An American Tragedy Book 3, Chapters 11-12 Summary

Theodore Dreiser

Book 3, Chapters 11-12 Summary

The results of the autopsy are returned; it states that the blows to Roberta’s face were not fatal, but that the head wound, presumably from the blow from the edge of the boat, resulted in her death. This report corroborates Clyde’s testimony. From the amount of water in her lungs, it is determined that Roberta was not dead when she fell into the water. The cause of death is attributed to drowning. Mason wants to make Clyde confess that he struck her before throwing her into the water, but Clyde still refuses to say anything. Earl Newcomb tells Mason that a tripod had been discovered buried near the scene of the crime. This leads Mason to deduce that there was a camera present, which might be the weapon with which Clyde struck Roberta. The camera is eventually found, but there is no trace of blood on it. Mason is so incensed and so sure that Clyde is guilty that he considers placing some hairs from Roberta’s head on the camera just to have incriminating evidence. Mason also thinks that the timing of the trial will prove beneficial to him in the upcoming elections.

The news of the murder spreads across the country, causing something of a sensational scandal. Interest turns to Sondra, the beautiful, wealthy girl who is the cause of Clyde’s attempt to rid himself of the poor but pretty Roberta Alden. Mr. and Mrs. Alden are interviewed by the press, creating a portrait of grieving parents of a much-loved daughter, who had been reared in a moral, religious home. The Griffiths in Lycurgus are shocked beyond belief that Clyde has been accused of murder. Mr. Griffiths has difficulty imagining that his nephew could have done such a vicious act and assigns his attorney, Smillie, to talk to Clyde until he can get his main lawyer to take the case.

Sondra, overcome by the reality that has been thrust upon Clyde, confesses in tears to her father. Mr. Finchley tells her to say nothing to anyone, hoping that his attorneys can keep the family clear from as much scandal as possible. Smillie, in the meantime, talks with Clyde, but is unable to get him to confess, which will make it easier for him during the trial. He tells Clyde that the company’s chief counsel, Mr. Brookheart, will be back in town soon and will come to discuss the case with him. In the meantime, he urges Clyde to continue to say nothing to anyone.