Navigation Aids

 
 
 
 
 
Dreiser Web Source
FindIt:

Sidebar

*

Main Content

Cultural and Historical Contexts for Sister Carrie

Cultural and Historical Contexts for Sister Carrie
Clare Virginia Eby

Copyright © Clare Virginia Eby, 2001

Note: All references to Sister Carrie are from the Pennsylvania Edition unless otherwise noted. The quotations also appear (some with slight changes) in the 1900 Doubleday & Page edition.
Ceaseless motion directed toward uncertain goals: for many readers, that is an overriding impression left by Theodore Dreiser's Sister Carrie (1900). The restless indecision typical of Dreiser's characters reflects profound transformations in American life in the late nineteenth century. His novel makes the volatility of the period concrete, vivid, and unforgettable by registering its effect on individual lives. Among the most sweeping changes registered in the novel are the economy's shifting from an agricultural to an industrial base, the erosion of traditional values following the Darwinian revolution, and the changing relations of men and women. Reading Sister Carrie with an eye to cultural and historical contexts such as these can lead to a shock of recognition, for the novel captures the origins of much that we take for granted as familiar, even inevitable, aspects of modern life.

As Dreiser would be the first to insist, the culture that Sister Carrie reflects is grounded in economic conditions. He sets the plot in motion by tracing the migration of "Sister" Carrie, a young woman whose attachment to her family is faint, from her small town home to the city of Chicago. The declared purpose of this journey, if not the psychological impetus behind it, is Carrie's need to find work. The year Dreiser assigns to Carrie's migration is 1889, and her search for labor in the closest major city reflects a national trend, as glimpsed in the titles of contemporaneous texts, such as the U.S. Bureau of Labor's Working Women in Large Cities (1888) and the Massachusetts Bureau of Labor's The Working Girls of Boston (1889). In 1890, one year after Dreiser imagines Carrie's arrival in Chicago, women made up seventeen percent of the national labor force, with women between the ages of fifteen and twenty-four forming the largest proportion of this group (Matthaei 141).

Dreiser's initial focus on women's work, which he quickly expands to include men's labor as well, provides an apt index of the changing economy. From the founding of the U.S. through the early nineteenth century, the economy had been primarily agricultural, with the individual household the center of production. Individual families consumed, for the most part, only what they could themselves produce. Contrary to the model of stay-at-home wife and mother associated with the Victorian era through much of the twentieth century, in the early economy, the labor of women was central. Women canned the family crops, spun cloth and crafted it into clothing and linens, made soaps and candles, and produced other essential goods. The transition from an agricultural economy centered in the family to an industrial order characterized by managerial capitalism depended on the development of factories throughout the nineteenth century. Factories demanded centralized labor, large groups of unrelated people leaving the home and working under one roof. With this shift, work necessarily moved outside the home, and as that happened, the meaning of the family and the home also changed. Dreiser grounds Sister Carrie in this factory-based capitalist economy, highlighting its effects on individuals and families.

Sweeping economic change marked the period from the Civil War to the close of the nineteenth century. This transformation depended not only upon the factory system and a labor force centralized in cities, but also on a vast infrastructure of technology as well as communications and financial systems. Prior to the Civil War, individual state banks (as many as 1500 of them) had issued their own currencies; only with the 1864 National Bank Act did the U.S. establish a national currency of paper money. Five years later, competing brokers were consolidated into the New York Stock Exchange. The telegraph was in commercial use by 1847, the transcontinental railroad completed in 1869, the telephone commercialized in the 1880s. Financial and technological innovations such as these allowed for an increased volume and speed of business. A striking example concerns the time it took to move freight from Philadelphia to Chicago: nine weeks in 1849, three days in 1859 (Chandler 122). Since the capitalist economy depends on quickly moving goods from producer to consumers, speed became the order of the day. Human life was similarly set to the clock: because the railroads needed precisely synchronized schedules to operate effectively, time zones were instituted in 1883; meanwhile, "scientific management," the brainchild of Frederick W. Taylor, devised time-motion studies to regulate every moment of a worker's day.

