Sister Carrie

Sister Carrie Summary and Analysis of Chapters 41-47

Chapter 41

Hurstwood, having gotten a job as a motorman, spends the rest of the day learning how to operate one of the cars. It is tiring work, and he decides to stay the night in the company loft when he realizes that heading home would take too much time. The next morning he takes his first car out on the tracks, accompanied by a conductor and two police officers. Soon he is forced to stop because the track is blocked by a pile of stones. A mob forms around the car and the officers are forced to hit some of the people to keep them back, but they manage to break the windows. Hurstwood finishes the trip and turns the car back to be repaired.

Later in the afternoon he again is forced to stop and let the officers break up a mob of people. They nearly finish the route when he runs into an even angrier mob which attacks him quite fiercely. He is pulled from his seat and beaten, but the officers manage to rescue him. Someone shoots a pistol at him, grazing his shoulder, after which Hurstwood runs away and leaves the car behind. He returns home and starts reading about the strike in the papers, as if they could tell him something he had not already seen firsthand.


It is interesting to note the sentiment expressed concerning the strike. Hurstwood takes the job because he cannot get anything else. Yet the people around him do not support him. Indeed, they are largely hostile to anyone who breaks a strike line. Dreiser's sentiments are likely in support of the strikers, and he even shows the reader that the police support the union but are forced to do their duty.

Hurstwood's reality slips away even more in this chapter. He experiences the strikes in the most intimate way, even getting shot in the process. Yet when he returns to the apartment, he is unable to accept this experience as valid. Instead, he immediately relies on the newspapers to tell him what is happening. Again, this shows that Hurstwood is incapable of influencing events, or of being a part of what is happening in the papers. Instead, he will run away and read about it after the fact.

Chapter 42

Carrie has a great success in her show. She is playing her part and is comically spoken to by one of the lead actors. Without hesitating she replies to him, causing the audience to start laughing. He likes her reply and tells her to keep it for the subsequent performances. She soon gets moved into a full speaking part, paying thirty-five a week, when one of the actresses leaves. Her friend Lola simultaneously asks her to share an apartment, and Carrie realizes that she would have a lot of money if she left Hurstwood for good.

As rent day approaches Carrie resolves to leave Hurstwood. He broaches the subject of them getting a smaller apartment, one with only two rooms, and that finally convinces her to move out. She meets with Lola and together they get the apartment. On Friday, a clear day outside, Hurstwood leaves to take a walk. When he returns he discovers that Carrie has moved out, leaving him with twenty dollars. He sits in the rocking chair and stays there until after midnight, rocking.


The element of chance again plays a significant role in influencing the events of the novel. Carrie gets her first speaking line purely by chance because she happens to be in the right place on the stage. Her good luck is paralleled by Hurstwood, whom she views as "run down and beaten upon by chance" (344). The upward and downward movements of each of them again is directly overlapped, showing how they represent a single person's life rather than two separate beings.

A key moment is when Carrie receives her first speaking part, not only for her career but also for her as an individual. It is only once she has the ability to leave Hurstwood that she considers doing so. Dreiser remarks, "she thought of leaving Hurstwood and thus making him act for himself" (342). This is important because up to now Hurstwood has only been "acting" for Carrie. He acted for her through the lies he told her and later by pretending to look for a job. This marks a break for him when he is forced to pretend for himself rather than for someone else.

Chapter 43

Carrie starts to get noticed by the newspapers as she continues acting, but when her show prepares to leave New York she decides to remain in the city. She instead signs up for a summer performance with the Casino, at thirty a week, and Lola joins her as part of the chorus. The newspapers print a large photo of Carrie in the show even though her role is a silent part.

Her luck changes with the silent role, however. She plays the part so well that she becomes the star attraction and received great reviews in the newspapers. The manager of the theater offers her a one year contract at one hundred fifty dollars a week, far more then she ever made before. She signs the contract, not knowing what to do with all her money. Hurstwood reads about her success while sitting in a third-rate hotel lobby.


