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Themes

Little Words, Big Ideas

Women and Femininity

In late nineteenth-century America, women—generally speaking—held way less economic, social, and political power than men (remember that this was the era when women couldn't even cast a little...

Society and Class

In Sister Carrie we meet characters who have loads of cash and bling, others who are flat broke, and some who are everywhere in between. Characters in this novel hardly exist outside their class di...

Isolation/Loneliness

Carrie might otherwise have had the perfect happy ending if not for one thing: loneliness. By the end of the novel, despite becoming a big success and attracting tons of admirers, Carrie feels prof...

Morality and Ethics

Characters in Sister Carrie are often thrown into situations and predicaments that put their sense of right and wrong straight to the test. Should Carrie leave Drouet for Hurstwood? Should Hurstwoo...

Ambition

Carrie has lots of related ambitions in Sister Carrie: to get rich, to get really rich, to be a famous actress, and to be a really famous actress. For Carrie, there's always some other goal to reac...

Compassion and Forgiveness

Compassion in Sister Carrie eventually becomes a matter of life and death; we might indeed argue that Hurstwood dies from a lack of compassion on the part of others. Characters' abilities (or inabi...

Wealth

Money is magic in the world of Sister Carrie, especially for Carrie herself. Her love affair with money is way more passionate than any of her relationships with the novel's men. While we see plent...

Marriage

You probably shouldn't give Sister Carrie as a wedding gift, since marriage doesn't come out looking so great in this novel. At times things get downright nasty between couples, and in other moment...
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