Sister Carrie

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Novel by Dreiser. The first edition was printed in 1900 but is said to have been withheld from circulation by the publisher because of its supposed immorality. It was reissued in 1907.

Carrie Meeber, penniless and “full of the illusions of ignorance and youth,” leaves her rural home to seek work in Chicago, and becomes acquainted with Charles Drouet, a salesman who impresses her by his worldliness and affluence. In Chicago she lives with her sister and brother-in-law, and works for a time at jobs that pay little and oppress her imaginative spirit. After a period of unemployment and loneliness, she allows Drouet to establish her as his mistress, and finds temporary happiness with him. She becomes aware of his inferiority, however, and during his absences falls under the influence of his friend George Hurstwood, middle-aged, married, and comparatively intelligent and cultured, who is the manager of a celebrated bar. They finally elope, first to Montreal and then to New York, where he opens a saloon, and they live together for more than three years. Carrie grows in intellectual and emotional stature, while Hurstwood, away from the atmosphere of success on which his life has been based, steadily declines. When they are impoverished, their relations become strained, until Carrie goes on the stage and begins to support Hurstwood, rising from the chorus to minor acting parts. At last she deserts him, feeling that he is too great a burden, since he has not tried to obtain work except for a brief time as a strikebreaker during a trolley strike. Carrie becomes a star of musical comedies, but in spite of her success she is lonely and dissatisfied. Without her knowledge, Hurstwood sinks lower and lower, and after becoming a beggar commits suicide.

Subjects: Literature.

Reference entries

Theodore Dreiser (1871—1945) American novelist

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