Study Guide

Sister Carrie Chapter 45

By Theodore Dreiser

Chapter 45

Curious Shifts of the Poor

  • Hurstwood's still over at the cheap hotel where we last saw him (it turns out he sold the old furniture to pay for the place). He's been reading about Carrie more in the papers, and he's even seen her on billboards.
  • Time rolls on and Hurstwood is forced to go into a lodging house in the Bowery, which is pretty much one step away from living in a homeless shelter. The poor guy seems also to be losing it a little. He daydreams so often about his old life of luxury that he sometimes starts talking out loud as if he is his old self, disturbing the other men in the boarding house.
  • Hurstwood tries to find work at another hotel. They don't have anything open, but he's such a sorry sight that they take him in as a kind of charity case, letting him sleep in the attic and giving him food in return for doing a few odd jobs. But then he gets pneumonia and someone from the hotel takes him to the hospital where he stays for three weeks.
  • When he gets out, he's got no money and nowhere to go so he starts begging for change. He's ashamed, but desperate.
  • He's become so desperate in fact that he decides to go to the theater where he knows Carrie is performing. He hovers around the entrance, hoping to run into her, but he doesn't find her. Nearby, there's a man who we come to know as the captain, a man described as "an ex-soldier turned religionist." The captain collects money from strangers on the street in order to help homeless people find beds for the night.
  • A crowd forms around him, and Hurstwood drifts into the crowd. The captain collects enough money and then leads them to a boarding house for the night.
  • As Hurstwood climbs into his bunk at the boarding house, he realizes he's starving.