Sister Carrie

Sister Carrie Summary and Analysis of Chapters 25-32

Chapter 25

Hurstwood is now spending his night's at a small hotel and returning to the office during the day. He finally realizes that his wife has beaten him, and so he sends her the money via a messenger boy. The only reply he gets is that "it was high time" (190). Dejected, he also wonders why Carrie has not written either. The next Monday he receives a letter from his wife's lawyers requesting his presence in their offices. He ignores the letter for two days, but on Wednesday they send another note explaining that they will file suit against him for divorce and alimony if he does show up by the next day. Hurstwood can only shake his head.


The fact that Hurstwood is staying in a hotel will become one of the more important points of the novel. In fact, nearly everyone will end up in a hotel by the end of the work. Hotels represent the transitory nature of their lives, and are places where people go when they cannot establish a permanent residence. They further represent the rise and fall of the people, and hence the transitory nature of social status. This will become more clear later when Hurstwood is poor and in a hotel, whereas Carrie is wealthy but also in a hotel.

Chapter 26

Carrie, having watched Drouet walk out, soon checks her money supply and realizes that she needs to find work. She actually heads into the business part of town on Saturday, but soon loses heart and leaves. On Monday Carrie attempts to go to several playhouses in the hopes of getting an acting position, but loses heart and leaves without applying. Tuesday arrives and she manages to meet with the manager of the company at the Grand Opera House. He, however, only becomes interested in taking her out to lunch, an invitation Carrie refuses. She also reads the letter that Hurstwood sent her and replies with a strongly worded reproof, upset that he lied to her about being married.

She applies at several other place and is told that she needs to be in New York in order to get her start as an actress. Carrie then applies at department stores but is similarly turned away. She returns home to find that Drouet has been there and left, taking some of his things. It turns out that he was hoping to patch things up with her, and that he had waited, watching for her out of the window. After a while he was forced to leave due to an appointment, but he plans to return the next day.


This chapter repeats the search for a job scenes presented earlier, but now differs strongly in both the way Carrie applies and where she applies. Whereas before she looked at department stores and then factories, she now looks at theaters and then department stores. This really marks the transition away from manufacturing that Dreiser upholds throughout the novel. Much the way we see her move from her miller father to the salesman Drouet to the manager Hurstwood, her own job search progresses from manufacturing to selling to acting. For Dreiser, the complete abandonment of manufacturing is the highest social achievement, one that Carrie is striving towards.

Chapter 27

Hurstwood finds the letter that Carrie sent him but is not dismayed by her reproof. He returns to his hotel, having failed to meet with his wife's lawyers for the day. While entering the hotel, he sees Drouet leaving, and inquires whether Drouet is staying there. He immediately thinks that Carrie and Drouet must have broken up, and is quite elated. He tries to visit Carrie at home, but the chambermaid informs him that she is at a theater.

Hurstwood goes to work and soon is engaged in conversation with his friends, many of them actors. He drinks a lot and later that night starts to lock everything up. He is surprised to discover that the safe is unlocked and he pulls out ten thousand eight hundred dollars in bills. Taken aback, his drunk mind wavers between taking the money or putting it back. After doing both things several time, the door to the safe accidentally clicks into place, and Hurstwood is left with the money in his hands.

He immediately starts to take action. Taking the money, Hurstwood buys two train tickets to Montreal. He then rushes to Carrie's apartment and wakes her up, telling her that Drouet has been hurt and is in the hospital asking for her. Once they in the cab, he orders the driver to head to the railway depot.


This is one of the intermediate chapters of the book. The first part of the novel is basically ended at this point with the imminent departure from Chicago. The next chapter will complete this departure and also the first part of the book. Up to now the novel has been about social rising, and particularly about Carrie's rise. However, we see a very immediate shift in this chapter, notably when Dreiser remarks, "At once [Hurstwood] became a man of action" (210). From here on out the book will be a melodrama, starting with the kidnapping of Carrie.

An element that resonates very strongly at this point is that of chance. We have seen chance influencing the novel before, especially when Drouet allows Carrie to act. However, now chance is taken to even more important levels. Hurstwood discovers by chance that the safe is unlocked. After he takes the money the safe accidentally locks. Thus the entire force of events is determined by accident and chance at this stage, rather than any immoral action. This will be relevant later when we look for the consequences of these actions and find that there are none.

