Study Guide

Sister Carrie Chapter 40

By Theodore Dreiser

Chapter 40

A Public Dissension: A Final Appeal

  • The next morning, Carrie apologizes to Hurstwood for missing dinner. When he doesn't seem to care, she stops caring, too: "From now on, her indifference to the flat was even greater" (40.8).
  • We learn that Hurstwood hates having to ask for money from Carrie so much that he built up a huge debt with the grocer, and instead of paying it off he just switched grocers (and he plays the same trick on the poor butcher and others, too).
  • Carrie and Lola try out for parts with another theater company and they're successful. Carrie's new paycheck is pretty sweet at twenty bucks a week. As Carrie's life seems to be improving though, Hurstwood's is going downhill. He spends his days sitting around rocking, reading the paper, and generally being depressed.
  • One day, the grocer shows up at the door wanting his money. Hurstwood tells the grocer he'll pay something toward the debt on Saturday. Carrie is mad that Hurstwood ran up such a big bill and tells him she's not about to pay for it; then she leaves.
  • We take a quick hop back in time and learn that Hurstwood had been reading in the papers about a strike that's about to take place among trolley workers in Brooklyn. The strike soon occurs and the trolley company puts an ad in the paper looking for workers (or, really, permanent replacement workers, a.k.a. scabs) to fill the places of the strikers. The ad notes that these workers will be protected by police (take note, the police are protecting the interests of the company). Hurstwood came across the ad during one of his newspaper-reading marathons.
  • Now we jump back to the current scene in which Carrie has just stormed out after the grocer came by. Hurstwood is so ashamed that he considers going down to the trolley station to see if he can find work as a scab. He weighs the pros (money) and the cons (possibly being shot by an angry striker), and the next day he decides to go for it. When he tells Carrie what he's doing, she asks if he's afraid (she's read that four men were hurt yesterday), but he brushes it off, telling her that there will be police protection.
  • Hurstwood goes to the railroad building and sees the strikers. A policeman asks him what he's doing—he tells him he's looking for work and the cop points him toward the offices. The strikers shoot him dirty looks.
  • When he gets to the office, Hurstwood asks one of the men if they're hiring. Hurstwood has no experience as a motorman, but they're so desperate for workers that they're willing to train him.