Sister Carrie: Chapters 6-10
When Carrie tells Minnie and Hanson that she has not enjoyed her first day at work, she finds them unreceptive to her complaint. Because of this, she hopes again that Drouet will call for her and goes downstairs to pass the evening. She hopes to see him and enjoys watching others: ‘Her imagination trod a very narrow round, always winding up at points which concerned money, looks, clothes, or enjoyment.’ Hanson comes downstairs, ostensibly to use the bakery, and Carrie realizes then that she does not like him as he is suspicious of her. She is correct to think he has reservations about her conduct as he has already told Minnie that it does not look good when Carrie stands out alone on the street.
She finds her second day at work just as unpleasant and believes she has more imagination than her fellow workers, who she tends to regard as ‘common’. She feels even lonelier that night in the flat and goes out for a walk. Her naivety is made clear when she is described as being taken aback when a man of thirty begins talking to her.
Her working week continues and she spends some of her wages on carfare and on a new umbrella. This is bought out of vanity as she does not like the one she borrows from Minnie. She feels that her life is too narrow as the Hansons always want to stay home in the evening, so she insists on going out alone. She hints to Minnie that she needs new clothes as winter is approaching, and she is allowed to pay two dollars a week (instead of four) to pay for them.
After being ill for three days she loses her position and has to look for work once more. On the fourth day of searching, she encounters Drouet and he takes her for a meal. She is captivated by his money and knowledge and he offers to help her financially to buy some more clothes. She finally accepts to borrow some and agrees to come to a matinee with him the next day. He tells her to buy shoes and a jacket and she feels that he is driving her troubles away; she accepts two ten-dollar bills from him.
Chapter Seven begins with a discourse on money and how Carrie yearns for it. We are also told that although Drouet is vain and boastful, he is not a villain. Carrie realizes that, nevertheless, it will be impossible for her to tell Minnie about the twenty dollars. She lies to her and Hanson and says she has a promise of work and will go back home if she does not get anything. Carrie does not reveal that she hates the thought of leaving Chicago.
Later that evening, Carrie begins to feel ashamed for taking Drouet’s money and decides to look for work the next day. She attempts this to no avail, and then considers buying a jacket in The Fair department store. She looks until noon, but does not buy anything and when she meets Drouet later she tells him she cannot spend his money as she would not be able to explain where she acquired it. He suggests she rents a room and leaves her clothes there. She has misgivings, but he continues to persuade her that she should purchase these clothes she likes. He then takes her to a place in Wabash Avenue and pretends she is his sister in order to rent a room for her. He talks her into moving in that night, which she does. At Minnie’s home, she tells them she did not find work and then writes a note to let them know she is leaving but will stay in Chicago for a little while to look for work. She leaves the note and tells them she is going downstairs, and walks off to meet Drouet.
Chapter Eight makes initial references to naturalist ‘beliefs’ as our civilization is described as being caught between nature and free will. Carrie is depicted as being led by instinct and desire. She has misgivings about her decision to leave Minnie, but allows Drouet to sweep them away. He takes her out sight seeing and she takes pleasure in this and her new attire. The city is described as having a ‘hypnotic influence’ on her and she is becoming increasingly attracted to Drouet. As she stands with him on her steps, and he holds her hand, Minnie dreams that Carrie is slipping away from her.
The narrative then shifts to a week later when Drouet invites Hurstwood to their home. Carrie’s name is not specified, but Drouet says he will introduce him (to her).
In Chapter Nine, Hurstwood’s home is described, as are his wife Julia and children (George and Jessica). It is well-furnished, but is not infused with a homely atmosphere. Jessica is seventeen and concerned with nice clothes and George is in his twentieth year and works for a real estate firm. Julia is mainly concerned with her own social circle and hopes to rise a little through Jessica (and a good marriage). There is little spirit in the home and Hurstwood has been dissatisfied yet circumspect in all he does. His marriage is seen to have become a force of habit.
Chapter Ten begins by discussing how women are supposed to be virtuous and how our society has only ‘an infantile perception of morals’. She has misgivings about what she has ‘lost’, whilst Drouet considers her to be his conquest. He establishes her in a three-roomed flat in Ogden Place and with more clothes than she has ever possessed. When he is away, her conscience troubles her as she considers how the world may consider her actions (how she is living with Drouet out of wedlock). He tells her he has invited Hurstwood round and says she is Mrs Drouet from now on. Carrie asks if they can marry, and Drouet replies that they will in January when he is back from a trip to Denver.
After being with Drouet for this short period of time, she sees she is not in love with him and thinks she is the smarter of the two. For these reasons, she is not anxious about him losing interest in her. On meeting Hurstwood, she thinks he is more intelligent than Drouet in many ways, and he is also less of an egotist. He is solicitous and refers to her as Mrs Drouet, and she admires his clothes. Hurstwood then invites them both to the theater and asks Drouet if he may take Carrie out whilst he is away at work. Drouet agrees.
These chapters mark Carrie’s move from living with her sister to living with Drouet. She is not condemned for this decision, which is described in a straightforward manner. Instead, the morality of the day, which judges women by a double standard for having sex outside marriage, is indicted. Dreiser refuses to engage in such hypocrisy and uses this opportunity, in Chapter Ten, to critique conformity.
There is also a significant push to delineate Carrie and her actions as decided by her desires. Again, she is not criticized for such passivity. She is instead used as a means to express the power of the environment over free will. For this reason, Carrie (and Hurstwood later in the novel) becomes a vehicle for invoking naturalist tenets which argue that instincts and our surroundings play a part in the decisions we make.