An American Tragedy Book 2, Chapters 40-41 Summary

Theodore Dreiser

Book 2, Chapters 40-41 Summary

Roberta sees Clyde talking to Arabella Stark, one of his society friends, and finds her symbolic of the freedom of responsibility that has so enthralled Clyde. She sees herself as offering him nothing and understands the depths of his rejection of her. She also sees Clyde’s behavior as utterly wrong, having ignored her for some time now. She is overcome by the sadness of their lost love.

Clyde, on the other hand, is off for a weekend at the lake with a group of his friends. They become lost on the road and Clyde is deputized to go up to a farm house to ask directions. He stops when he sees the name on the mailbox: Titus Alden. This is the home of Roberta’s family. He is dumbstruck, which causes Sondra to ask him what the matter is. He regains control of his emotions and walks up to the farm house, which is decrepit and dilapidated. Mr. Alden gives him directions and Clyde is moved by how poverty-stricken he looks. He is more convinced than ever that he must rid himself of Roberta, who stands in such a stark contrast to the life he is building for himself with Sondra and her friends. And yet, Clyde fears what Roberta might do: if she talks to Gilbert or his uncle, he would be done for. He berates himself for falling for Roberta instead of waiting to see where his family connections might lead.

On the fifth of June, the Finchleys take off for the summer at the lake. Sondra reminds Clyde to come up in a few weeks’ time. Clyde is nervous that Roberta will pressure him to stay with her until the baby is born and hopes that a plan will materialize. Meanwhile, Roberta decides that the time has come to buy a dress for her wedding; she convinces herself that Clyde will indeed marry her, even if only temporarily. She worries that, at four months, her pregnancy might be noticeable to the other factory girls. As she prepares to go to her parents' house, she thinks about how some men grow fond of the mother of their child, no matter how indifferent they were previously; she is hopeful that this will be the case with Clyde.