An American Tragedy Book 1, Chapters 10-11 Summary

Theodore Dreiser

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.