There is a slow movement from permanent residences to hotels throughout the novel. This symbolizes the transitory nature of each person's life and the movement socially that they go through. Hurstwood is the first person to end up in a hotel, a lower class establishment that costs very little per night. Carrie will also soon end up in a hotel, although under vastly different circumstances.

The newspaper imagery and symbolism reaches its final moment in this chapter. Carrie is now in the papers, being written about much the way all the famous people are written about, while Hurstwood merely reads about her. This is the ultimate distinction between the forward moving youth and the backward looking aged.

Chapter 44

Carrie's success is so great that she soon receives a new dressing room. When she arrives home, a man calls on her representing the Wellington Hotel, one of the most affluent establishments in the city. He invites her to consider living at the hotel, offering her the rooms for a pittance of the usual room price. She and Lola visit later that afternoon and decide to move at once.

Mrs. Vance also call on Carrie one day and they start spending time together again. Carrie is asked to do interviews with the newspapers, receives lots of fan mail, and spends time with other celebrities. She does not have any idea how to spend the large amount of money she has started making each week, and ends up putting some of it into the bank. Lola tells her that she needs to go out more, but Carrie is not interested in the men that call on her.


The consequences of past actions are always considered to be irrelevant throughout this book. This is made clear when Mrs. Vance calls on Carrie and renew their friendship together. The fact that Carrie must have dumped Hurstwood is forgotten, as is the miserable state that Carrie was previously living in. Even Hurstwood does not think to follow Carrie or stay in touch with her. This lack of consequences is part of the Realism movement that Dreiser is writing for. The immorality of Carrie's previous actions is not discussed and it does not harm her in any way. Indeed, even the media could less about her past. The only focus in on her future, as evidenced by the Wellington Hotel's offer to her.

This chapter also puts both Carrie and Hurstwood into hotels. Indeed, it is one of the interesting parallels of the novel that both of them are being housed and clothed virtually for free. Hurstwood, reduced almost the point of being a beggar, relies on other for his welfare. In much the same way Carrie relies on others, but with the difference that she is at the top stratum of society.

Chapter 45

Hurstwood runs out of his money as the time goes on and is forced to live in shabbier and worse hotels. He finally goes to one of the nicer hotels and succeeds in begging a job from them. However, after a few weeks he becomes sick with pneumonia and is discharged after being sent to the hospital. He is now forced to beg people on the street for money, enough to buy himself food and lodging for the night.

Hurstwood goes to Broadway to see if he can beg some money off of Carrie, but he misses her and only manages to watch her enter the theater. Cold and hungry, he comes across a man that has lined up many of the homeless people. The man is calling out to the pedestrians for money, urging them to help him find the men a bed. Hurstwood joins the line and after several hours is marched off to a boarding house. He realizes that he must find food soon or he will die.


Dreiser sets up a brilliant parallel and contrast between the Bowery and Broadway. Aside from the alliteration, we can recognize that these two places represent the bottom and the top of society, respectively. Again Dreiser puts these two social extremes side by side, showing that they are merely different stages of life rather than fundamentally different places.

The image of windows come up again, showing the billiards rooms and cafes to Hurstwood who is freezing and homeless on Broadway. Hurstwood looks longingly through the windows, placing him in the same situation Carrie dealt with at the beginning of the novel. As before, the windows represent a barrier, both physical and social, to the things Hurstwood sees in them.

Chapter 46

Drouet happens to be in New York and calls on Carrie in her dressing room one day. She is surprised to see him and is not happy about seeing him again. She agrees to meet with him for dinner but departs early to get to her show. The next night she runs into Hurstwood who begs her for money. She gives him all she has on her, about seven dollars, and watches him shuffle off. At her manager's request, Carrie leaves for London to perform there for a while.

When she returns to New York she meets Ames again, the cousin of Mrs. Vance. He has set up a small shop in New York where he works as an inventor. After seeing her play, he tells Carrie that she should not waste her talent in comedy but should focus on comedy-drama instead. He continues urging her to consider serious drama, finally getting her to contemplate shifting her career.


