Study Guide

Sister Carrie Marriage

By Theodore Dreiser


You probably shouldn't give Sister Carrie as a wedding gift, since marriage doesn't come out looking so great in this novel. At times things get downright nasty between couples, and in other moments the palpable tension and utter lack of communication seems just as awful. Any discussion of marriage in the late nineteenth century, of course, needs to consider the traditional gender role expectations that accompanied the institution, with men generally expected to bring home the bacon and women generally expected to cook it up. That said, Sister Carrie plays with some very interesting reversals of those expectations.

P.S. Sometimes it turns out that characters we thought were married really aren't. That makes things pretty interesting, too.

Questions About Marriage

  1. Why does Carrie want Hurstwood to think she's married to Drouet when they first meet? And why does he go along with the whole charade?
  2. Why does Carrie agree to marry Hurstwood after he basically kidnaps her?
  3. How does the revelation that Carrie's marriage to Hurstwood isn't legal affect our view of their relationship?
  4. Do you think Carrie and Ames would have a successful marriage? Why or why not?

Chew on This

Dreiser's views of marriage were way, way ahead of his time. Like, more than a century ahead.

Sister Carrie shows that money issues are usually at the root of marital trouble.