Study Guide

Sister Carrie Chapter 12

By Theodore Dreiser

Chapter 12

Of the Lamps of the Mansions: The Ambassador's Plea

  • Breakfast at the Hurstwood household begins with trouble: George Jr. tells Hurstwood that he saw him at the theater last night. Mrs. Hurstwood grills him about the specifics, wanting to know what he saw and who he saw it with.
  • Hurstwood explains that he went with Drouet and his wife, trying to make it seem like it was some business outing. Mrs. Hurstwood doesn't press him further, but she isn't buying it one bit.
  • She changes the subject and informs him that she expects him to accompany her that afternoon as she entertains some acquaintances of theirs. Hurstwood isn't happy because these people are total bores and he's got a ton of work to do.
  • Apparently Mrs. H does the same thing again soon after (ropes him into hanging out with her boring friends), eventually inspiring Hurstwood to draw a line and tell her he's too busy. She throws back in his face that he wasn't too busy for theater dates with Drouet and Carrie. Burn.
  • We jump to Carrie and Mrs. Hale riding through the city for the sole purpose of ogling other people's fancy houses. This is Mrs. Hale's favorite pastime. As they ride along, Carrie fantasizes about perfect people living their perfect lives inside the perfect houses.
  • Carrie returns to her apartment and has a newfound appreciation for just how meager the place is in comparison to all those mansions. She climbs into the old rocking chair and mopes.
  • Hurstwood drops by, and Carrie thinks that he must not be aware that Drouet is out of town (yeah, sure…).
  • Okay, it turns out he actually didn't know, though he's not too broken up about Drouet's absence. Carrie and Hurstwood hang out and he tells her about all the cool places he's been in his life. She's even more smitten—this guy really gets her in a way Drouet never has, she thinks.
  • Hurstwood says that he can tell that Carrie isn't happy with her living situation. How in the world did he know? Their eyes meet and he makes a bold move by touching her hand.
  • She resists, but doesn't run or kick him out "as she might have done." He stays a bit longer and they talk.
  • After he leaves, she feels guilty. Hurstwood, however, is thrilled because it's obvious to him that Carrie is really into him. He whistles all the way home.