While Sister Carrie registers the frenzied pace set by the marketplace, one of the most important changes the novel illustrates is the transformation of the economy from being fueled by production to being driven by consumption. This shift is visible from the early chapters, when Carrie rejects the frugality and hard work favored by her sister and brother in law, Sven and Minnie Hanson, those upright but dull exemplars of the Protestant work ethic. Representative of a new generation of Americans, Carrie is not one to "submit[] to a solemn round of industry" while postponing gratification (32). Appropriately, Carrie's first lover is a "drummer" (5) or travelling salesman who goes on the road to market his company's wares. The genial Charlie Drouet produces nothing tangible to sell, but the efforts of thousands like him kept goods moving to their ultimate destination, the consumers. Potential buyers like Carrie with easily manipulable desires are also essential: without desire, the consumer economy stalls. In his best-selling Progress and Poverty (1877-79), Henry George provides a taxonomy of desires that perfectly describes what we observe in Sister Carrie. Describing "man" as "the only animal whose desires increase as they are fed; the only animal that is never satisfied," George explains that "[t]he demand for quantity once satisfied, he seeks quality. The very desires that he has in common with the beast become extended, refined, exalted. It is not merely hunger, but taste, that seeks gratification in food; in clothes he seeks not merely comfort, but adornment; the rude shelter becomes a house." And so the consumer "pass[es] into higher forms of desire," world without end (134-5). Illustrating what George calls "an infinite progression" of wants (135), Carrie Meeber remains a recognizably modern figure.

We observe the psychology of the consumer in its purest form when Carrie wanders the Chicago department stores, which Dreiser calls "vast retail combinations [. . . that] form an interesting chapter in the commercial history of our nation" (22). The history to which Dreiser refers involves changes in merchandising during the second half of the nineteenth century, when methods of selling products were developed that remain common. In the 1850s and 60s, wholesalers began marketing standardized consumer wares--everything from underwear to coats, from curtains to furniture. The modern mass retailer, such as the department store (primarily serving urban populations) and mail order firms (bringing products to rural communities), developed in the 1870s and '80s. One of the stores that Carrie visits, Chicago's The Fair, opened in 1879. Mass retailing had wide-ranging effects, which Dreiser translates memorably into human terms. Customers benefited from lower prices and expanded choices, but these choices were intended to instill--as illustrated by Carrie in the Chicago department store--a new and curiously intimate relationship between purchaser and consumer goods. As she examines the attractive goods available for sale, Carrie "could not help feeling the claim of each trinket and valuable upon her personally [. . . .] The dainty slippers and stockings, the delicately frilled skirts and petticoats, [. . .] all touched her with individual desire" (22). From the vantage point of the twenty-first century, it is difficult to imagine what must have been a profound psychological transformation, as people set aside garments made at home from coarse homespun cloth, in favor of selecting ready-made clothing cut to standard sizes and available in endlessly proliferating styles. But the allure that clothing and other personal effects has for Dreiser's characters--what he calls "[t]he voice of the so-called inanimate!" (98)--allows us to glimpse that momentous change.

Unbounded consumption thrives especially in cities. Dreiser's metropolitan settings in Sister Carrie--the booming city of Chicago and the established metropolis of New York--are ideal locations for what social scientist and cultural critic Thorstein Veblen defined in 1899 as "conspicuous consumption." The adjective in Veblen's famous phrase is as telling as the noun, for the behaviors that typify modern spending patterns have less to do with satiating desire than with advertising status. Such consumption needs to be conspicuously on display, and Carrie's strolling along Broadway with Mrs. Vance, "going purposely to see and be seen" (323), precisely fits the bill. The modern city, indeed, may be Dreiser's greatest character in Sister Carrie. "The city has its cunning wiles," the narrator remarks in the opening chapter, and it seems that Chicago, rather than any man, seduces the heroine (4). Chicago, described by Dreiser as "a giant magnet drawing to itself from all quarters the hopeful and the hopeless" (16), may have so enticed Carrie because of its unprecedented growth: from a population of 300,000 at the time of the fire in 1871 to over one million by 1890. A commentator in that year captures the lure of the urban experience in language strikingly anticipating Dreiser's: "[t]he metropolis is to lots of people like a lighted candle to the moth. It attracts them in swarms that come year after year with the vague idea that they can get along here if anywhere" (Riis 114); Dreiser uses the moth image to characterize the saloon that Hurstwood manages: "Here come the moths in endless procession to bask in the light of the flame" (46). But the metropolis that attracts one person could also exclude others, becoming what Dreiser terms a "walled city" (339). Thus New York, which "interested [Carrie] exceedingly" (313), has a negative effect on George Hurstwood. As the narrator says, "Whatever a man like Hurstwood could be in Chicago, it is very evident that he would be but an inconspicuous drop in an ocean like New York" (304-5).

