Sister Carrie | Study Guide

Theodore Dreiser

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Sister Carrie | Chapter 5 | Summary



Carrie's mind has turned to Drouet at times, for example when she wishes for fun or contrasts the factory boys to him. She feels disappointed when he obeys her request and does not call on her on Monday night. In Chapter 5 Dreiser lets the reader know what Drouet is doing instead of visiting Carrie on that night.

Drouet is dining at a favorite restaurant, Rector's, and relaxing at a favorite saloon, Fitzgerald and Moy's. He likes both because of the class of the clientele—all well-dressed, upwardly mobile gentleman who like to be seen in the right places—and the sumptuous feeling of the environments. At Fitzgerald and Moy's he also likes the manager, George Hurstwood, who is happy to return the friendship. On this evening the two talk, and Dreiser reveals important details about the background of each. Drouet is on his way up and knows the wisdom of associating with those above him in rank. Hurstwood has ascended the social order as high as he can go, having gotten there by shrewdness, hard work, and a way of exuding confidence—"his own sense of his importance." People trust him because he is a "very acceptable individual of our great American upper class."

As Drouet leaves the saloon to go to the theater, he mentions he has met Carrie; "A little peach." Hurstwood just dismisses the mention of her, but Drouet stresses again she is special; "A little dandy." Dreiser ends the chapter with the suggestion Carrie's "unfolding fate" begins with this exchange.


The most important details in this chapter are those readers might not recognize until the plot of the novel further unfolds. It's significant Carrie's future is deeply tied to both Drouet and Hurstwood, and from the beginning Drouet wants to impress Hurstwood with her. Drouet may somehow be perceiving the possibility of upward mobility if he can have Carrie to show off. If so, the situational irony, which only becomes apparent later, is that Carrie views Hurstwood as her ticket to upward mobility, and Hurstwood is ultimately brought down by her. Drouet, on the other hand, is the character who will remain least changed throughout the novel.

Dreiser points out that Drouet has a focus in life very similar to Carrie's. He has a "longing for pleasure," a phrase which calls to mind Carrie's "craving for pleasure," and he always notices how people are dressed. Especially significant is how many words Dreiser as the author uses to describe Hurstwood's elegant style of dress. The summary of his appearance—"He was the picture of fastidious comfort,"—will be shockingly replaced at the novel's end when Hurstwood becomes a beggar in bedraggled clothing who long ago stopped caring about his clothing and appearance.

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