An American Tragedy Book 2, Chapters 44-45 Summary

Theodore Dreiser

Book 2, Chapters 44-45 Summary

Roberta sends Clyde a long, rambling letter in which she complains that the seamstress who is making her trousseau dresses is ill and cannot work. Her parents are talking about taking her on a trip for a few weeks, and she herself is nauseous and blue. She has done nothing but cry since she got home, which has worried her mother. She begs Clyde to write to her.

When Roberta does not hear from Clyde (since he is not in town to receive her letter), she writes him again to tell him that she is returning to Lycurgus, unhappy that all she has heard from him are a few short telephone calls. This news upsets Clyde, who realizes something must be done. He calls her and submits to a long, whining conversation. He tells her that he has been very busy and thus it has been difficult for him to write as often as she desires.

The day before, Clyde had gone out on the lake with Sondra and the thought of the news article about the drowned couple haunts him. He is jumpy and nervous. As he listens to the others' conversations, he learns how solitary this region is. He thinks that this would be a good location to murder Roberta, but he is horrified at the thought that he, the nephew of Samuel Griffiths, should be contemplating murder. He thinks about the implications, especially if Roberta, who cannot swim, managed to save herself after all. His mental struggle continues, as he thinks of killing not just Roberta but their unborn child too. He decides to return to Lycurgus where he can be around people. But even there, the “demon” in his mind that he calls the Giant Efrit continues to plot out the nefarious plan that would free him to marry Sondra. He thinks of taking Roberta to a secluded camping spot, which will limit the number of people he encounters, and take her out in a rented boat. If he strikes her on the head, he thinks, she would drown more quickly. He diverts his mind from this by writing several notes to Sondra, saying how much he loves her. The prospect of marrying Sondra overwhelms any other consideration. In bitterness, he continues to think of Esta, his sister, who did not force anyone to marry her. He receives a letter from Roberta, telling him that if she does not hear from him by that Friday at noon, she will tell everyone how he has treated her. He decides to take her to the secluded camping spot as a “pre-wedding honeymoon” and there carry out his plan.