An American Tragedy Book 2, Chapters 21-22 Summary

Theodore Dreiser

Book 2, Chapters 21-22 Summary

Roberta is confused about her feelings for Clyde. She is upset that he is angry with her, but she will not go against her principles of morality by having sex with him, even if it means losing him. She thinks that Clyde should be ashamed for even asking her to go to bed with him. Clyde feels that there is no other place for them to go and not be recognized. He is sure that the Griffiths would look at Roberta as beneath their station; after all, she is an employee.

Roberta anticipates seeing Clyde the next day at the factory. She hopes that she can somehow get a chance to talk to him and apologize for making him angry. She wonders if he would pressure her to go to bed with him without having any intention of marrying her afterwards. She convinces herself that he would never do that. She contemplates giving in and letting him have his way. She thinks about getting a room somewhere where the two of them could be alone without being recognized.

At the factory, Clyde ignores Roberta and pays attention to the other factory girls. He looks them over and is not displeased with what he sees, though he does not view them as favorably as the “higher class” girls he has known. Still, he knows that the attentions he is showing them will cause Roberta to rethink her rejection of his advances. She gives him a note, begging him not to be angry and asking him to meet her at the end of Elm Street at 8:30 that night, promising that he will not be sorry. He is pleased with the note, and Roberta sees him looking at her with a smile on his lips. This gives her some hope that they might make up and not quarrel anymore.

Clyde considers Roberta’s seeming change of heart. If she is willing to sacrifice herself for him, then there might be others. The Griffiths have evidently forgotten all about him, despite having him for dinner in their home. He thinks of Roberta, but he knows he has no intention of ever marrying her, seeing her as below the level at which he wants to be. The Griffiths have been out of town all summer but will soon be returning. He hopes that he may once again make some social contact with these people who are his family and thus join their circle, which is his primarily goal at the moment.