An American Tragedy Book 2, Chapters 34-35 Summary

Theodore Dreiser

Book 2, Chapters 34-35 Summary

Clyde is in a quandary about where to turn for help. He has no friends of whom he might ask for information on ending a pregnancy. He decides that it is better if he goes to a doctor or druggist outside of Lycurgus, since anyone in town would be sure to recognize his resemblance to Gilbert. He boards the trolley to Schenectady, hoping to reach there before the pharmacies close. When he arrives, he goes to the nearest druggist, but loses courage when he sees that the middle-aged man would be unlikely to provide him with information. He leaves and goes to the next one but cannot bring himself to ask. He steels himself and returns to one of the pharmacies, relating the story that he is a young married man whose wife is pregnant, and that they are not able to support a baby. The druggist gives him some pills, saying that they might work. He returns to Lycurgus and immediately visits Roberta. He informs her that she is to take one pill every two hours for eight to ten hours. He suggests that she stay home from work until she miscarries, as it might be an unpleasant experience. Roberta is grateful to him for taking care of her as he promised, which makes Clyde fearful that she might be expecting them to become even closer together as a couple. Clyde has already decided that he must rid himself of Roberta in order to clear the way for his relationship with Sondra.

When Clyde checks on Roberta the next day, there has been no effect. He returns to Schenectady and the druggist tells him that his “wife” might not be pregnant but just skipping a monthly period. Clyde asks about a doctor who might perform an abortion should the second round of pills not work. His desperation is evident, and the druggist becomes suspicious and dismisses him, reminding him that abortion is illegal. On his return to Roberta, he says that finding a doctor to perform an abortion is their only hope. He says that he cannot go with her without arousing suspicion: she must go alone, claiming that the father abandoned her. Roberta is overwhelmed with shame at this, telling Clyde that there is no way she can do this alone. Clyde insists that his reputation would be destroyed if this got out, which it would be sure to do if he went with her. Clyde knows he must find a doctor for her, but assures himself that, after this was all over, they would part ways.