An American Tragedy Book 1, Chapters 12-13 Summary

Theodore Dreiser

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 situation; it is difficult for him to believe that his sister is in such trouble.