An American Tragedy Book 2, Chapters 12-13 Summary

Theodore Dreiser

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.