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Sister Carrie

3.71  ·  Rating Details  ·  27,801 Ratings  ·  1,048 Reviews
“When a girl leaves home at eighteen, she does one of two things. Either she falls into saving hands and becomes better, or she rapidly assumes the cosmopolitan standard of virtue and becomes worse.” With Sister Carrie, first published in 1900, Theodore Dreiser transformed the conventional “fallen woman” story into a genuinely innovative and powerful work of fiction. As he ...more
Paperback, 560 pages
Published January 1st 1982 by Bantam Classics (first published 1900)
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Theodore Dreiser's Sister Carrie was the first real book I've ever read in English. I was 11, my mother just bought me a brand-spanking-new English dictionary, and my school librarians finally let me roam the section of the library where normally kids were not allowed to wreck havoc in on their own. Awed by the idea of a big book in a language I just started to somewhat understand, I reached for it, just missing the much more age-appropriate Treasure Island - but then why'd you think I'd ever wa ...more
Jun 10, 2008 Khover marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
I can't believe I am actually trying to read this again. This is an oft-flung book, which has fair aerodynamics and, the hardcover copy of which makes a satisfying "thunk" as it hits the wall.
When a girl leaves her home at eighteen, she does one of two things. Either she falls into saving hands and becomes better, or she rapidly assumes the cosmopolitan standard of virtue and becomes worse.

That I prioritized 'Sister Carrie' over at least fifty other books high on the ever-expanding tbr list can be imputed to a matter of false advertising. The blurb hails Carrie as a modern woman in American fiction, a first of her kind (think Kate Chopin's The Awakening released just a year prior t
Jun 08, 2008 kristin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a classic that I could read over and over again. What a story! If you haven't read it, you should! The story not only captures the reader into the story, it gives you a deep sense of mans crazy nature.

I just finished reading this one again. I first read it 7 years ago, and felt is was time to try it again. Dreiser really speaks to my soul!!

"Oh Carrie, Carrie! Oh blind strivings of the human heart! Onward onward, it saith, and where beauty leads, there it follows. Whether it be the tink
Sep 22, 2008 Jonathan rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Jonathan by: Shane Avery
In the words of Edmund Wilson, "Dreiser commands our respect; but the truth is he writes so badly that it is almost impossible to read him."

Sister Carrie is a bad book. Not morally bad, unfortunately. That at least would make it interesting. In that respect, nothing in this book would be out of place in a Progressive lecture on social purity. This line from the first page sets the tone: "When a girl leaves her home at eighteen, she does one of two things. Either she falls into saving hands and b
Feb 28, 2016 Chrissie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I listened to the Blackstone Audiobook which came out Nov 18, 2005. It is not registered here at GR. There are two versions of Theodore Dreiser's book. The original "Doubleday Edition" was published in 1900. This, the original, was in fact edited by his wife. It has 47 chapters. It was considered more easily accessible to the public; the harsh message of new American Naturalism softened. The Blackstone audiobook uses this version.

80 years later, the "Pennsylvania Edition" of the book came out.
Sep 29, 2008 Miranda rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Theodore Dreiser and Emile Zola are both in the naturalist camps of literature, and indeed, I found many similarities between Sister Carrie and Nana. The major difference however, is that Dreiser choses to lead Hurstwood, his formerly affluent male protagonist to a bitter, self-induced end in a flophouse (reminiscent of Edith Wharton's House of Mirth), while Carrie, a lowerclass woman who, it could be argued, does bad things for money and material gain, moves up the socio-econimic ladder to a po ...more
Jun 05, 2007 aggie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those interested in the so-called modern condition
Shelves: life-changing
Carrie's first vision of Chicago is something many of us experience on Friday nights while driving into the city, excited about whatever the night might hold. The rollercoaster of hope and desolation coursing throughout the book was as much a part of life at the turn of the 20th century as it is at the turn of the 21st.
Sep 14, 2012 Werner rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Fans of serious literature
Shelves: classics
This is another book I read for background information on American Literature, back when we were homeschooling our girls. I hadn't read any of Dreiser's novels, and chose this over An American Tragedy since I'm not attracted to tragedy, as a rule. The plot here isn't without its tragic elements, but my three-star rating (which actually would be 3 1/2 if I could give half stars), which expresses solid liking, demonstrates that I don't regret the read!

As the Goodreads description suggests, the plo
Jason Pettus
(Reprinted from the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography []. I am the original author of this essay, as well as the owner of CCLaP; it is not being reprinted here illegally.)

The CCLaP 100: In which I read for the first time a hundred so-called "classics," then write reports on whether or not they deserve the label

Essay #31: Sister Carrie (1900), by Theodore Dreiser

The story in a nutshell:
One of the last Victorian-style morality tales to make a big splash, Theodore Dreise
Elizabeth (Alaska)
From the description, I expected this to be a fallen woman story. It is so much more than that. Carrie was young and innocent when she escaped small town Wisconsin for big city Chicago. So young - and especially so timid - that she did not know she could have hopes and dreams, let alone fulfill them. It has been a few dozen years since I was Carrie's age, but I can relate fully to that not knowing.