Chapter 28

Hurstwood succeeds in getting Carrie on the train to Detroit. He is so agitated that it takes a while before he is able to inform her they are heading to Detroit. She is upset when she learns they are not going to see Drouet, but rather heading to another city. She asks to get off, but is restrained by Hurstwood. He explains that his wife means nothing to him and that he still wants to marry her. Carrie starts to waver when Hurstwood promises to take her to New York and offers to let her return to Chicago is she wants to.

They arrive in Detroit and Carrie lets Hurstwood buy tickets to Montreal. He is terrified of being caught by the police and therefore rushes them to catch the next train. Carrie passively allows him to proceed, all the time wishing she were out of the situation.


One of the remarkable aspects of Carrie and Hurstwood's relationship is that it is completely built upon deceptions. Hurstwood lies to Carrie first about his wife, then about Drouet's having an accident, and here about his theft of the money. In spite of her love for Hurstwood, Carrie is already starting to have difficulty dealing with his many lies to her, a problem that will escalate as the novel continues.

Carrie's passivity is a theme that continues even through this part of the book. Dreiser remarks, "the progress of the train was having a great deal to do with the solution of this difficult situation" (216). Her inability to stand up and act causes her to not tell the conductor about her predicament and also makes her yield to Hurstwood's demands.

A continuous theme, not yet mentioned in this analysis, is that of rain. Rain is a very powerful image in this book because it serves to make people inactive. Notice how rain prevents Carrie from leaving the house and looking for a job. The threat of rainclouds makes Drouet leave her house early, thereby preventing their reconciliation. Rain is abundant throughout this chapter, pouting down in torrents, and as such it keeps Carrie from leaving the train and returning to Chicago. Indeed, that amount of rain is proportional to the size of each person's desire for action, but always results in inaction. The power of rain to make the characters passive is related to the fact that it also represents chance. Rain, like the safe that accidentally closes for Hurstwood, is a random event that strongly influences the actions of the characters.

Chapter 29

They arrive in Montreal and Hurstwood heads to a hotel that he knows from previous trips. In the room he seduces Carrie into accepting her future with him, and promises to marry her. He leaves to arrange everything, but is confronted by a stock broker friend of his who happens to be at the hotel. After having a brief conversation, he next spots an Irishman whom he realizes must be a detective. Hurstwood, starting to panic, returns to Carrie and takes her out to eat.

After returning to the room, Hurstwood finds a Chicago newspaper and searches for his crime. He finds it, but realizes that it got very little coverage. Next the detective knocks on his door and asks him what he plans to do with the money. Hurstwood refuses to tell the man and after the conversation ends he write a letter to Fitzgerald and Moy promising to return their money and explaining the details of the theft. He and Carrie then get "married" under the false name of Wheeler, even though Carrie does not realize that the wedding is a sham.

Fitzgerald and Moy reply to him, saying they will not prosecute if the money is returned. He decides to keep thirteen hundred dollars of it and returns the rest via express mail. Hurstwood and Carrie then board a night train to New York City and leave Montreal. They arrive the next morning and head to a hotel. Carrie, looking at the tall buildings and seeing no lawns, says she does not like it.


There is a brilliant scene in the hotel where the two images of windows and mirrors are combined. While they argue, Carrie looks out of window and Hurstwood looks in a mirror. This represents his self-absorbed nature at this point, a trait that will be more apparent in New York when Carrie stands, "wondering at his self-absorption" (230). She meanwhile looks out the window, representing her desire to get away, to be on other side of the window from him.

Hurstwood continues his decline in two ways that have previously been remarked upon. He again looks at newspaper as a source of his information, indicating that he is now operating in the past tense. He also conducts his grandest deception of Carrie, that of a sham wedding. It is obvious that no court would legally uphold the wedding since he uses a fake name and is still married. However, Carrie does not notice this.

One further remark is necessary concerning the consequences of actions. A key part of this novel is that immoral actions do not have any consequences. Thus, Carrie is not punished for her sleeping with Drouet or playing around with Hurstwood. Hurstwood is not punished for his theft of Fitzgerald and Moy's money. This failure to punish results in forward looking society, a society that forgets the past and moves upward. It is the characters that get mired in the past who therefore decline and fall. This is what is happening to Hurstwood, whose focus on his crime is destroying his ability to think into the future. This contrasts with Carrie, who does not even think of Drouet, and who, as a character, rarely contemplates past events except when she is facing starvation.

