by Theodore Dreiser
Sister Carrie Society and Class Quotes
How we cite our quotes: (Chapter.Paragraph)
The entire metropolitan centre possessed a high and mighty air calculated to overawe and abash the common applicant and to make the gulf between poverty and success seem both wide and deep. (2.27)
Man, job hunting is hard enough without having to worry about the city's "high and mighty air." During the Gilded Age, the city was considered a place rich in opportunity to move up in class. But this passage makes it seem like the city's intimidating appearance seriously rattles the psyches of those seeking such opportunity.
As Carrie listened to this and much more of similar familiar badinage among the men and girls, she instinctively withdrew into herself. She was not used to this type, and felt that there was something hard and low about it all. (4.105)
Carrie must've read too much Shakespeare in high school and now can't bear to subject her refined ears to such "hard and low" slang. As we see here, language is an immediate marker of class position. Can you point to other examples in the novel where this is the case?
There was a class, however, too rich, too famous, or too successful, with whom [Hurstwood] could not attempt any familiarity of address, and with these he was professionally tactful, assuming a grave and dignified attitude, paying them the deference which would win their good feeling without in the least compromising his own bearing and opinions. (5.10)
Wow—there are people even Hurstwood is intimidated to talk to. Sister Carrie never fails to remind us of how carefully orchestrated interactions are between characters according to their perceptions of each other's class status. In other words, they have a hard time keepin' it real. It makes us wonder if any of the interactions among these characters are ever genuine.