Dreiser's prose is simple, but his dialogue realistic. In fact, I see he is listed at Writer's Home
Clif Hostetler
Mar 07, 2008 Clif Hostetler rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novel
Published in 1900, this book is credited with having an impact on the course of American literature. Dreiser's sparse style depicts the realities of everyday city life (Chicago and New York) at the turn of the 19th Century in a way that seems to hide nothing. It thus allows the reader to feel that they can see the characters as they really are. The novel does not judge the behavior of the characters in the story. But rather it simply lays out the story of their actions for the reader to ponder. ...more
Mar 01, 2014 Jonfaith rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
My best Joel has a mate named Bob who now teaches at Rutgers. The fellow refers to himself as "new Bob" as he's eternally disposed to reinvention and further development. Years ago he vowed that he wasn't going to approach any literature composed after 1920: why, was his question, when there was so much of quality written before.

That sounded like a great idea. My will collapsed in pursuit of something similar after the better part of a month, I read Sister Carrie, The Secret Agent and The Good
Here's a quiz: which of the following are real examples of the overwrought chapter titles in Sister Carrie?

a. Convention's Own Tinder-Box: The Eye That Is Green
b. Game of Thrones: A Feast for the Crows
c. When Waters Engulf Us We Reach For The Stars
d. When the Pawn Hits the Conflicts He Thinks Like a King
e. Transformers: Dark of the Moon
f. In Elf Land Disporting: The Grim World Without
g. The Blaze of the Tinder: Flesh Wars With the Flesh
h. Big Mommas: Like Father, Like Son

Anyway. This unsexed bo
Woo independent women! Sister Carrie centers on Carrie Meeber, a country girl who travels to the big city to live with her sister. After a rough patch of poverty and a couple of tumultuous relationships with men, she succeeds on her own as an actress. Her rise to fame might have no actual merit, but it exemplifies a young woman's triumph in a capitalistic, patriarchal society. She renames herself Carrie Madenda and garners massive wealth and fame.

Sister Carrie acted as another classic that had a
Sep 16, 2010 Cassy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: People who like to read a classic now and then
I love that this book could have been so trashy, but transcended it all. Close your eyes and imagine this story: back in the olden days, an unsophisticated country girl goes to the big city and climbs the ranks of society as a rich man’s mistress. If a contemporary book boasted this plot, I’d pass. A lesson learned from Kathleen Winsor's Forever Amber.

But that plot presented in a classic? Brilliant! Depressing, evocative, complex! Naturalist genius! Sure, it was scandalous when it was published
Sister Carrie is one of a specific handful of American novels that I learned about in school, but (until now) never actually read. Along with those of Upton Sinclair, H.L. Mencken, Sinclair Lewis, Edward Bellamy and to a certain extent Stephen Crane, the works of Theodore Dreiser were always presented to me as more important to history than interesting as literature - not exactly the kind of ringing endorsement that inspires a person to run out and buy a book today. These authors were exposing s ...more
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Maryam Rajee
“When a girl leaves her home at eighteen, she does one of two things. Either she falls into saving hands and becomes better, or she rapidly assumes the cosmopolitan standard of virtue and becomes worse”
Oct 08, 2014 max rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novels
It seems a shame that this novel seems to be fading into oblivion. This happens from time to time even with great writers, not because they stop being great, but because people don't know enough to read them. As the years go by, there are, admittedly, many new novels entering the literary mainstream, but we should not be afraid of making judgments about which ones are better than others. Sister Carrie has long been on the list of great American novels, and deservedly so. Dreiser's writing can be ...more
Aug 23, 2015 Stuart rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
“Sister Carrie” tells the story of two characters. Carrie Meeber is a young country girl from Wisconsin who moves to Chicago to realize her American dream. She begins as a low-paid wage earner and ends up a highly paid actress. George Hurstwood is part of the upper-middle class enjoying comfortable lifestyle. Through a series of circumstances he ends up living on the streets of New York City. Neither character earns their fates through virtue or vice, but rather through random circumstance. Thei ...more
Aug 22, 2007 Cat rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

I would recommend this book to people interested in the concept of the city. Although its notoriety stems from its "naturalistic" depiction of the characters, I thought it was the depcition of the urban environment of Chicago and New York which stood out.

While the intertwined fates of Carrie, Drouet and Hurstwood occupy the foreground of this book, I found myself consistently drawn to the back ground.

Since Dreiser came up as a newspaperman, this makes a certain amount of sense.

