Study Guide

Sister Carrie Isolation/Loneliness

By Theodore Dreiser


Carrie might otherwise have had the perfect happy ending if not for one thing: loneliness. By the end of the novel, despite becoming a big success and attracting tons of admirers, Carrie feels profoundly disconnected from virtually everyone around her. In fact, as we close the book, we're left with that image of Carrie rocking on her chair, completely alone. Pretty significant, we'd say. But Carrie's not the only one who suffers from feelings of exclusion and isolation—Hurstwood is lonely practically from the moment we meet him, and his situation in this regard only gets worse. Sister Carrie just goes to show that you can be surrounded by all your peeps in a hip, bustling city and still feel totally alone.

Questions About Isolation/Loneliness

  1. Why does the novel place so much emphasis on Carrie's loneliness? Why does she feel so lonely?
  2. Are any of these characters capable of connecting with others? What interferes with their abilities to form connections?
  3. Why is it that the most intimate relationships in the novel (e.g. Carrie and Drouet, Hurstwood and Mrs. Hurstwood, Carrie and Hurstwood) tend to produce the most loneliness?
  4. Why doesn't Carrie seek out any of her family or past friendships to ease her loneliness at the end of the novel?

Chew on This

Sister Carrie is a cautionary tale to successful women since Carrie ends up successful and all alone.

Living in the city has a lot to do with loneliness in Sister Carrie.