Sister Carrie

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Turtleback Books, Jan 1, 1982 - Fiction - 409 pages
22 Reviews
Theodore Dreiser had a hardscrabble youth and the years of newspaper work behind him when he began his first novel, "Sister Carrie," the story of a beautiful Midwestern girl who makes it big in New York City. Published by Doubleday in 1900, it gained a reputation as a shocker, for Dreiser had dared to give the public a heroine whose "cosmopolitan standard of virtue" brings her from Wisconsin, with four dollars in her purse, to a suite at the Waldorf and glittering fame as an actress. With "Sister Carrie," the original manuscript of which is in the New York Public Library collections, Dreiser told a tale not "sufficiently delicate" for many of its first readers and critics, but which is now universally recognized as one of the greatest and most influential American novels.

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LibraryThing Review

User Review  - jmcdbooks - LibraryThing

Rated: B- It was a wonderful story of turn of the last century life in Chicago and New York about a young progressive women moving up in life. What was strange was the ending which for me just dropped off. Read full review

Review: Sister Carrie

User Review  - Laurie McKickass - Goodreads

My comps list covers 20th century American novels, and I would have been remiss to leave this 1900 text off. While I can't say I enjoy the book (Naturalism seems like a hypocritical exercise in ... Read full review

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About the author (1982)

Theodore Dreiser was born in Terre Haute, Indiana, the twelfth of 13 children. His childhood was spent in poverty, or near poverty, and his family moved often. In spite of the constant relocations, Dreiser managed to attend school, and, with the financial aid of a sympathetic high school teacher, he was able to attend Indiana University. However, the need for income forced him to leave college after one year and take a job as a reporter in Chicago. Over the next 10 years, Dreiser held a variety of newspaper jobs in Pittsburgh, St. Louis, and finally New York. He published his first novel, Sister Carrie in 1900, but because the publisher's wife considered its language and subject matter too "strong", it was barely advertised and went almost unnoticed. Today it is regarded as one of Dreiser's best works. It is the story of Carrie, a young woman from the Midwest, who manages to rise to fame and fortune on the strength of her personality and ambition, through her acting talent, and via her relationships with various men. Much of the book's controversy came from the fact that it portrayed a young woman who engages in sexual relationships without suffering the poverty and social downfall that were supposed to be the "punishment" for such "sin." Dreiser's reputation has generally risen over the years. His best book and first popular success, An American Tragedy (1925), is now considered a major American novel, and his other works are widely taught in college courses. Like Sister Carrie, American Tragedy also tells the story of an ambitious young person from the Midwest. In this case, however, the novel's hero is a man who is brought to ruin because of a horrible action he commits - he murders a poor young woman whom he has gotten pregnant, but whom he wants to discard in favor of a wealthy young woman who represents luxury and social advancement. As Dreiser portrays him, the young man is a victim of an economic system that torments so many with their lack of privilege and power and temps them to unspeakable acts. Dreiser is also known for the Coperwood trilogy - The Financier (1912), The Titan (1914), and the posthumously published The Store (1947). Collectively the three books paint the portrait of a brilliant and ruthless "financial buccaneer." Dreiser is associated with Naturalism, a writing style that also includes French novelist Emile Zola. Naturalism seeks to portray all the social forces that shape the lives of the characters, usually conveying a sense of the inevitable doom that these forces must eventually bring about. Despite this apparent pessimism, Dreiser had faith in socialism as a solution to what he saw as the economic injustices of American capitalism. His socialist views were reinforced by a trip to the newly socialist Soviet Union, and in fact, Dreiser is still widely read in that country. There, as here, he is seen as a powerful chronicler of the injustices and ambitions of his time.

E. L. Doctorow's "City of God" is the most recent of his many widely acclaimed novels. He holds the Glucksman Chair in American and English Letters at New York University.

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