Thoughts by Theodore Dreiser, Bantam Classic 1984 (orig 1900), 400 pages.
From E.L.Doctorow’s Introduction:
And so in 1899, Theodore Dreiser, age twenty-eight, wrote the title “Sister Carrie” on a piece of paper, and having no idea what it meant, proceeded to compose the book to find out.
Love when I find authors who just write and let stories and characters reveal themselves.
EDITED for quick blurb as to what this is about; stolen word for word from Jill. Link to her review can be found later in this post.
The basic story goes like this: small town girl moves to big city. Finds a menial job, hates it. Gets picked up by a charming salesman, he buys her shiny things, she shacks up with him, the afore-mentioned ass shows up and wants some of that, they plan to runaway together, she finds out he’s married, he kidnaps her and so they still end up running away together, he stops buying her shiny things, he loses his job and stays home in his tatty clothes all day, she becomes an actress, dumps his ass, and buys her own shiny things. Rocking chair. The end.
Trish tweets: “boo!!! … Finished on plane. Did not like ending! So unhappy. 😦 ”
Unhappy? You expected HAPPY?!
My response: “I took it more contemplative and “far away”. Guess now I will have to do a post. :). ”
So, I didn’t expect happy. I expected RUIN and SHAME. Well, we don’t quite get that. Ruin, yes: for Mr. Hurstwood. No shame. More like “Shit happens.” Shrug.
The Introduction is fabulous, by the way*. He states, (and Trish? this might explain the theme that runs through it all)
“Longing, the hope for fulfillment is the one unwavering passion of the world’s commerce. Dreiser is of two minds about this passion. To a populace firmly in the grip of material existence, the desire for something more is a destructive energy that can never be exhausted; it is doom. Hurstwood, whose success as manager of high-class drinking establishments is not sufficient, fixes his further ambition on Carrie, and is ruined. But the desire of something more, the longing for fulfillment, is also hope, and therefore innocence, a sort of redemption. Carrie at the top of her profession, is left looking for something more, and though we understand she will never find it – no more than Hurstwood has, her recognition that she in unfulfilled is the closest thing to grace in the Dreiser theology.”
When I say that I took it “far away”, I meant that I could imagine this on film where the camera zooms out and away from Carrie in her rocking chair to view the entire city, the whole globe spinning away in the ‘longing’ and never finding contentment. This race to achieve and accumulate more more MORE is what is immoral.
I was SO GLAD that Dreiser drops in an update on Mrs. Hurstwood and her success on her material gains goal and I found it humorous that Drouet was still oblivious and yet successful. (He didn’t ‘grow’ but could still dine and dress the fashion.)
I couldn’t get past the pronunciation of Drouet every time I had to read it in my head. Drew – eh? Of course, I can’t help but think of the chipmonks every time I say Theodore. In my head.
The Mr. Ames guy was odd. I get it and I’m sure there is a word for this kind of literary device for dropping in a character to move the story along and be significant but not a major player in the story. But it was odd.
Aw, heck. Carrie was a twit and she annoyed me to NO end. Really, dearheart? Imagining Carrie’s thoughts: “Oh golly, Mr. Drouet is starting to bore me but I suppose I should be grateful for what nice things he is buying me…”
Word in the Intro states that Mr. Dreiser’s wife and editor tried to totally excise ALL references to any sexuality in book. I would say they succeeded. This was another interesting amusing bit that maybe what was not being mentioned was or was NOT important… Nothing at all was said! It felt weird that it wasn’t’ intentionally left out but just ‘not there’.
And where the heck is Carrie’s mother? Where is Carrie’s idea that perhaps, something about this plan or LACK of plan might not be a good idea? la di da… Um wait. Mr. Hurstwood is MARRIED?!?! why the hell would this little problem bug Carrie so much when all the other little problems barely make a blip of a conscious thought of possible catastrophe?
The story of Carrie is hardly one of right and wrong, is it? Certainly, it’s not presented as a simple morality tale. Was Dreiser judging the basest of desires to be that we can’t be content or that we are too greedy and selfish and maybe we should try to be kinder along the way?
Also interesting to me is that the Introduction states that Family gets a pretty cynical view in this book, too. I would say he was cynical about a lot of things.
AND…. you may have seen my tweet about Dreiser and how he just might subscribe to the Law of Attraction. Or at least to how I understand the explanations of money as energy concept. “When each individual realizes for himself that this thing primarily stands for and should only be accepted as a moral due – that it should be paid out as honestly stored energy, and not as a usurped privilege – man of our social, religious and political trouble will have permanently passed.” Is it our THOUGHTS about what money is or isn’t that is the problem?
Finally, are the descriptions of the “HAVEs” and “HAVE NOTs” any different now versus then? Don’t young girls run off to the big city now and get sucked into a life of depravity just to have lovely trinkets? Too simple, right? Wouldn’t Carrie just be a terrific reality TV star… Um, no. Not sure she would have enough mindless babble for the cameras. But do you think this could EASILY be remade into a film set in today’s world?
Who is ready to watch the 1952 film? I want to see if for the costumes…
I think this book would be an excellent book club choice.
PIE MENTION on page 125: “he stopped with a mouthful of pie poised on a fork before her face.”
Jill’s Somewhere in a Book
Behold the Stars <–fabulous and thorough review!!
Trish/TriniCapini’s Love Laughter Insanity
(yours? let me know)
Counts for the What’s in a Name 8 Challenge for family relationship category.
* Who wants my copy of this book – I’ll send it?
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