Sister Carrie: Top Ten Quotes
- How true it is that words are but the vague shadows of the volumes we mean. Little audible links, they are, chaining together great inaudible feelings and purposes.
This reference comes when Drouet and Carrie first exchange pleasantries and personal details on their journey into Chicago. It is a prime example of how this novel exposes the inadequacy of words when communicating.
- In 1889 Chicago had the peculiar qualifications of growth which made such adventursome pilgrimages even on the part of young girls plausible. Its many and growing commercial opportunities gave it widespread fame, which made of it a giant magnet, drawing to itself, from all quarters, the hopeful and the hopeless - those who had their fortune yet to make and those whose fortunes and affairs had reached a disastrous climax elsewhere.
The attraction of the new, burgeoning city is described in this extract. It is also an early foreshadowing of events, which sees the city (New York) being the place of Carrie’s rise to fortune and Hurstwood’s decline into poverty and suicide.
- She realised in a dim way how much the city held - wealth, fashion, ease - every adornment for women, and she longed for dress and beauty with a whole heart.
Carrie’s desire for material wealth is exemplified in this reference, and it becomes her defining characteristic. She is depicted throughout as a modern consumer who prefers not to follow her sister Minnie into a life of toil and drudgery.
- Among the forces which sweep and play throughout the universe, untutored man is but a wisp in the wind. Our civilisation is still in a middle stage, scarcely beast, in that it is not yet wholly guided by reason.
This reference, which is from the beginning of Chapter Eight, is an extremely useful demonstration of Dreiser’s engagement with naturalism.
- She looked into her glass and saw a prettier Carrie than she had seen before; she looked into her mind, a mirror prepared of her own and the world’s opinions, and saw a worse. Between these two images she wavered, hesitating which to believe.
Carrie is seen to consider the taught morality of her upbringing and environment and ‘wavers’. This short extract is an example of how the novel refuses to condemn Carrie for living with a man out of wedlock, and therefore refuses to condone traditional morality.
- The little actress was in fine feather. She was realising now what it was to be petted. For once she was admired, the sought-for. The independence of success now made its first faint showing. With the tables turned, she was looking down, rather than up, to her lover.
This comes towards the end of Chapter Nineteen with Carrie celebrating her first acting success in Chicago. It is prophetic of her future relationship with Hurstwood in New York.
- Men are still led by instinct before they are regulated by knowledge.
This reference is taken from the time when Hurstwood flickers between taking the money and leaving it in the safe. The point is being made that criminals are not a separate species and the narrative refuses to condemn Hurstwood for his actions. He is shown instead to swing between theft and honesty.
- Little use to argue that of such is not the kingdom of greatness, but so long as the world is attracted by this and the human heart views this as the one desirable realm which it must attain, so long, to that heart, will this remain the realm of greatness. So long, also, will the atmosphere of this realm work its desperate results in the soul of man. It is like a chemical reagent.
At this point in the novel, Carrie and Hurstwood have arrived in New York. This extract refers to the ostentatious wealth that is on display in this ‘kingdom of greatness’, and suggests how this may negatively effect those who aspire to belong to such a ‘realm’. Those on the outside, the poor, are certain to be envious and desirous of this wealth and this adds to their misery. As the narrative progresses, it is clear that Carrie goes on to join those in the great kingdom, whereas Hurstwood slips further away.
- Like the morphine fiend, he was becoming addicted to his ease. Anything to relieve his mental distress, to satisfy his craving for comfort. He must do it. No thoughts for the morrow - he could not stand to think of it any more than he could of any other calamity.
Hurstwood’s money is finally running out, but he has reached the point here where he can no longer think about the future. This reference is a poignant example of Hurstwood’s understandable resignation to his circumstances.
- Hurstwood saw her depart with some faint stirrings of shame, which were the expression of a manhood rapidly becoming stultified.
Here, Hurstwood has agreed that Carrie must find work and condones her idea of finding work on the stage. Their roles are changing now as he will no longer be the one providing the household income.