An American Tragedy Book 2, Chapters 7-8 Summary

Theodore Dreiser

Book 2, Chapters 7-8 Summary

Clyde is not happy about his boarding house; he feels that the residents are not of the social class with which he wants to be associated. There is one particular person, Walter Dillard, who is trying too hard to strike up a friendship with Clyde because seeing him as a way to get into the social scene. Dillard thinks that Clyde must know more people that one would think of someone living in a boarding house simply because he is related to Samuel Griffiths. Clyde has relied on the family connection to be seen as someone who is on the way up, but Dillard is becoming a sycophant. Along with this, Clyde is troubled that Dillard is making more money than he is at the moment.

Dillard tries to get Clyde to go with him to a dance hall and invites him to dine with him that Sunday. Clyde tells him that he does not have anything planned at the moment, but something might come up. Clyde explains that he must be careful because of his relatives, to which Dillard agrees. He is very eager to become acquainted with one of the Griffiths. Dillard continues fawning on Clyde.

Clyde receives his first week’s pay and feels prideful when his supervisor calls him “Mr. Griffiths.” Dillard cannot meet with Clyde that Sunday because he is to return home that day, but he promises that the two of them can go to a gathering in the basement of one of the local churches the upcoming Wednesday. Once there, Clyde makes a connection with Zella Shuman; she is a nice girl but not rich. Dillard is making out to be quite the flirt, but Clyde is cautious after his downfall with Hortense in Kansas City. The church social proves more entertaining that he thought, especially when everyone is in awe of having one of the Griffiths in their midst. Dillard’s uncle and aunt are especially accommodating. Zella is evidently in some kind of a relationship with Dillard, and Clyde is more interested in her friend, Rita. Zella suggests that the four of them take off secretly and go to her house. At the Shuman home, Zella puts some records on the victrola, and the two couples begin to dance closely. Zella and Dillard go off to another room. Soon Clyde finds himself kissing Rita, and Rita is encouraging him to kiss her more. Clyde discovers that he has moved quickly into a relationship that will be difficult to escape.