Sister Carrie
Theodore Dreiser
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Sister Carrie

3.67 of 5 stars 3.67  ·  rating details  ·  20,608 ratings  ·  866 reviews
'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.'
Paperback, 0 pages
Published January 2nd 1962 by Signet Classics (first published 1900)
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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.
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...more
Sep 22, 2008 Jonathan rated it 1 of 5 stars  ·  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...more
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 5 of 5 stars  ·  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 3 of 5 stars  ·  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...more
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
Clif Hostetler
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
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...more
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...more
In the gloomy pantheon of powerful bad writers this may be my favorite book by leading light Theodore Dreiser. The dry gluey panorama of the Dreiserian sentence, the musty wonder of his dank itemized brutalities.

You have to like the hotel rooms even though you figure that they smell really bad. Mid-town grit is everywhere, flecks of unidentifiable sooty stuff on the alabaster pedestal in the hotel lobby, someone removed the nude. Hat boxes in the rooms. Diamond depths of true life miseries. mou...more
Sep 16, 2010 Cassy rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  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...more
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sister Carrie has long been on the list of great American novels, and deservedly so. Dreiser's writing can be clunky, as has often been noted by critics over the years. He does not possess the grace or elegance of Henry James, but he doesn't need to, since a Jamesian narrative voice would detract from the substance of what he is trying to convey. Some writers, like Thomas Wolfe, write "literary" sentences of great beauty, but their stories fail either to hold together in an organic way or to exp...more
Sarah Sammis
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
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...more
Wendy Welch
Nov 27, 2008 Wendy Welch rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  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...more

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...more
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...more
“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
Jul 11, 2008 A.C. rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  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
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.

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.

So I felt like I hadn't read anything "meaty" in a while and picked this up. I was expecting a turn of the century momralizing tale, dense with rich language and poetic prose. Instead, this is not as straightforward.

The novel opens with "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 raidly assumes the cosmopolitan standard of virtue and becomes worse. Of an intermediate balance, under the circumstances, there...more
Seems that critics believe(d) Dreiser was not a master of language and that somehow his writing wasn't 'good enough,' that Sister Carrie was awkwardly written and poorly expressed. Indeed there are a few moments where his wording behaves like a man fiddling around for a coin in the undersized pocket of his tweed, but more often than not his writing style alone sails along fluidly. On more than one occasion he even stops to touch the fine greys of dusk or the subtle luminosities of cold, no easy...more
Janie Hepler
Early morning, she wakes up
Knock, knock, knock on the door
It's time for make up, perfect smile
It's you they're all waiting for, they go

"Isn't she lovely, this Hollywood girl?"
And they say

She's so lucky, she's a star
But she cry, cry, cries in her lonely heart, thinking
If there's nothing missing in my life
Then why do these tears come at night?

Lost in an image, in a dream
But there's no one there to wake her up
And the world is spinning and she keeps on winning
But tell me what happens when it stops?...more
Jan 24, 2012 Elizabeth rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone
Shelves: classics
This is not a happy and uplifting story.

This is a commentary on the human condition. It deals with the rise and fall of the human spirit. The major lesson in this book is that money can't buy you love and happiness.

The characters in this book are all rather weak in a way. None of them have strong cores that keep them grounded and focused. They are easily enticed by money and the shiny pretties of the world.

The book is called "Sister Carrie" but it really isn't just about Carrie, it is more abo...more
Jerome Peterson
A profound story published in 1900! The detail in this story about the emotions between the three main characters is astonishing. A must read if you enjoy historical fiction with meaning that will stick in your head. "Sister Carrie" is a coming of age story of a young girl from Wisconsin who travels to Chicago. She stays with her sister and brother-in-law until family friction rubs too often. She ventures out on her own looking for work when she runs into a gentleman named Drouet who befriends h...more
This was my introduction to the world of Theodore Dreiser more than forty years ago when I was devouring American literature in high school. His journalistic prose style, while sometimes prolix, was just right for me and I read his novels about Frank Cowperwood and the massive An American Tragedy. But before Clyde Griffiths' downfall there was the story of Sister Carrie, published on November 8, 1900 to a prolonged uproar, that riveted me as she succumbed to the advances of vastly more experienc...more
Laurie McKickass
My comps list covers 20th century American novels, and I would have been remiss to leave this 1900 text off. While I can't say I enjoy the book (Naturalism seems like a hypocritical exercise in pedantry to me, and Dreiser's moralizing is absurd in the face of the awful characters he created-- because, really, Carrie is a pill, and Hurstwood is a manipulative emotional abuser. Heck, I found myself sympathizing with Carrie's sister, Minnie, this time around), I can see how both its style and conte...more
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Theodore Herman Albert Dreiser (August 27, 1871 – December 28, 1945) 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.
More about Theodore Dreiser...
An American Tragedy The Financier (Trilogy of desire, #1) Jennie Gerhardt The Titan (Trilogy of desire, #2) The Stoic (Trilogy of desire, #3)

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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.” 60 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.” 34 likes
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