Study Guide

Sister Carrie Chapter 19

By Theodore Dreiser

Chapter 19

An Hour in Elf Land: A Clamous Half Heard

  • It's show time.
  • Drouet and Hurstwood sit together in the audience. The curtain rises, but Carrie isn't in the opening scene, so Drouet and Hurstwood whisper (even worse than texting, guys). It becomes clear pretty quickly that this isn't exactly Broadway—the players manage to remember their lines, but that's about it.
  • And then Carrie enters… and she totally bombs. It's painful—no, make that excruciating—to watch. It's so bad, in fact, that Drouet dashes backstage to catch her between scenes and give her a little pep talk.
  • The pep talk helps. Carrie gets better (with "better" meaning "the audience was at least not irritated"). Drouet remains backstage and continues to coach her in between scenes.
  • And as the play goes on, Carrie gets really good. Like, Oscar-worthy good. Hurstwood and Drouet are both amazed by her sudden star power.
  • Hurstwood comes backstage at intermission to congratulate Carrie, and when he sees Drouet and Carrie together, he becomes crazy jealous. Carrie and Hurstwood suppress their burning desire for one another and pretend to just be pals. A bitter Hurstwood returns to his seat.
  • The play resumes and Carrie continues to deliver an awesome performance. Hurstwood and Drouet are both falling in love with her all over again, and Drouet even resolves to marry her now. Uh-oh…
  • Here's the gist of the play: Laura (Carrie's character) left the man she loved because she thought he deserved a woman of his high social standing. He marries the rich woman, even though he's still in love with Laura. Sounds kind of familiar, right? Hurstwood certainly thinks so, and is even more deeply moved by Carrie's performance given how the play's situation resonates with his own.
  • The play ends and the audience applauds wildly. Someone brings flowers to Carrie—they're from Hurstwood, who thinks that he has to get Carrie away from Drouet. Backstage, Carrie basks in the glory of her success.
  • Hurstwood, Carrie and Drouet climb into a carriage and head to dinner. Afterward, as Drouet and Carrie say their goodnights to Hurstwood, Hurstwood whispers to Carrie to meet him the following day. Hurstwood, who is now filled with "hate" for Drouet, is determined to do something. Pronto.