An American Tragedy Book 2, Chapters 32-33 Summary

Theodore Dreiser

Book 2, Chapters 32-33 Summary

Clyde continues to advance in the social circles, often independent of Sondra. Sondra meanwhile is unsure how far to let her relationship with Clyde go, since she knows her parents would not countenance marriage with someone who comes from a background of poverty. One evening, as Clyde takes Sondra back to her house, she invites him in for hot chocolate. He is overwhelmed as he sits gazing at her white satin evening gown. He observes his surroundings and imagines what it must be like to live like this: no need for work, servants meeting his every need, social events crowding his calendar. Clyde expresses his passion to her, promising that he would do anything that she wanted. However, she does not really want to be the master, so she tells him that it is late, hinting for him to leave. Clyde senses that he should not say anything more, so he departs.

Roberta has become even more desperate to hang on to Clyde and consequently finally submits to his wishes. Several times, when he visits her room late at night, they make love. But neither was experienced enough to know of any types of contraception. In February, Roberta discovers with horror that she is pregnant. She wonders if there may be something wrong with her besides pregnancy, but she soon realizes there is not. She has no one but Clyde to turn to. She is ashamed of herself for submitting to Clyde’s insistent advances. She knows from overhearing conversations of other factory girls what happens to unmarried pregnant girls. She sends a note to Clyde that she must talk to him, feeling that he would know what to do to “take care of her problem.” When Clyde receives her note, he senses her panic but does not suspect the truth of the matter. In fact, Roberta’s becoming pregnant had not even occurred to him when he talked her into sex: this kind of thing did not happen to him. He is stunned when she tells him the news. She begs him to find some way to “fix” it. He has no idea where he can turn. He contemplates going to a drug store and surreptitiously asking the pharmacist what can be done, but he realizes that, with his resemblance to Gilbert, the secret might come back to the Griffiths, and Clyde’s plans for his future would be destroyed. He decides the only thing to do is to find a doctor who will perform an abortion.