Factory production, mass distribution, and conspicuous consumption in the modern city all helped create unprecedented fortunes in the late nineteenth century. The appropriately named Gilded Age inaugurated the era of the "robber baron" and the plutocrats, those who ruled by wealth. Names such as Andrew Carnegie, J. P. Morgan, John D. Rockefeller, Jay Gould, Philip Armour, Jay Cooke, and Charles Tyson Yerkes (the latter being Dreiser's model for Frank Cowperwood in The Trilogy of Desire) represent both the promise and the corruption of American business. These tycoons took advantage of new structural forms for business: while the corporation limited owners' liability, organizations such as pools, trusts, and holding companies allowed for greater control of the market. The Interstate Commerce Act (1887) and Sherman Antitrust Act (1890) only partially checked the rise of what muckrakers derided as "octopus"-like businesses and instances of "frenzied finance."

Dreiser was steeped in the American mystique of self-promotion through financial success. Even before he wrote his first novel, Dreiser published interviews with Andrew Carnegie and other magnates for Orison S. Marden's Success, a magazine that promulgated the ideology of upward mobility. As such, he joined the ranks of popular writers like Russell Conwell, who proclaimed that "Acres of Diamonds" could be mined in anyone's backyard. But Dreiser also understood how the economy that produced wealth for some also caused poverty for many. In the last decades of the nineteenth century the economy was extremely volatile, characterized by boom-bust cycles. Two of the most severe financial crises in the U.S. occurred during Dreiser's early years, one beginning in 1873 with the failure of Jay Cooke (who was financing the construction of the Northern Pacific Railroad) and the second starting in 1893. While some robber barons maintained vast fortunes during these depressions, about forty percent of industrial workers remained below the $500 per year poverty line in the late 1880s (Trachtenberg 90). In reaction, laborers struggled to organize and protect themselves by forming unions such as the Knights of Labor, the American Federation of Labor (AFL), and later the more radical Industrial Workers of the World. Between 1881 and 1905, over 37,000 strikes occurred throughout the country (Trachtenberg 86). One of the most dramatic occurred in Chicago in 1886, the so-called Haymarket massacre, resulting in seven deaths and many wounded after an unidentified person threw a bomb at a gathering of workers favoring a strike.

But as Dreiser's George Hurstwood realizes when he scabs during the Brooklyn streetcar strike, "He had read of these things but the reality seemed something altogether new" (425). By juxtaposing Hurstwood's story with Carrie's, Dreiser maintains a dual perspective on the prospects the economy holds out for individuals. Carrie's economic rise and Hurstwood's economic fall illustrate that social mobility entails movement not only up the ladder of success but also down it. When we meet Hurstwood he is an emblematic, successful American male: married with children, comfortably well off, a member of the new managerial class, at ease in Chicago's metropolitan scene. But from the time he steals money from his employer and lies to get Carrie on the train, Hurstwood begins a plummet that will accelerate along with Carrie's gradual social climb. In an influential book of photojournalism, How the Other Half Lives (1890), Jacob Riis captured the middle class's guilty fascination with the urban poor, many of them immigrants. Dreiser shows through Hurstwood's fall that the unfortunate "other" could in fact be any one--even a man of affluence and reputation.

