An American Tragedy Book 2, Chapters 36-37 Summary

Theodore Dreiser

Book 2, Chapters 36-37 Summary

Over a week goes by, and Roberta has not heard from Clyde about finding a doctor to perform an abortion. Clyde is unsure where to turn but thinks that Orrin Short, a clerk at a local clothing store, might be able to help. Pretending to look at ties, he tells Short a story that one of the workers at the factory had turned to him for help to find a doctor that could end an unwanted pregnancy. Short is taken aback that so classy a gentleman would ask him such a question. He admits that he is new in Lycurgus himself and knows no one local. However, in his hometown of Gloversville, Short knew of a doctor who might help. He gives Clyde the name and directions, for which Clyde is extremely thankful. After Clyde leaves, Short wonders why Clyde would risk himself for a factory worker and decides that it is more likely Clyde himself is in trouble, perhaps having gotten Sondra Finchley pregnant. Short thinks that this would be quite a story in the future.

Though having the name of a doctor is a relief, both Clyde and Roberta know that there is no complete relief possible until this matter is “taken care of.” Roberta is more conducive to going to the doctor alone, so long as Clyde comes with her to Gloversville. Even though Clyde no longer cares for Roberta, he is anxious to stand by her until this is over. They take separate trolleys to Fonda, where they meet and continue on the way to Gloversville.

Roberta finds the office of Dr. Glenn, who is just finishing his dinner. He takes her into his office and questions her about her need for his services. She stutters, trying to muster the courage to tell her story. Eventually, she is able to tell him that her name is Mrs. Ruth Howard, newly married, and unable to afford a baby at this time. Dr. Glenn wavers in his trust in the truthfulness of her story, but tells her that he does not perform abortions unless the mother’s life is in danger. He tells her not only is it dangerous for the woman, but that it is illegal for him. He strongly believes in the unethical nature of abortion and urges her to face the truth with her husband and try to find some way to make do with this new addition. Roberta breaks down and tells him something somewhat more truthful: that she is unmarried and cannot face her parents with this news. Dr. Glenn is disgusted with young people who are willing enough to have sex but unwilling to face the consequences. He refuses to give her an abortion and urges her to be honest with her parents. Roberta leaves, unable to think of what she should do now.