The details that D
Sarah Sammis
Jun 05, 2008 Sarah Sammis rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: released
Sister Carrie is a deceptively good book. It starts out looking like a simple morality play about the evils of the big city but Carrie is no innocent girl from the country. Apparently Carrie's willingness to use people to better herself without any thought of the consequences caused quite a scandal in its day (1900) and the original manuscript had to be toned down before it could even be published. The 1927 edition I read most certainly was the edited version but it was still modern, crass and e ...more
The more Effi Briest's, Anna Karenina's and Madame Bovary's and their ilk I read the more Sister Carrie stands out as a thematically exciting book. The woman who makes a success of herself through an unconventional lifestyle but doesn't have to die is sharp and amusing departure from many earlier novels. Instead it is the men left in her wake who suffer. Hurstwood's collapse and inability to adapt from Chicago to New York is still fascinating.

3/7 - This is a little slow so far, mostly because of the number of words Dreiser uses to say something simple - about three words to every one an author of today would use. The words themselves aren't particularly difficult, it's just that there's a lot of them. The story itself is interesting, though, so will push through all the words. To be continued...

4/7 - Drouet is exactly the kind of man/person I don't like. The kind who puts famous and/or more wealthy people on pedestals. Like, just bec
Wendy Welch
Nov 27, 2008 Wendy Welch rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: classicists, feminists, theatre people
Recommended to Wendy by: Summer Stones movie
Having almost ruined reading as a pleasure pastime by getting a PhD, even when trying not to I usually skim-read for plot content. Not possible with Sister Carrie: there are these complicated run-on sentences interspersed with staccato dialogue that caused another reviewer (Steve Avery?) to despair and describe the book as "aerodynamic" and "making a satisfying thud in the hardback version."

Put another way, Drescher has such an incredibly lovely way of rolling even simple ideas out, exploring th
Jul 11, 2008 A.C. rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone who likes henry james or turn of the century american lit.
Really, I don't have a lot to say about this book. I know that is disappointing and all for everyone involved, but the book is pretty self-explanatory. Girl comes to big city, finds out it isn't what it's cracked up to be. But, Dreiser really takes this book out of the frame, showing a liberated female, something that was unusual for the time. As well, the psychological aspects of the book are very engaging and the ending is all too real; Dreiser didn't opt for the happy ending, and I love him f ...more
Jun 29, 2007 Barrett rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Seminal American literature, and yet the simplest occurrence in Sister Carrie -- such as Carrie requesting meat -- reads like this:

He caught himself looking at her smiling and she was the very picture of youth and uprightness and the tendency toward productivity and mirth and joviality, all of which were produced from her in a very feminine manner. Yet thoughts dashed inside his mind in a very tumultuous fashion, tumultuous like the threshings of torrents. Carrie has not asked for meat before, H

Mom said she found this (where??) worn and yellowed paperback, and thought I'd like like to read it. So I'm going to read it. Even though I've heard that it's a book many either tend to start then want to throw out of windows, or one that readers fall madly and inextricably in love with.

I feel like a very grown-up girl reading this hahaha.

8/13/11: You know it's keeper when it depresses the hell out of you, and you don't mind because it was that good.
Free download available at Project Gutenberg.


A woman should some day write the complete philosophy of clothes. No matter how young, it is one of the things she wholly comprehends.

A fortune, like a man, is an organism which draws to itself other minds and other strength than that inherent in the founder. Beside the young minds drawn to it by salaries, it becomes allied with young forces, which make for its existence even when the strength and wisdom of the founder are fading.

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Theodore Herman Albert Dreiser was an American novelist and journalist. He pioneered the naturalist school and is known for portraying characters whose value lies not in their moral code, but in their persistence against all obstacles, and literary situations that more closely resemble studies of nature than tales of choice and agency.
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“People in general attach too much importance to words. They are under the illusion that talking effects great results. As a matter of fact, words are, as a rule, the shallowest portion of all the argument. They but dimly represent the great surging feelings and desires which lie behind. When the distraction of the tongue is removed, the heart listens.” 82 likes
“Many individuals are so constituted that their only thought is to obtain pleasure and shun responsibility. They would like, butterfly-like, to wing forever in a summer garden, flitting from flower to flower, and sipping honey for their sole delight. They have no feeling that any result which might flow from their action should concern them. They have no conception of the necessity of a well-organized society wherein all shall accept a certain quota of responsibility and all realize a reasonable amount of happiness. They think only of themselves because they have not yet been taught to think of society. For them pain and necessity are the great taskmasters. Laws are but the fences which circumscribe the sphere of their operations. When, after error, pain falls as a lash, they do not comprehend that their suffering is due to misbehavior. Many such an individual is so lashed by necessity and law that he falls fainting to the ground, dies hungry in the gutter or rotting in the jail and it never once flashes across his mind that he has been lashed only in so far as he has persisted in attempting to trespass the boundaries which necessity sets. A prisoner of fate, held enchained for his own delight, he does not know that the walls are tall, that the sentinels of life are forever pacing, musket in hand. He cannot perceive that all joy is within and not without. He must be for scaling the bounds of society, for overpowering the sentinel. When we hear the cries of the individual strung up by the thumbs, when we hear the ominous shot which marks the end of another victim who has thought to break loose, we may be sure that in another instance life has been misunderstood--we may be sure that society has been struggled against until death alone would stop the individual from contention and evil.” 45 likes
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