While Sister Carrie registers the capriciousness of the economy, immensely productive yet disastrously erratic, an equally important context for Dreiser's novel is the Darwinian revolution, which had its own profound and often unsettling effects. Many of Sister Carrie's overarching themes--drift, chance, competition, struggle, survival--derive directly from evolutionary thought. The Origin of Species, published in 1859, declared that all species derived from random variation, not divine plan. Evolutionary ideas such as Darwin's opened the door for replacing God with chance as the universe's creative force. The ensuing intellectual revolution constitutes one of the fundamental paradigm shifts as discussed by historian of science Thomas Kuhn. Darwin's assertion of non-teleological evolution (that is, change without a particular goal) challenged the notion of "progress" that had been dear to humans for generations, but particularly since the Enlightenment. By elevating the notion of blind chance and emphasizing the contingent, even accidental nature of the universe, Darwin's theories had the effect of eroding the fixed principles that underwrote most traditional moral assumptions. Perhaps most important, natural selection displaced man from his central position in the Biblical account of divine creation over seven days, as recorded in the book of Genesis. Endless modification, not unchanging truth, characterized the new philosophical order, and the position of mankind in the new order was up for debate.

"Social Darwinism," which refers to the extension of evolutionary ideas to human behavior and interaction, was extrapolated from Darwin by many popularizers, most notably the British philosopher Herbert Spencer. The well-known phrase, "survival of the fittest," was in fact coined not by Darwin but by Spencer. The latter, who wrote ponderous books under titles such as First Principles (1862), was immensely popular in the America of Dreiser's day, as were other Social Darwinists like Yale professor William Graham Sumner. Grandiose and vague ideas like Spencer's apostrophes to "force" appealed mightily to Dreiser, whom he describes in Sister Carrie as promulgating a "liberal" philosophy (87). But Dreiser's view of evolution entertained little of Spencer's signature optimism. Rather, Dreiser saw "our civilization" as being in "a middle stage--scarcely beast [ . . . ] scarcely human"; as to human actors, the narrator of Sister Carrie proclaims our "innate instincts dulled," our "free will scarcely sufficiently developed" (73). Such sentiments indicate Dreiser's affinity for a more compassionate strain of evolutionary thought. Although Social Darwinism has a long history of underwriting conservative political agendas in the U.S.--especially for glorifying the wealthy as "fit" and excoriating the poor as "weak"--many progressive social thinkers in Dreiser's day used evolutionary ideas to argue for opposite ends. Works such as Lester Frank Ward's Dynamic Sociology (1883) and Pure Sociology (1903), Thorstein Veblen's The Place of Science in Modern Civilization (1919), and Charlotte Perkins Gilman's Women and Economics (1898) all use evolutionary theory to challenge conservative ideas and institutions.

Sister Carrie's ambiguous moral stance indicates Dreiser's deep engagement with the most human consequence of the Darwinian revolution, the matter of ethics. Carrie's leaving her sister to move in with Drouet provokes the first of a series of ethical crises. Their initial responses suggest a conventional portrayal of seduction and sin:

"Oh," thought Drouet, "how delicious is my conquest."

"Ah," thought Carrie, with mournful misgivings, "what is it I have lost?" (88)

But right after the characters' predictable, even hackneyed, responses, the narrator cuts in to declare, "Before this world-old proposition we stand, serious, interested, confused; endeavoring to evolve the true theory of morals--the true answer to what is right" (88). Humans have sought for centuries the "true answer" to ethical dilemmas, but Dreiser, by framing this quest in terms of "evolving," not proclaiming, the moral order, approaches the conclusion of the leading philosophical movement of his day.

The philosophy of American pragmatism was based on the idea that truth is a process, not a fixed essence. Thinkers like Charles Sanders Peirce, John Dewey, and William James attempted to reconstruct philosophy in a world in which evolution had made "Truth with a big T" uncertain (James 102). In reaction, Peirce celebrated what he called "fallibilism," explaining that "the first step toward finding out is to acknowledge you do not satisfactorily know already" (4). Rejecting the methodological assumptions of traditional philosophy, the pragmatists believed "The truth of an idea is not a stagnant property inherent in it. Truth happens to an idea. It becomes true, is made true by events" (James 89). Pragmatism's evolutionary underpinning--and its affinity to Dreiser's treatment of ethical questions--becomes clear in James's proposition that reality, as well as the "truths" that humans believe about it, "are everlastingly in process of mutation" (99). Truth is made, not found; thus "human systems evolv[e] in consequence of human needs" (James 71). Although there is much to be said for reading Dreiser's novel as an illustration of one of William James's most famous images, in which he talks about the "cash value" of one's belief (26), the point is not that Sister Carrie is a pragmatist tract. Rather, Dreiser's novel and American pragmatism constitute related attempts to cope with the impact of evolution in the field of ethics.

