Re-reading Sister Carrie is probably paying penance for one of my summer sessions at State.
There were a few times during college where I tried to get away with either procrastinating too long or being a little lazy and in this instance, procrastination got the better of me. One of the courses I took during a summer semester was an American Literature course. In typical college professor fashion, my American Lit professor decided to make us read a ton of books in the short four-week span.
I stayed on top of the most of my reading and homework. With Sister Carrie, though, I waited too long to begin reading it. Realizing I was not going to be able to even finish half of this long book before the exam, I did what any good college student would do in the mid-90’s: I bought the Cliff’s Notes version. (Let it be known that I was thrilled they would even have this guide for what I believed was such an obscure book.) I studied the Cliff’s Notes book thoroughly and felt I was ready to go for my exam. That feeling quickly disappeared as I read the exam’s questions.
In the end, it was pretty obvious that I had not read the book and my grade on the exam reflected that fact. I talked with the professor and got a second chance to read the book and take the exam. I passed it and everything worked out, but every now and then I decide it is time to return to Theodore Dreiser’s world and revisit Carrie, Hurstwood, and Drouet.
The book is pretty depressing, but is a good read. By the end of the book, you really feel for each of the three main characters and how things turn out for each of them. I would recommend the book solely on the basis that it is an American Literary classic.
What is funny to me is that the book was so scandalous back in 1900 when it was published. In fact, it was so scandalous the publisher did not even promote the book and just gave it a plain, boring cover to downplay it. By today’s standards, though, it is probably pretty tame.
I think this quote sums up the view of the book pretty well. In the end neither money nor love/affection could prove to be security for the characters’ happiness.
It does not take money long to make plain its impotence, providing the desires are in the realm of affection. With her one hundred and fifty [dollars] in hand, Carrie could think of nothing particularly to do. In itself, as a tangible, apparent thing which she could touch and look upon, it was a diverting thing for a few days, but this soon passed.”