Sister Carrie: Chapters 11-15
Chapter Eleven begins by reinforcing Carrie’s love for material possessions, in particular clothes. Drouet’s desire for the material is also made clear. He also tells Carrie how he admires other women; for example, how they hold themselves and she imitates them. Drouet is described as not being shrewd enough to see that this is lacking in tact, and he would not have spoken to an older woman in such a way. When they pass a wealthier young woman, Carrie notes his admiration and feels degraded in comparison. This is emphasized when they pass the Hanson home on their journey back to their flat. He is unable to sympathize with her feelings and this is described as his first mistake.
She doubles her efforts to look graceful and ladylike and imitates a neighbor’s daughter for further hope of improvement. When Hurstwood calls, he sees a different Carrie to the one Drouet first met and wonders how Drouet ever came to ‘win’ her.
We are told that Carrie is becoming less attached to Drouet and that he is faithless. When Hurstwood sees Drouet dining with another woman, he begins to think of him as a rival in love. Hurstwood takes Carrie and Drouet to the theater and Carrie comes to regard Hurstwood as the superior male. Drouet is completely unaware that Carrie has switched affections and is oblivious to the fact that he has been fighting for her.
In Chapter Twelve, it is revealed that although Hurstwood is not bound to his family with affection, he does enjoy his life of respectability. His wife also enjoys ‘social integrity’ and is secretly pleased that many of his properties are in her name.
The day after Hurstwood’s visit to the theater with Carrie and Drouet, his son mentions how he saw his father in the audience. He had told his wife he would be busy working that night and after this she begins to push him to spend more time with her.
There is a shift to a description of Carrie on a drive with her neighbor, Mrs Hale. They are looking at the mansions on the North Side and this makes Carrie feel unsettled with her present situation. Whilst feeling like this on her return home, Hurstwood calls to see her. He did not realize she would be alone, but stays anyway. He mentions how she does not appear to be satisfied and she agrees that this is true. He then reaches to touch her and, although she tells him he must not, there is evidently a connection between them.
Hurstwood returns to Ogden Place two days later, in Chapter Thirteen. He has been thinking of Carrie uninterruptedly and is attracted by her innocence. He also envies Drouet more than he has any other man. They go for a walk and then get a buggy and he tells her he loves her. She basks in this, as he is a ‘man of money and affairs’. She also begins to feel pity for him when he tells her has no one to appeal to for sympathy. He asks her to tell him she loves him; she does not say it, but does return his kiss.
In Chapter Fourteen, Carrie is seen being dropped off by Hurstwood. Mrs Hale and the housemaid are the witnesses and the gossip soon spreads around the house. Hurstwood has no plans for the future except, it is implied, to have sexual relations with Carrie. He thinks his life will carry on as usual and she will be extra to his pleasures. On Sunday evening, however, he recognizes that he loves her.
When Drouet returns and brags of his successes, and says they will soon be married, Carrie questions this as she feels brave following Hurstwood’s attentions. She imagines that Hurstwood will want to marry her (as she knows nothing of his family) and is also described as ‘deluded’ by his manner and dress as to what his standing in society is.
This chapter ends ironically with Drouet, Carrie and Hurstwood watching a play concerned with adultery. Drouet is still unaware of the attraction between Hurstwood and Carrie and says he has no pity for the man being made a cuckold. After it has finished, Drouet notices a man begging outside the theater and he gives him money. Hurstwood barely notices and Carrie quickly forgets.
Chapter Fifteen returns to Hurstwood and his family. As he becomes more infatuated with Carrie, he ignores his family more. He argues with his wife when she asks for a season ticket to the horse racing as he does not like being forced into providing for her. When he is with Carrie, though, he does not worry about such concerns. He only hopes Drouet does not tell her he is a married man and begins to write to her regularly via the post office.
There is a shift to Carrie then and how she feels sorry for the poor workers who pass her window and remembers how hard her father used to work.
There is a further shift to Hurstwood and Carrie in the park, and he asks her to leave Drouet. She says if she did, they could not stay in Chicago; she would not like to get married there as long as Drouet is around. This strikes Hurstwood ‘forcibly’ and although he did not know she was having such thoughts he is attracted by her refusal to ‘yield willingly’.
As Carrie becomes increasingly disillusioned with Drouet, but accepting of his nature, she is more attracted by Hurstwood and his attentions. There are instances of how all three of these characters are unable to express their emotions or thoughts completely and it is as though words are shown to be an insufficient means of communication. Furthermore, the misunderstandings and lack of perception are described as elemental to their characters (and to being human). Hurstwood, for example, is described as unaware of Carrie’s thought on leaving the city or of getting married. There is a lack of understanding between Carrie and Drouet as he makes the mistake of failing to sympathize with her dissatisfaction. The barriers which stop full communication are, therefore, examined in these chapters and elsewhere and are written of as typifying the human condition.