Dreiser's evolutionary treatment of ethics in Sister Carrie ultimately verges toward the revolutionary, in that he tries to get readers to suspend judgment on actions that would typically be condemned as immoral, such as Carrie's premarital sex and Hurstwood's theft. At the beginning of the novel the narrator invokes the traditional moral judgment on a young woman who moves alone to the city: "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" (3-4). But that familiar judgment seems finally to be a straw man (or woman), for when the narrator shifts from looking at Carrie to examining the principle that would condemn her--he calls it "the world's attitude toward woman"--he unequivocally posits that "[a]ctions such as hers are measured by an arbitrary scale" (87). Dreiser thus discourages readers from viewing Carrie as immoral, instead drawing attention to the obsolescence of traditional moral standards. The ending of the novel is especially significant in this regard, for Dreiser breaks with long-standing literary tradition that "fallen women" must be fully punished, preferably by a grisly death (as, for instance, in Anna Karenina and Madame Bovary). Carrie, to the contrary, may be unfulfilled or lonely at the novel's end, but she is very much alive and eminently successful in the eyes of the world.

Likewise, Dreiser handles Hurstwood's life so as to preclude moralistic commentary. The pivotal moment when Hurstwood steals money from his Chicago employer complicates the question of moral agency, for the safe just happens to have been left unlocked on a night when the manager, uncharacteristically, has had too much to drink. Anticipating his important treatment of the difficulty of distinguishing crime from accident in An American Tragedy (1925), Dreiser so clouds Hurstwood's theft in ambiguity that readers cannot easily pass judgment. Rather than acting as a purposeful agent, Hurstwood "could not bring himself to act definitely"; he is "drawn" and "driven" to act by forces out of his control (270). And so "[w]hile the money was in his hand, the lock clicked. It had sprung. Did he do it? He grabbed at the knob and pulled vigorously. It had closed. Heavens!" (271). Dreiser crafts this pivotal moment to suggest that Hurstwood, again anticipating Clyde Griffiths in An American Tragedy, "was accused without being understood" (299).

While the Darwinian revolution contributed to unsettling many established codes of conduct, some of the most extensive of these changes occurred in gender relations. Here again, Sister Carrie is an exemplary text that so completely registers change as to provide both deep insight into its historical era and essential background for understanding the present consequences of those changes. Carrie's and Hurstwood's movement in opposite social and economic directions draws attention to the erosion of Victorian assumptions about proper male versus female "spheres," a belief system that regulated many aspects of middle- and upper-class white American life. According to this nineteenth century ideal (which still has many advocates), woman's proper "sphere" in the home allowed her to develop her innate nurturing tendencies while exercising her influence in an appropriate fashion: by directing the moral development of her children and husband. Correspondingly, man's "sphere" was the public world, particularly the marketplace, where his competitive tendencies could be channeled to benefit his family and society as a whole.

