Sister Carrie: Character Profiles
Ames, a cousin of Mrs Vance, represents Carrie’s ideal male.
Carrie, who is also known as Caroline Meeber, Carrie Wheeler and Carrie Madenda, is the eponymous heroine. Her rise from working-class obscurity to relative wealth and celebrity status is one of the main strands of the narrative. Her successes are drawn in comparison with Hurstwood’s fall into poverty as she is seen to rise as he declines.
Her somewhat clichéd rise from rags to riches becomes less of a cliché when one notes that she is depicted as thriving despite living with Drouet as an unmarried woman (and Hurstwood, as their marriage was illegal). She is not punished in the novel for breaking moral codes; instead, she is rewarded.
Carrie first meets Chas Drouet on the train into Chicago in Chapter One and he is instrumental in her decision to leave her sister’s home for a life less ordinary. He and Carrie live together before she becomes attached to Hurstwood. He is a travelling salesman and is often described as ‘genial’, but is also somewhat shallow.
Sven Hanson is Carrie’s brother-in-law and is characterized as hard-working and dour. He is necessarily conscious of money, as he and his family are existing just above the poverty level, but Carrie detests this type of lifestyle and prefers to live with Drouet.
The readers first meet Hurstwood when he works as a manager of a respected saloon. He is well-thought of and relatively prosperous. He becomes enamoured with Carrie when he is still married to Julia and the ensuing chain of events and irrevocable decisions mark him for ever. This includes stealing from the owners of the saloon. He also deceives Carrie into leaving Chicago with him, by saying Drouet is injured, but she continues to stay with him when she realizes this is untrue. They marry under the name Wheeler and live together in New York once he pays back most of the money he has stolen.
He is one of the novel’s central characters and his sink into poverty and depression is emotive and affecting. His acceptance of death, through suicide, is sharply contrasted with Carrie’s new status and his wife and daughter’s further increase in wealth.
Jessica and George Hurstwood
These are Hurstwood’s grown-up children. When Hurstwood is still living in the family home, he is clearly distant from them as they pursue their own interests and do not confide in him.
Julia is Hurstwood’s wife. The gap between this married couple is seen to be irretrievable once Hurstwood turns his attention to Carrie, but we are also told that there has been a growing distance between them for years.
Lola and Carrie meet whilst performing on stage in a chorus line in New York. They become friends and move in together.
Minnie is Carrie’s sister and only appears in the early chapters of the novel. Her life is one of drudgery and Carrie’s short stay in her apartment is enough to convince Carrie that she does not want to live this type of life.
Mrs Vance is a neighbor of Carrie and Hurstwood in New York and is clearly wealthier than Carrie at this time. Carrie loses touch with her when her fortune declines, but Mrs Vance finds Carrie when she comes to be well-known on stage.