Chapter 30

Hurstwood discovers that he is a nobody in a city as large as New York. He quickly rents an apartment and puts a nameplate up using the name Wheeler. In his efforts to find work, he finds a bar that needs a manager. He pays one thousand dollars for a third of the establishment's monthly income, realizing that he will have to make it earn more money if he hopes to pay the rent each month.

Carrie starts to notice that Hurstwood is being very tight with money and begins to compare him with Drouet's "business venture" which never went anywhere. Dreiser points out that Carrie is young compared to Hurstwood, and his lack of attention is not something she can put up with for a long time.


Hurstwood as a character is very dependent on his material wealth. In many ways they serve as his props and define the way he acts and reacts. This becomes clear when he is removed from them, having given them all up for his love of Carrie. What stands out is that love alone cannot make him successful. Hurstwood needs wealth in order to be the Hurstwood that seduced Carrie. At this point he is shown thinking about the past more and more, contrasting his current situation with where he formerly worked.

Chapter 31

Hurstwood and Carrie pass away over a year in their flat with Hurstwood struggling to grow his business and Carrie carrying on a domestic life. In the second year Hurstwood starts to miss dinner at home, however, and Dreiser tells us this is due to certain "acquaintances", meaning other women. Hurstwood makes the mistake of assuming Carrie is content at home and fails to invite her with him to the theater or about the town as often.

Some months later a family moves into the neighboring apartment and Carrie becomes friends with the couple who move into it, the Vances. One evening she goes to visit them and play cards. Hurstwood arrives and Carrie observes while he flatters Mrs. Vance, a striking woman who is better dressed than Carrie. Carrie realizes that she would like to be treated as well as Mrs. Vance, and starts to become dissatisfied with the current state of affairs. Mrs. Vance later takes Carrie with her to Broadway, at that time the most fashionable part of New York. Carrie immediately realizes that she is out of place and needs to be wealthier in order to fit into the Broadway scene, resolving not to return until she looks better.


Carrie is a remarkable character because she is passive until influenced by the people around her. One of main ways in which this happens if for other women in the novel, notably Mrs. Hale and now Mrs. Vance, to open her eyes to new wealth. Recall that Mrs. Hale introduced Carrie to the mansions in Chicago, making Carrie desire something a little better than what Drouet could offer her. Mrs. Vance does the same thing by showing Carrie the Broadway fashion show, causing Carrie to be dissatisfied until she will be able to afford to return looking better.

Chapter 32

Carrie attends the matinee play with Mrs. Vance and is strongly struck by it. She returns home uttering the lines to herself, sure that she could perform one of the parts with even more passion. Hurstwood arrives and interrupts Carrie, who is sitting her chair quite discontent with her current situation. He takes her to the show again that night and she watches it a second time.

A month later Mrs. Vance comes to take Carrie to another show. They go shopping first, and Mrs. Vance starts to introduce Carrie to the latest fashions, telling her what to buy and where to buy it. That night she meets Mrs. Vance's cousin, Mr. Ames, and finds him amiable as well as young. Carrie, Bob Ames, and the Vances leave together and go to Sherry's for dinner, a restaurant described as one of the most upscale in the city. Carrie has a wonderful time there, and becomes more and more interested in Mr. Ames as the evening progresses. Even at the theater she listens to him attentively, and is disappointed when he does not accompany them home. She returns to the flat and sees Hurstwood in bed, but instead of joining him she sits in her chair and contemplates becoming an actor.


One of the themes in the novel is the series of places that Carrie eats at. These show a marked progression upwards, from Minnie's flat to Drouet's meal with her in Chicago to the fine glamour of Sherry's. There is also a parallel between the restaurants and the men in her life. Drouet captivates her in a restaurant, a scene paralleled here by young Bob Ames. Ames also assumes the role of Drouet in his praise of the theater and acting. In this sense he encourages Carrie to consider acting as a career much the way Drouet encouraged her the first time she was onstage.

Worth noting is the career of Mr. Ames. He is an electrical engineer. This puts him at the forefront of technology at this time. It is said that he was modeled on Thomas Alva Edison. He is special because he represents the future and embodies it not only in his attitude but also in his career.