Although the narrator of Sister Carrie engages in some gratuitous generalizations about women that may make Dreiser appear conservative, his empathy for Carrie's position and aspirations seems finally the more telling indication of his views on women. She begins the novel an ordinary young woman with an "average little conscience" (89) that urges her to stick to the traditional sphere assigned women. But besides wanting to be a consumer--a desire that leads her to depart from the traditional role and move in with Drouet--Carrie is a rebel, albeit largely an inarticulate one. In exactly the same way that "her heart rebelled" against the Hansons' attempts to stifle her personality (41), she chafes when her supposed husband, the bigamist Hurstwood, attempts to contain her desires. Although outwardly placid when they settle in New York, Carrie "was coming to have a few opinions of her own" (304). Because she is so eager to be a consumer, Carrie not surprisingly first discerns the double standard governing men's and women's conduct in the way Hurstwood sees fit to spend his dwindling store of money. While Hurstwood tells Carrie they don't have enough to buy her any new clothes, "[s]he had not failed to notice that he did not seem to consult her about buying clothes for himself. [ . . .] Her reply was mild enough, but her thoughts were rebellious" (340-1). Dreiser makes clear that Hurstwood routinely underestimates Carrie's potential: "he had not conceived well of her mental ability. That was because he did not understand the nature of emotional greatness" (378). Rather than see Carrie as she really is, Hurstwood sees her as he wishes she would be--"a wife [who] could thus be content." The reason for Hurstwood's error in character analysis is easy enough to comprehend: "since he imagined he saw her satisfied, he felt called upon to give only that which contributed to such satisfaction" (316). More ominously, the narrator remarks, "Hurstwood was pleased with her placid manner, when he should have duly considered it" (316). While "[h]e saw nothing remarkable in asking her to come down lower [, . . . . h]er heart revolted" (434-5).

Carrie's "revolt" is quiet but decisive. Finding the conventional domestic sphere for women menial as well as stifling, Carrie decides she will not "live cooped up in small flat" with someone who treats her like a "servant" (362). She decides for the second time to go to work, and at this point switches roles with the unemployed Hurstwood. What Dreiser calls the "beginning of the new order" (395) occurs when Carrie starts earning the money while Hurstwood begins to do the shopping. Nothing less than a reversal of gender roles ensues as Carrie begins to ask herself, "Was she going to act and keep house? [ . . . Hurstwood was] waiting to live upon her labor" (391-2). As might be expected, Carrie's "dawning independence gave her more courage" (392), and she is soon emboldened by her increasing salary to leave the oppressive domestic sphere altogether.

Carrie is not simply rebelling against her husband but more significantly against the role that women were traditionally supposed to follow. As historian Barbara Welter describes the nineteenth century ideal for the white middle class, the "True Woman" was expected to be pious, pure, domestic, and submissive. However a competing model for femininity emerged in the U.S. around the 1880s. The "New Woman" typically had a career and was economically independent. Frequently New Women aligned themselves with members of their own sex (in partnerships that were not necessarily romantic) rather than in conventional marriages. Carrie follows this pattern when, deserting Hurstwood, she earns a fine income on stage and moves in with the more upbeat Lola Osborne. Yet the typical New Woman was better educated and frequently more politically inclined than Carrie, and so we might best think of Dreiser's heroine as a transitional figure, moving from the Victorian model of True Woman toward the recognizably modern New Woman.

Change in the social position of either gender often creates a predicament for the other. This was certainly the case as the New Woman came on the scene, for she "threatened men in ways her mother never did" (Smith-Rosenberg 245). We see this happen as Carrie struggles to comprehend Hurstwood's chronic unemployment, for her sense that "'No man could go seven months without finding something if he tried'" (309, emphasis added) none too subtly questions his masculinity. Hurstwood seems emasculated by Carrie's working to support him--although it is worth noting that his first wife's control of him suggests a deep-seated weakness. Hurstwood's decline illustrates the conclusion of one historian that "the feminine revolt was creating tension and confusion and challenging the masculine paradigm" (Dubbert 103-4). Thus Dreiser's novel as a whole exemplifies how the rise of the New Woman was attended by what historians describe as a "crisis of masculinity." The time in which the New York section is set, the 1890s, is precisely when historians typically place this crisis (Brod 47). For someone like Hurstwood, who has lost his prestigious job managing Hannah and Hogg's and finds it difficult to continue in the obligatory male breadwinner role after moving to New York, the crisis of masculinity would be especially acute.

