Study Guide

Sister Carrie Chapter 15

By Theodore Dreiser

Chapter 15

The Irk of the Old Ties: The Magic of Youth

  • We learn that Hurstwood's been so wrapped up in his affair with Carrie that he's pretty much been ignoring everything going on at home. Every morning he goes through the motions of having breakfast with Mrs. Hurstwood and the kids, but mostly buries his nose in the newspaper so he doesn't have to actually talk to any of them.
  • We jump back to a scene in the Hurstwood home that took place on the night of Hurstwood's latest theater outing with Drouet and Carrie (the one where they went to see that fake play "The Covenant"). Right before he leaves for the play, Mrs. Hurstwood tells him that she wants him to get them all season tickets to the horse races. She's never asked for season tickets before, but her rich friends are getting them and she wants to "exhibit" Jessica in the hopes of attracting a rich husband for her.
  • Hurstwood tells her they're not easy to get and they're insanely expensive, but she throws a tantrum and he gives in. He doesn't stick around for supper.
  • We return to the present as Hurstwood eats breakfast with his family. He's irritated because Jessica keeps dropping hints that she wants to go to Europe for the summer like her rich friends. He's further ticked that George Jr. went off to another town for a tennis match and didn't tell him. He feels out of the loop with his kids.
  • Hurstwood cheers himself up by thinking of Carrie. He contemplates the fact that Carrie has no clue that he's married and he's hopeful that she won't find out. They've become serious pen pals, writing to each other ever since the theater night. Hurstwood writes her a letter asking her to meet him in the park.
  • They meet up, and after exchanging a few pleasantries, Hurstwood cuts to the chase: he wants her to leave Drouet and come away with him.
  • She asks him where they'd go, and he asks her where she wants to go. She doesn't want to stay in Chicago because Drouet's there, but Hurstwood would have to give up his job if they left, so he tries to convince her Chicago is big enough for all of them.
  • And then she drops a bomb: "I shouldn't want to get married as long as [Drouet]'s here" (15.80), she tells him. Hurstwood panics at first, as the word bigamy flashes in his mind like a neon sign, but he can't help feeling happy that she feels so strongly about him.
  • Hurstwood gets a brilliant idea: he'll give Carrie a little test. He asks her what she would do if he came to her and told her that he had to go away and wasn't coming back. Would she go with him?
  • Duh—the answer is yes. He presses, asking if she would still go if they couldn't get married right away. She says that would be okay as long as they got married "as soon as we got to the other end of the journey." He plays it off like he's joking, telling her he'll come get her some evening, and she reinforces her sentiment that she will only stay with him if he marries her.
  • They happily stroll through the park together.