by Theodore Dreiser
Sister Carrie Compassion and Forgiveness Quotes
How we cite our quotes: (Chapter.Paragraph)
The plea was that of a gaunt-faced man of about thirty, who looked the picture of privation and wretchedness. Drouet was the first to see. He handed over a dime with an upwelling feeling of pity in his heart. Hurstwood scarcely noticed the incident. Carrie quickly forgot. (14.96)
We've been repeatedly told by the narrator that Carrie has such a sensitive nature. So why is Drouet the only one who bothers to give this poor guy the time of day?
On the street sometimes [Carrie] would see men working—Irishmen with picks, coal-heavers with great loads to shovel, Americans busy about some work which was a mere matter of strength—and they touched her fancy. Toil, now that she was free of it, seemed even a more desolate thing than when she was part of it. She saw it through a mist of fancy—a pale, somber half-light, which was the essence of poetic feeling […] Her sympathies were ever with that under-world of toil from which she had so recently sprung, and which she best understood. (15.48)
Seeing the exploited workers "through a mist of fancy" that was "the essence of poetic feeing" seems a little weird, doesn't it? It's almost like Carrie's happily kicking back with a bag of popcorn and watching the workers in some sentimental movie. This in and of itself puts her in a strange position vis-à-vis the workers—she seems way more into watching them sweat than actually doing something to help them.
[Carrie's] need of clothes—to say nothing of her desire for ornaments—grew rapidly as the fact developed that for all her work she was not to have them. The sympathy she felt for Hurstwood, at the time he asked her to tide him over, vanished with these newer urgings of decency. (39.2)
Ah, once again Carrie's lust for stuff seems to get in the way of her relationships to others. Here, specifically, it impedes her ability to sustain her compassion in any meaningful way, as her sympathy for Hurstwood vanishes at the prospect of rocking a new outfit. This is perhaps yet another reason she ends up alone at the end of the novel.