We can also describe Hurstwood's predicament in terms of what an eminent sociologist of the time, Lester Frank Ward, refers to as male "efflorescence." Ward proposes in Pure Sociology (first edition 1903) to counter the "androcentic bias" that runs throughout social science with his own "gynaecocentric theory" of the primacy of the female (296). According to Ward, "[t]he female sex [. . .] existed from the beginning," whereas "[t]he male is [. . .] a mere afterthought of nature" (314). Thus what appears in contemporary society to be male superiority "bears a certain stamp of spuriousness and sham." So-called male superiority is a defensive reaction that masks the reality of "male efflorescence" (331). That an esteemed sociologist should develop such a theory indicates a climate receptive to innovative ideas about men and women. Ward's theory certainly applies to Hurstwood, whose playing at being the gentleman, reading newspapers in New York hotel lobbies, certainly suggests a sham masculinity. In the final section of the novel Hurstwood confirms his efflorescence by becoming precisely what an American man is not supposed to be: dependent, helpless, passive, and reactive.

When Carrie deserts Hurstwood, she leaves behind a short note and twenty dollars. With this financial transaction, Dreiser brings the novel full circle--for it was with two "soft, green, handsome ten-dollar bills" that Charlie Drouet first tempted Carrie to leave the stifling Hansons (62). These moments in the novel capture how effectively Dreiser uses concrete details to convey multiple levels of historical change, for the twenty dollars synthesizes Sister Carrie's pervasive concern with economic reality, with shifting moral standards, and with dramatically changing gender roles. Hurstwood will soon be a suicide, and Carrie has emerged as a celebrated actress. Yet as Bob Ames will tell her (as printed on page 449 of the Signet text of the Doubleday & Page edition), "'If I were you, [. . .] I'd change.'" And so, we may presume, will Carrie endlessly drift and change, making her an emblematic figure of the late nineteenth century, as well as a curiously apt exemplar of our own time.



Works Consulted and Selected Further Reading

Aaron, Daniel. Men of Good Hope: A Story of American Progressives. New York: Oxford University Press, 1951.

Adams, Henry. The Education of Henry Adams. 1907 (private printing). New York: Modern Library, 1931.

Beer, Gillian. Darwin's Plots: Evolutionary Narrative in Darwin, George Eliot, and Nineteenth-Century Fiction. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1983.

Brod, Harry. "The Case for Men's Studies." The Making of Masculinities: The New Men's Studies. Ed. Harry Brod. Boston: Allen & Unwin, 1987, pp. 39-62.

Broner, Simon J. Consuming Visions: Accumulation and Display of Goods in America 1880-1929. New York: Norton, 1989.

Chandler, Alfred D., Jr. The Visible Hand: The Managerial Revolution in American Business. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1977.

Cochran, Thomas C. Business in American Life: A History. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1972.

Conwell, Russell H. Acres of Diamonds. With His Life and Achievements, by Robert Shackleton. New York: Harper, 1943.

Cott, Nancy. The Bonds of Womanhood: "Woman's Sphere" in New England, 1780-1835. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1977.

Darwin, Charles. The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex. 1871. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1981.

-----. The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or The Preservation of the Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life. 1859. New York: Penguin, 1985.

Degler, Carl. At Odds: Women and the Family in America from the Revolution to the Present. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1980.

-----. In Search of Human Nature: The Decline and Revival of Darwinism in American Social Thought. New York: Oxford University Press, 1991.

Dorfman, Joseph. The Economic Mind in American Civilization. Vol. 3. 1865-1918. New York: Viking, 1949.

Dreiser, Theodore. Sister Carrie. The Pennsylvania Edition. 1981. New York: Penguin, 1986.

-----. Sister Carrie. 1900. New York: Signet, 1980.

Dubbert, Joe L. A Man's Place: Masculinity in Transition. Englewood Cliffs, N. J: Prentice-Hall, 1979.

Eastman, Max. The Literary Mind: Its Place in an Age of Science. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1935.

Eby, Clare Virginia. Dreiser and Veblen, Saboteurs of the Status Quo. Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1998.

Ewen, Stewart. Captains of Consciousness: Advertising and the Social Roots of the Consumer Culture. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1976.

Fox, Richard Wrightman, and T. J. Jackson Lears, eds. Cultures of Consumption: Critical Essays in American History, 1880-1980. New York: Pantheon, 1983.

George, Henry. Progress and Poverty. 1879. New York: Modern Library, no date.