The arrival of Drouet is the only scene in the novel where the past is truly confronted in the present. It is a moment of shock for Carrie; she did not in any way expect to see or hear from Drouet again. In keeping with Dreiser's tone throughout the book, namely that the past is forgotten, Carrie shuns Drouet. Her meeting with him is brief, as long as necessary, and afterwards she refuses to ever see him again. The same thing happens with Hurstwood when she meets him. It is a painful meeting that ends quickly with the desire to never repeat the meeting. This is in fact a familiar theme throughout the book. Notice that whenever Hurstwood encounters his old friends, it is always a stilted conversation with the desire to get away as soon as possible.

Ames is the one character who sums up Carrie's success, telling her why her acting is important: "It's a thing the world likes to see, because it's a natural expression of its longing" (385). He is talking about her face, a face he believes would be better used in serious drama rather than comedy. Ames is the Edison of the story, a young inventor who knows what the world is about and looks into the future. He alone understands that life is not only the upward movement of youth, but also the downward decline of old age. He tells Carrie, "The look will leave your eyes. Your mouth will change. Your power to act will disappear" (386). In telling her that her power to act will disappear, we are forced to reflect on Hurstwood, left alone to "act for himself" by Carrie. The point is that Hurstwood was no longer able to act for himself, a dilemma that Carrie does not realize at the time. Ames alone is able to understand both sides of the upward and downward social mobility.

Chapter 47

Hurstwood drifts around the city for much of the winter, finding shelter and food from various charities. He considers committing suicide several times, but stops short each time. Eventually he returns to Broadway and sees Carrie's name in bright lights. He tries to enter the stage door of her theater but is rudely pushed out into the snow by the attendant.

Carrie is sitting in the Waldorf with her friend Lola and reading one of the books that Ames suggested to her. She looks outside at the snow and feels sorry for the people who have no places to go. Drouet, meanwhile, is looking to go out with some women and invites a friend of his to accompany him. The novel rapidly shifts to Hurstwood's daughter Jessica and his wife. They are on a train with Jessica's husband, a wealthy young man who is taking them to Rome.

At the same moment Hurstwood is waiting outside a cheap hotel hoping to get a room. He finally gets in and pays fifteen cents for a bedroom. He takes off his jacket and vest and uses them to shut up any cracks in the room. He then turns on the gas and allows the fumes to accumulate, thereby committing suicide.

The novel returns to Carrie at the end and shows that she is not satisfied with her life. Instead, she continues to sit in her rocking-chair and stare out the window dreaming of better things.


Note the brilliant contrast at the end of Hurstwood's wife on an ocean liner bound for Rome versus "A slow, black boat setting out from the pier at Twenty-seventh Street upon its weekly errand bore, with many others, his nameless body to the Potter's Field" (399). The black boat with its nameless passengers as opposed to the liner with its famous celebrities, the people that the newspapers mention. Again Dreiser is showing the parallels of the two sides of society.

Her desire, or longing, is the hope for fulfillment. Dreiser has two opinions about this: too much longing leads to disaster, but desire for something else is also hope, innocence, and a form of redemption. Thus Hurstwood, who is successful, wants Carrie and is ruined, an example of the first kind of desire. Carrie on the other hand is also successful, but left looking for something more that she will never find, and example of hope.

One of the key aspects of the novel is to realize that Carrie will never be satisfied with her fate. She is always looking for the next thing that is presented to her and is unable to come to terms with what she has. "Amid the tinsel and shine of her state walked Carrie, unhappy" (399). This leads her to sit in her rocking chair, dreaming about what she could have next. Dreiser, in a dramatic shift in the last paragraph, switches from the third-person to the second-person. This results in the author speaking directly to us, the readers. He says, "In your rocking-chair, by your window dreaming, shall you long, alone. In your rocking-chair, by your window, shall you dream such happiness as you may never feel" (400). This is telling us that we are all like Carrie, desperate for the next best thing, eager to forget the past, and longing for the future that is on the other side of the windowpane.