An American Tragedy Book 3, Chapter 25 Summary

Theodore Dreiser

Book 3, Chapter 25 Summary

Mason’s questioning of Clyde is aggressive and confrontational. He begins by focusing on Clyde’s assertion that he did not have a camera at the lake, which Clyde now admits was a lie. To Mason, this is a sign that Clyde is a known liar. He moves on to the sad nature of Roberta’s letters to Clyde. Clyde claims the letters were a means to his change of heart about his intentions toward Roberta. Belknap objects to Mason’s speechifying with every question, but Judge Oberwaltzer overrules this.

Next, Mason brings in the boat they were in when the crime occurred. This rattles Clyde, especially when he is made to sit in it and act out what he testifies happened. Mason appears amazed at Clyde’s assertion that he was too dazed to swim the thirty-five feet to reach and save Roberta but could swim the five hundred feet to the shore, where he had the presence of mind to hide the tripod and change his clothes. He asks Clyde if he has ever heard of a drowning victim being resuscitated, calling into question Clyde’s so-called decision that Roberta was already dead and beyond help. He also wonders how a fully grown, healthy man could be afraid of being overcome by a one-hundred pound woman, as Clyde claims to have been.

The boat is removed and Mason produces a lock of Roberta’s hair in order to match it with that caught in the camera. Clyde hesitates to feel it, as he is instructed, and Mason points out that it is just a lock of hair from his dead lover. This affects the mood of the court significantly against Clyde. Mason continues to call Clyde a “mental and moral coward,” using Jephson’s evaluation of him. He questions Clyde about his evident knowledge of the surroundings of Big Bittern Lake, indicating that he had previously planned an escape route, something that Clyde vigorously denies. Clyde repeats that he cared for Roberta even after he met “Miss X.”

Mason then reveals the fact that, despite Clyde’s testimony that he had only fifty dollars, he in fact had over eighty dollars in his pocket and had bought dinner for his friends that amounted to over thirteen dollars. Clyde cannot bring himself to confess that he borrowed the money from Sondra. Mason then shows pictures of a seemingly happy Roberta, despite Clyde’s testimony that she was sad, a condition which caused him to change his mind about leaving her. The brochures are revealed to be from Lycurgus rather than Utica, where Clyde says he picked them up. This is also evidence that Clyde had plotted the location for Roberta’s demise. The judge calls a recess until the next day. Belknap and Jephson decide that Clyde is really guilty and they must make the best of it from here on.