Sister Carrie - Theodore Dreiser

Sister Carrie
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Название: Sister Carrie
Автор: Theodore Dreiser
Добавлено: 16 апрель 2022
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Caroline Meeber, known as Sister Carrie to her family, moves to Chicago at the tender age of eighteen to try to make something of herself. Living with her sister and brother-in-law, she quickly finds that life, and work, are hard in the big city. She soon takes up with a traveling salesman she met on the train into town. Months later her eye is turned by one of the salesman’s acquaintances, George Hurstwood, and vice-versa. A series of events lead Carrie and Hurstwood to New York City, where both struggle to live out the aspirations that brought them there.

Theodore Dreiser was one of the earliest naturalist writers, but he wrote Sister Carrie while the United States was still very Victorian in its morals. The book therefore caused a stir from the beginning: Carrie Meeber was clearly, even in the disguised language of the time, a sexually active, unmarried female, who wasn’t made to suffer for her indiscretion to the extent considered necessary at the time. Dreiser’s depiction of rough language merely added to the controversy. The first printing sold only 456 copies in two years; it was to be another five years before Dreiser could convince another publisher to carry the book. Today it’s considered a classic and one of the “greatest of all American urban novels.”

The text of Sister Carrie was unchanged until 1981, when the University of Pennsylvania Press published a new version with 36,000 words restored. The edition was not without controversy: the cuts were originally made before the first printing at the suggestion of Dreiser’s wife, or his friend Arthur Henry, and Dreiser had approved all of them. Although the new Pennsylvania Edition, as it is called, made a good case for restoring the changes, it is the 1907 text that remains the most widely available today, and it is that text in this edition.

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Sister Carrie

By Theodore Dreiser.

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I

The Magnet Attracting: A Waif Amid Forces

When Caroline Meeber boarded the afternoon train for Chicago, her total outfit consisted of a small trunk, a cheap imitation alligator-skin satchel, a small lunch in a paper box, and a yellow leather snap purse, containing her ticket, a scrap of paper with her sister’s address in Van Buren Street, and four dollars in money. It was in August, 1889. She was eighteen years of age, bright, timid, and full of the illusions of ignorance and youth. Whatever touch of regret at parting characterised her thoughts, it was certainly not for advantages now being given up. A gush of tears at her mother’s farewell kiss, a touch in her throat when the cars clacked by the flour mill where her father worked by the day, a pathetic sigh as the familiar green environs of the village passed in review, and the threads which bound her so lightly to girlhood and home were irretrievably broken.

To be sure there was always the next station, where one might descend and return. There was the great city, bound more closely by these very trains which came up daily. Columbia City was not so very far away, even once she was in Chicago. What, pray, is a few hours⁠—a few hundred miles? She looked at the little slip bearing her sister’s address and wondered. She gazed at the green landscape, now passing in swift review, until her swifter thoughts replaced its impression with vague conjectures of what Chicago might be.

When a girl leaves her home at eighteen, she does one of two things. Either she falls into saving hands and becomes better, or she rapidly assumes the cosmopolitan standard of virtue and becomes worse. Of an intermediate balance, under the circumstances, there is no possibility. The city has its cunning wiles, no less than the infinitely smaller and more human tempter. There are large forces which allure with all the soulfulness of expression possible in the most cultured human. The gleam of a thousand lights is often as effective as the persuasive light in a wooing and fascinating eye. Half the undoing of

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