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Sister Carrie (1900)

by Theodore DREISER

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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3,781572,801 (3.76)216
Young Caroline Meeber leaves home for the first time and experiences work, love, and the pleasures and responsibilities of independence in late-nineteenth-century Chicago and New York.

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At age eighteen, Carrie Meeber moves from a small town to the big city of Chicago, where she tries to make a living. When she runs into difficulties, rather than return home, she accepts assistance from a man who leads her to believe they will marry. She eventually becomes involved with another man who, unbeknownst to her, is already married. Carrie drifts through life with no set goals, at times encountering failure and at other times finding success. One of the primary themes appears to be the role of chance in a person’s life, especially for those who, like Carrie, are initially not particularly assertive or decisive.

This book was published in 1900 and is set mostly in the 1890’s. In this book Dreiser illustrates major changes taking place in society at the time, such as the increase in industrialization, rise in consumerism, changes in traditional roles for women, improvement in mobility (via train travel), and shifts in moral standards. It is fascinating to me to read books written long ago, as it provides a true picture of what life was like in those days. One of Carrier's places of employment is described as:

“The place smelled of the oil of the machines and the new leather—a combination which, added to the stale odours of the building, was not pleasant even in cold weather. The floor, though regularly swept every evening, presented a littered surface. Not the slightest provision had been made for the comfort of the employees, the idea being that something was gained by giving them as little and making the work as hard and unremunerative as possible. What we know of foot-rests, swivel-back chairs, dining-rooms for the girls, clean aprons and curling irons supplied free, and a decent cloak room, were unthought of. The washrooms were disagreeable, crude, if not foul places, and the whole atmosphere was sordid.”

The book is compelling and extremely well-constructed. It is structured around major set pieces, with natural transitions between them. The characters are realistic; they exhibit both virtues and flaws. Dreiser provides an unnamed narrator, who occasionally addresses the reader. This narrator occasionally indulges in generalizations about women and ethnic comments that may not sit well with a modern audience, though it is possible that Dreiser is showing that the narrator is a product of an earlier way of thinking, as Carrie’s trajectory diverges from the narrator’s rather generic observations.

This book is well worth reading for the way it brings to life the seeds of change that have become the norm today. It provides a vivid picture of the urban scene at the turn of the 20th century, and parts of it are very sad. Dreiser was ahead of the curve and roundly criticized, but this book stands the test of time and has become a classic. ( )
  Castlelass | Oct 30, 2022 |
The trials and tribulations of Sister Carrie as she makes her way up the ladder of success in the big city society of turn of the century Chicago and New York. Dreiser is a great storyteller and the book winds it way through the many twists and turns with a captivating narrative.

Looming behind the tale is a philosophy type message that links how each and every person at one time or other grapples with achievement in life despite the many obstacles. Carrie is clearly a prime example of how difficult life can be for those on the outside only to see her dreams unfold eventually through her determination and a bit of luck. Her antagonist finds the flipside in the fall from power and glory and in this transition the philosophy of Dreiser is on full display. ( )
  knightlight777 | Jun 20, 2022 |
Here's what I wrote after reading in 1988: "Another story of a young woman facing complex moral choices. Interestingly, though, Carrie did not seem to be aware of complexity. According to the experts, Sister Carrie is American's first novel dealing the urbanization of the country. Most of its scenes occur in Chicago or New York and include city elements: department stores, apartment houses, saloons, and theaters. Most memorable character? Of course, Carrie, who rises from poverty to stardom through the aid of her lovers and yet who is destined to "dream such happiness as (she) may never feel." ( )
  MGADMJK | Feb 24, 2022 |
Case 13 shelf 2
1 vote | semoffat | Aug 30, 2021 |
  hpryor | Aug 8, 2021 |
Showing 1-5 of 55 (next | show all)
I believe the novel Sister Carrie helps to describe the life of young girls in the turn of the century. The confusion of what to do, who to be with, who to trust.. running into problems, this story touches bases with all of these.
added by newfieldreads | editSister Carrie, Josie (Mar 19, 2010)
The novel Sister Carrie was a great book to read if your into sneaky ways and like reading about Drama. The book shows how you shouldnt always base your opinions on what you see because that may lead you in the way of false pretences. Over all I enjoyed reading the book and it also gave me an outlook on how the 1900's really is not that different from the present time we live in. The novel teaches you inner morals to go with what your heart desires Carrie made her life the way she dreamed by following what she knew and working hard for it.
added by newfieldreads | editSister Carrie, Samantha (Mar 19, 2010)

» Add other authors (42 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
DREISER, TheodoreAuthorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Auchincloss, LouisIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Baldini, GabrieleTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Delbanco, AndrewIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Dielemans, WimTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Doctorow, E. L.Introductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Domeraski, ReginaContributorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Geismar, MaxwellEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Giusti, GeorgeCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hill, JamesCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Leibowitz, HerbertIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Price, RoyCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Stahl, Ben F.Illustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Thorp, WillardAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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When Caroline Meeber boarded the afternoon train for Chicago, her total outfit consisted of a small trunk, a cheap imitation alligator-skin satchel, a small lunch in a paper box, and a yellow leather snap purse, containing her ticket, a scrap of paper with her sister's address in Van Buren Street, and four dollars in money.
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Sister Carrie has been published in two forms: all editions between 1900 and 1981 were based on a version somewhat abridged by Dreiser and his editors. In 1981, the Pennsylvania edition based on the original manuscript from the NYPL was published.

Work #36059 is for the standard version. Do not combine it with the unexpurgated editions (Penguin Unexpurgated, Pennsylvania Edition, or NYPL Collectors Edition) or with the Norton Critical Edition (also contains the unexpurgated material as well as several background and critical writings).
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Young Caroline Meeber leaves home for the first time and experiences work, love, and the pleasures and responsibilities of independence in late-nineteenth-century Chicago and New York.

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Tantor Media

2 editions of this book were published by Tantor Media.

Editions: 1400102707, 1400109051


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