An American Tragedy Book 3, Chapters 9-10 Summary

Theodore Dreiser

Book 3, Chapters 9-10 Summary

Mason wonders if the prominent Griffiths family will hire a powerful lawyer to defend Clyde. He also fears whether he will be politically cast off and unable to convict Clyde for murder. He approaches the campers and asks them if they know Clyde Griffiths. Harley Baggott acts as spokesman and says that they do, and that he should be back soon. Mason sees Sondra and understands why Clyde would throw off a working-class girl like Roberta for a society princess. Mason returns to the other officers as Kraut escorts Clyde in from the woods. He asks Clyde if he is familiar with what has happened at Big Bittern Lake, but Clyde denies any knowledge; in fact, Clyde has decided he cannot admit to any knowledge of Roberta. This infuriates Mason, who confronts Clyde with the letters found in his trunk, along with the card and toilet set in Roberta’s belongings, proving that he does in fact know Roberta Alden. Clyde continues to state that he has no knowledge of her, which makes Mason even angrier. He sees Clyde as a rich kid who believes he can do anything to anyone of a lower class.

Mason continues to question Clyde; he asks about the the straw hat found at the lake, as well as the other straw hat, and where he got them. This throws Clyde and he fumbles an answer, saying he left the straw hat at the cabin when he had come up to the lake earlier in the summer and got it when he returned. Mason threatens to take Clyde back to his friends and question them about him. This causes Clyde to fold, begging Mason not to do that. Mason tells him to admit what he knows about Roberta or else he will have to face his friends. Clyde finally tells them the basic truth about what happened in the boat, saying that he did not rescue Roberta because he was afraid she would drag him down and they both would drown.

Mason returns to Clyde’s friends and tells them that Clyde has been arrested for murder and asks for his belongings. Sondra faints at the news while the others are stunned. Since Clyde’s grey suit is missing, Mason asks Clyde where it is. Clyde denies having had one, claiming that the only suit he had was the one he was wearing, which he had cleaned when he got back from the lake.

Clyde is taken first to a farmhouse, where he is kept overnight. The local people gather around, curious as to what the accused murderer looks like. The next morning, Clyde is taken to prison, having to face a large crowd at the jail, who call out threats and curses at him. Clyde tries to be civil to the jailors now that he is caught and in their hands.