Gilman, Charlotte Perkins. Women and Economics: A Study of the Economic Relation Between Woman and Men. 1898. Amherst, New York: Prometheus Books, 1994.

Ginger, Ray. Altgeld's America: The Lincoln Ideal Versus Changing Realities. 1958. Chicago: Quadrangle Books, 1965.

Hofstadter, Richard. The Age of Reform. New York: Vintage, 1955.

-----. Social Darwinism in American Thought. 1944. Boston: Beacon Press, 1983.

James, William. Pragmatism. 1907. Buffalo: Prometheus, 1991.

Josephson, Matthew. The Robber Barons. 1934. New York: Harcourt, Brace and World, 1962.

Kerber, Linda K. "Separate Spheres, Female Worlds, Woman's Place: The Rhetoric of Women's History." Journal of American History 75:1 (June 1988): 9-39. Rpt. in Toward an Intellectual History of Women. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1997, pp. 159-199.

Kirkland, Edward C. A History of American Economic Life. 3rd ed. New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts, 1951.

Kessler-Harris, Alice. Out to Work: A History of Wage-Earning Women in the U.S. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1982.

Kuhn, Thomas S. The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. 2nd ed., enlarged. Chicago: University of Chicago Press., 1970.

Lawson, Thomas W. Frenzied Finance. New York: The Ridgway-Thayer Company, 1905.

Lears, T. J. Jackson. No Place of Grace: Antimodernism and the Transformation of American Culture 1880-1920. New York: Pantheon, 1981.

Massachusetts Bureau of Labor. The Working Girls of Boston. 1889.

Matthaei, Julie A. An Economic History of Women in America. New York: Schocken, 1982.

Michaels, Walter Benn. The Gold Standard and the Logic of Naturalism: American Literature at the Turn of the Century. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1987.

Mumford, Lewis. The Brown Decades: A Study of the Arts in America, 1865-1895. New York: Dover, 1971.

Myers, Gustavus. History of the Great American Fortunes. 1910. New York: Random House, 1936.

Orvell, Miles. The Real Thing: Imitation and Authenticity in American Culture, 1880-1940. Chapel Hill University of North Carolina Press, 1989.

Peirce, Charles Sanders. Philosophical Writings of Peirce. Ed. Justus Buchler. New York: Dover, 1955.

Pleck, Elizabeth H., and Joseph H. Pleck. The American Man. Englewood Cliffs, N. J.: Prentice-Hall, 1980.

Riis, Jacob. How the Other Half Lives: Studies Among the Tenements of New York. 1890. Bedford Series in History and Culture. Ed. David Leviatin. Boston: Bedford Books, 1996.

Schlesinger, Arthur Meier. The Rise of the City, 1878-1898. Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 1933.

Smith-Rosenberg, Carroll. Disorderly Conduct: Visions of Gender in Victorian America. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1985.

Spencer, Herbert. First Principles. 1862. New York: The De Witt Revolving Fund, 1958.

Stearns, Peter N. Be a Man! Males in Modern Society. 2nd ed. New York: Holmes and Meier, 1990.

Sumner, William Graham. What Social Classes Owe to Each Other. 1883. Caldwell, Idaho: The Caxton Printers, 1963.

Trachtenberg, Alan. The Incorporation of America: Culture and Society in the Gilded Age. New York: Hill and Wang, 1982.

Veblen, Thorstein. The Theory of the Leisure Class. 1899. New York: Modern Library, no date.

-----. The Place of Science in Modern Civilization and Other Essays. 1919. New Brunswick, N. J: Transaction Publishers, 1990.

Weber, Max. The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. 1905. Trans. Talcott Parsons. London: George Allen and Unwin Ltd., 1930.

Welter, Barbara. "The Cult of True Womanhood: 1820-1860." American Quarterly 18 (Summer 1966): 151-74.

West, Cornel. The American Evasion of Philosophy: A Genealogy of Pragmatism. Madison: University of isconsin Press, 1989.

Wiebe, Robert. The Search for Order 1877-1920. New York: Hill and Wang, 1967.

United States Bureau of Labor. Working Women in Large Cities. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1889.

Home Sister Carrie
*