Study Guide

Sister Carrie Chapter 32

By Theodore Dreiser

Chapter 32

The Feast of Belshazzar: A Seer to Translate

  • We're reminded that Carrie loves the theater and told that she still thinks a lot about her stage debut back in Chicago. The play Carrie and Mrs. Vance go to see is basically about rich people suffering heartbreak and jealousy, and seeing the luxurious world portrayed on stage further stirs Carrie's desire for expensive stuff.
  • After seeing all the displays of wealth on the street and at the theater, going back to her apartment makes Carrie think about how deprived she is. She starts daydreaming about how much she wants to get back into acting. Needless to say, when Hurstwood comes home he finds Carrie in a sour mood.
  • In an effort to cheer her up, Hurstwood asks her if she wants to go to the theater. She tells him she's already gone that afternoon, but then after eating dinner, she changes her mind. They go to the theater and Carrie again becomes dissatisfied with her own life as she looks at more spectacles of wealth.
  • Fast forward a month: Mrs. Vance invites Carrie to dinner at a fancy restaurant and then to the theater with her and Mr. Vance on a night when Hurstwood has other dinner plans. Mrs. Vance has become Carrie's fashion guru, encouraging her to buy more and more stuff, which is starting to bother Hurstwood. And the fact that he's bothered annoys Carrie who feels like he's neglecting her needs.
  • Carrie gets ready to go to the theater with Mr. and Mrs. Vance. They meet up and Mr. V tells her to write a note to Hurstwood letting him know where they are in case he gets back. Carrie goes back to her apartment to write the note, and when she returns to the Vance's' apartment she finds a surprise: Mrs. Vance's cousin, Bob Ames, who's visiting from Indianapolis.
  • As the two chat, Carrie thinks that not only is this Ames dude smokin' hot, he seems like a sweet, genuine guy. Uh-oh…
  • They all get ready to leave and Mrs. Vance tells Ames he'll have to "look after" Carrie. Stirring up trouble much, Mrs. V?
  • On the ride over to the restaurant, Carrie and Ames chat some more about what a cool city NYC is. Ames has a job with an electrical company. As they head into the restaurant, Carrie again notices all the signs of wealth around her. She's extremely impressed with how fancy the restaurant is—this kind of place is way beyond Hurstwood's means now—and she thinks about how lucky Mrs. Vance is.
  • Mr. Vance orders a ton of fancy, expensive food (oysters and roast meats… nom nom nom) and wine for everyone. Carrie admires Ames as they eat, and then Ames announces that he sometimes thinks that rich people showing off their money like this is actually kind of gross.
  • Carrie's intrigued and wants to hear more (this idea of his never occurred to her), but Mr. and Mrs. Vance say that they think rich people should do whatever they want with their money, which pretty much shuts down that discussion.
  • The subject shifts to the latest bestseller, Moulding a Maiden by Albert Ross. Mrs. Vance thinks it's good, Carrie hasn't read it, and Ames thinks it's nearly as bad as Dora Thorne, which totally offends Carrie because she had read that one and thought it was okay. Nevertheless, Carrie is impressed that Ames seems so smart—way smarter than either Drouet or Hurstwood.
  • Ames tells Carrie he doesn't care about being rich and drops that old cliché "money can't buy happiness." She's skeptical, but plays along like she agrees.
  • They all leave the restaurant and go to the theater. During the play, Ames tells Carrie he loves the theater, which makes her want to revive her acting career even more.
  • When the show ends, Carrie finds out that Ames isn't returning to the apartment with them. Bummer. It's a lonely ride back without him.
  • Carrie returns to her apartment to find Hurstwood already in bed. She can't bring herself to get into the bed with him so she goes to the dining room to curl up in the rocking chair and think.