one to convey the news to him. He tells Clyde not to give up hope, that a new governor will come into office before the date of his execution. This governor, McMillan says, has a gentler heart and may listen to an appeal. He promises Clyde that he will see his lawyers, but Clyde has heard this all before.
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Book 3, Chapter 34 Summary
Reverend McMillan and Mrs. Griffiths travel to the state capital in Albany to see the new governor, David Waltham. Waltham has followed the case proceedings, but had not considered intervening in the order of execution. Mrs. Griffiths presents to the governor a full history of Clyde, stating that though he was not faultless in the incident, neither was Roberta Alden or Sondra Finchley. Governor Waltham, a loving husband and father, can fully imagine her agony at this time. He listens to Reverend McMillan state that Clyde has asked God for complete forgiveness for all his sins and has trusted in Him for mercy. Governor Waltham sympathizes with their views, he says, but he cannot act upon sentiment alone. He asks Reverend McMillan directly if there is anything that Clyde said that would provide new evidence on his own behalf. Reverend McMillan hesitates, having come to the conclusion in his conversations with him, that Clyde was truly guilty. While Mrs. Griffiths is counting on him to intercede on her son's behalf, he cannot bring himself to lie. All he tells Governor Waltham is that he was focused on the spiritual aspect of Clyde Griffiths, not the legal side. With this, Governor Waltham understands Reverend McMillan’s surety of Clyde’s guilt. He apologizes to Mrs. Griffiths, but says that he must let the verdict stand as is.
Mrs. Griffiths leaves, stunned that Reverend McMillan could not tell the Governor anything to commute Clyde’s sentence to life in prison. She tells herself that she can only trust God. She visits Clyde and asks him if there is anything that he said to convince the pastor of his guilt. Clyde cannot bring himself to confess to his mother, which hurts her even more.
In his days remaining, Clyde writes out a statement to be published after his death. In it he says that he has found peace and forgiveness in Christ. He warns the youth of America that it is in Christ alone and a life lived according to Christian principles that can save them. He gives this to Reverend McMillan, though he questions whether or not he truly believes what he wrote.
Clyde meets with his mother one last time before his execution and Reverend McMillan accompanies him into the death chamber. At Clyde’s execution, the pastor is overcome and has to be carried out. He walks the streets seeking some peace with God before returning to Mrs. Griffiths.
Some time after, the Griffiths family is in San Francisco,...
(The entire section is 491 words.)