Sister Carrie

The Duality of Desire in Dreiser's Sister Carrie

In Sister Carrie, Theodore Dreiser creates a world in which people are defined by desire. By viewing this world through the eyes of his protagonist, Carrie, the reader becomes aware of a dichotomy. On one hand, there is the desire for wealth, status, and material possessions. While the majority of the novel is dedicated to this kind of desire, there exists another kind of desire of "the mind that feels" (398), which longs for beauty. Most of the way through the novel, Carrie becomes increasingly aware of the superficiality of the former kind of desire, as well as the nobility of the latter, which she explores through her experience in acting. At the end of the novel, Dreiser praises Carrie for transcending the former kind of desire and embracing the latter, nobler kind of desire.

When Carrie is taken in by Drouet, she is confronted with intermittent instances of moral misgivings about her situation. Dreiser writes: "[Carrie] looked into her glass and saw a prettier Carrie than she had seen before; she looked into her mindand saw a worse. Between these two images she wavered, hesitating which to believe" (74). When Carrie is alone, a voice says to her:Oh, thou failure!Look at those about. Look at those who are...

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