An American Tragedy Book 1, Chapters 5-6 Summary

Theodore Dreiser

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.