Sister Carrie: A Chevron Ross Book Review

By May 31, 2024No Comments

If you compare Sister Carrie with the excesses of modern literature, Theodore Dreiser’s novel seems mild. It contains no explicit language and barely a hint of sexuality. Yet this story of a “fallen woman” was so offensive to readers of the early Twentieth Century that the full version did not appear until 1981.

Dreiser, who had first-hand experience as a downtrodden citizen, writes with authority about poverty, wealth, and the cruelty of big-city life. Carrie, his young protagonist, unable to find work in Chicago, is forced to shack up with a traveling salesman until a prominent saloonkeeper, G.W. Hurstwood, charms her into a second relationship.

Any woman who has ever gone job-hunting with a blank resumé will identify with Carrie as she wanders the streets, only to find mind-numbing, low-paying jobs, her misery exacerbated by distasteful coworkers and male harassment. Chicago’s social life and shops tempt her with things she cannot afford, for she can barely pay for food or rent.

Hurstwood, though much better off, is dissatisfied with his ungrateful family. Carrie’s entrance into his life plants an obsession in his heart that leads him to a reckless act, forcing the pair to flee from scandal.

With great skill, Dreiser narrates the fascinating progression of the characters’ rising and falling fortunes. Along the way, he delves so deeply into their minds that one cannot help becoming engrossed in them. As one character sinks into ruin while the other triumphs, we find ourselves rooting for both of them.

Though Dreiser’s philosophizing is sometimes tedious, he compensates with a relentless momentum that makes the story more engrossing as the pages turn. Sister Carrie is a classic of social drama that endures thanks to the author’s identification with his characters and their situations. For readers disgusted with the explicitness of modern novels, it is proof that writers can tell tales of sexuality without rubbing the reader’s nose in the details. I endorse Sister Carrie with an enthusiastic five stars.

Featured by Chevron Ross

Follow these links for more about the Chevron Ross novels

     Weapons of Remorse    The Seven-Day Resurrection   The Samaritan’s Patient

Leave a Reply