Sister Carrie

I confess, I found the author (Theodore Dreiser) to be MUCH more interesting than the book. He was a socialist. And…HE WAS AN INCESTUOUS BIGAMIST.*

Dude, what is up with that?

And okay, so I’m getting my details from Wikipedia, which states “After proposing in 1893, he married Sara White on December 28, 1898. They ultimately separated in 1909, partly as a result of Dreiser’s infatuation with Thelma Cudlipp, the teenage daughter of a work colleague, but were never formally divorced. In 1913, he began a romantic relationship with the actress and painter Kyra Markham. In 1919 Dreiser met his cousin Helen Richardson with whom he began an affair and they eventually married on June 13, 1944.” So I am totally going with incestuous bigamist. Or perhaps I should say…philandering incestuous bigamist.

I think it has a certain ring to it. I’m also giving him the nickname Mr. Cranky Pants, based solely on this:


Cool bow tie, though.

Anyhoosie. The book:


sister carrie 2

Unfortunately, that was not the cover of the book I read. Mine was one of those boring black classics covers. Even this would’ve been better:

sister carrieBut no, I read this:

sis carrie

And full disclosure…I only read Sister Carrie. No way was I moving on to Jennie Gerhardt or Twelve Men. Nope.

Okay. So it wasn’t that bad. In fact, it was actually quite readable, unlike some classics (cough…Brothers Karamazov…cough). It’s just that I didn’t really like anyone. These were the big three:

Carrie: Although she sucked it up and made good in the end, she expected men to care for her. She was also not very sharing when she ended up as the main breadwinner. (Not that Hurstwood was much better.)

Hurstwood: Summed up in one word: ass. Interestingly enough, he was also a bigamist (although not an incestuous one).

Drouet: Marginally better than Hurstwood, but still with ass-like tendencies.

The basic story goes like this: small town girl moves to big city. Finds a menial job, hates it. Gets picked up by a charming salesman, he buys her shiny things, she shacks up with him, the afore-mentioned ass shows up and wants some of that, they plan to runaway together, she finds out he’s married, he kidnaps her and so they still end up running away together, he stops buying her shiny things, he loses his job and stays home in his tatty clothes all day, she becomes an actress, dumps his ass, and buys her own shiny things. Rocking chair. The end.

Points for readability, realism, and no Judgey McJudgersons popping out of the woodwork and yelling “Harlot!”

Loss of points for unlikable characters, bigamy, and the rocking chair ending.

*I am totally impressed by the socialism. Totally NOT impressed by the philandering and incestuous bigamy.




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9 responses to “Sister Carrie

  1. While you have not convinced me to read this book (and yes, I realize you weren’t intending to), you have totally given me a new favorite phrase: ass-like tendencies. It’s bloody brilliant, and will come in handy in oh-so-many situations. 🙂


  2. Well. I don’t know whether you convinced me I need to read it or convinced me I need to steer clear of it. The rocking chair ending is actually intriguing to me, as is the ass-like tendencies. Who doesn’t like a book with lots of ass-hatery in it?


  3. Back in 2001, I read both Sister Carrie and An American Tragedy. I believe I started with Sister Carrie because it was so much shorter. (An American Tragedy is something like 1000+ pages.). I didn’t MIND Sister Carrie, but I barely remember it and didn’t take much from it. On the other hand, An American Tragedy was a far more interesting book. After the first few dull chapters of the narrator’s evangelist mobile family, it reads extremely fast (like, I read it in two days kind of fast, even though I had a three-month-old at the time). It’s a fascinating train wreck of a book, far more so than Sister Carrie. I loved it so much that years later, I read it with my book club. They were all worried about having a 1000+ page book to read in a month, but when we came to meet, every single one of them said it took less than a week to read, and they were surprised at the speed and readability.

    Do you remember A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly? Was a popular YA novel in the blog circuits a few years ago? It’s based on the same case that An American Tragedy is based on, and is so similar (except shorter) that I actually could never get into it, as if felt like I was reading Dreiser’s book for a third time. Anyway, An American Tragedy is very good and much better than Sister Carrie in my opinion. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I’m nodding my head in agreement with everything Amanda just wrote. An American Tragedy was a favorite last year, but I doubt Sister Carrie will make the cut for 2015. I did like it though, despite the ” ass-like” characters 😉


  5. I cannot disagree with your post and insights shared but I liked it more than you, I think? And I am onboard for reading An American Tragedy per Amanda and Joann’s recs. I can’t yet get my head around what I liked abt Sister Carrie but I hope to ‘word it up’ today sometime. Maybe


  6. Pingback: Sister Carrie Wrap Up #CarrieAlong | Care's Online Book Club

  7. litandlife

    Well, damn – I don’t know if I want to read this big boy or not. Oh who am I kidding. You all would have had to love it to convince me to read it.


  8. Reading your post was basically more entertaining than the entire novel. I liked the readability of it, too, but HATED that Carrie ended up so decidedly unhappy at the end. Actually, I don’t even think that SHE was unhappy–I think Dreiser just wanted to punish her for becoming a bigtime star with beaucoup cash. Now that I know he’s a socialist, the Hurstwood parts make a bit more sense, but I just can’t wrap my head around why Carrie should be so damn unhappy. Which is why I think Dreiser is making that part up…


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