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Course Hero. "Sister Carrie Study Guide." February 7, 2017. Accessed November 19, 2018.


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Sister Carrie | Quotes


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.

Narrator, Chapter 1

The city can be a corruptive environment, especially for a young and inexperienced woman like Carrie, whose character worsens as a result of the urban environment.


She realized ... how much the city held—wealth, fashion, ease ... and she longed for dress and beauty with a whole heart.

Narrator, Chapter 3

Even on her first day in Chicago, Carrie is lured by the things she deems most important in life: wealth, fashion, and ease.


No deep, sinister soul with ulterior motives could have given her fifteen cents under the guise of friendship.

Narrator, Chapter 7

Carrie is trusting of Drouet from the beginning. Drouet is just what he appears to be, kind and pleasure-seeking. Yet, he clearly has physical designs on her, beginning on the train. While he is not sinister, his goodness comes with a price attached. The narrator argues people, like animals, have instincts, and if Drouet were dangerous, Carrie would feel the danger.


She looked into her glass and saw a prettier Carrie ... she looked into her mind, a mirror prepared of her own and the world's opinions, and saw a worse. Between these two images she wavered, hesitating which to believe.

Narrator, Chapter 10

As Drouet's mistress, Carrie is able to dress and live in a manner that suits her, yet she is still influenced by a moral code that would view her as a fallen woman. Dreiser uses the symbol of the mirror to show how the mind and the world's opinion affect a person's self image.


By the end of the third act she was sure that Drouet was only a kindly soul ... he sank every moment ... by the strong comparison.

Narrator, Chapter 11

In comparing Hurstwood to Drouet, Carrie has decided Hurstwood would be the greater catch for her. He is more sophisticated, better dressed, and more attentive to her.


Her wrath would never wreak itself in one fell blow. She would wait and brood ... until her power might be commensurate with her desire for revenge.

Narrator, Chapter 12

In describing Julia Hurstwood, Dreiser shows his gift for powerful characterization while tying the description to the unfolding plot. Julia's vengeful nature will be abundantly apparent when she discovers Hurstwood's infidelity.


I notice ... that they all try mighty hard, though, to take their misery in a mansion.

Mrs. Hale, Chapter 12

Having seen the great mansions of Chicago, Carrie and her friend Mrs. Hale long to live in such homes. Carrie says she notices even the rich are never happy, and this is how Mrs. Hale responds. This exchange shows the old morals are still alive in Carrie, who nevertheless cannot stop seeking materialistic pleasures.


Every hour the kaleidoscope of human affairs threw a new lustre upon something, and therewith it became for her the desired—the all.

Narrator, Chapter 15

Carrie is in a perpetual state of longing for something more, but what that something is remains elusive for her throughout the novel.


The old helpful, urging melancholy was restored. The desirous Carrie was whispered to concerning her possibilities.

Narrator, Chapter 31

Familiar with Carrie's inability to remain in unhappy circumstances, readers know with these words she will not be able to stay with Hurstwood.


Ah, if she could only be an actress—a good one! This man was wise—he knew—and he approved of it.

Narrator, Chapter 32

Upon meeting Mr. Ames, Carrie finds what she takes to be an ideal man, someone whom she might want to please. Her dreams of being an actress are now solidly imprinted on her mind, along with her desire to be looked upon favorably and with respect.


A man's fortune ... is very much the same as his bodily growth. Either he is growing stronger, healthier, wiser ... or he is growing weaker, older, less incisive mentally.

Narrator, Chapter 33

The structure of this statement, made in reference to Hurstwood's decline in middle age, is very similar to the narrator's statement in Chapter 1 about young women who come to cities. Dreiser often sees the world as black and white, and what happens to his characters as they are forced down one path or the other is outside their control. Dreiser views naturalism as the force that impels the characters between these extremes.


The disease of brooding was beginning to claim him as a victim. Only the newspapers and his own thoughts were worth while.

Narrator, Chapter 33

Hurstwood's decline was already in full swing during the year before he loses the Warren Street saloon. He will never snap out of his depression and inertia.


All about was the night, pulsating with the thoughts of pleasure and exhilaration—the curious enthusiasm of a great city bent upon finding joy in a thousand different ways.

Narrator, Chapter 45

The situational irony of this description of the glittering city is that it precedes a scene in which "the captain" begs on behalf of 137 homeless men—including Hurstwood—so they can pay for a place to sleep.


Know, then, that for you is neither surfeit nor content. In your rocking-chair, by your window dreaming, shall you long, alone. In your rocking-chair by your window, shall you dream such happiness as you may never feel.

Narrator, Chapter 47

The sentimental, poetic final lines of the novel make it clear Carrie will never be happy.

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