An American Tragedy Book 2, Chapters 18-20 Summary

Theodore Dreiser

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.