Study Guide

Sister Carrie Morality and Ethics

By Theodore Dreiser

Morality and Ethics

Characters in Sister Carrie are often thrown into situations and predicaments that put their sense of right and wrong straight to the test. Should Carrie leave Drouet for Hurstwood? Should Hurstwood take the money and run? There are also questions we as readers grapple with related to issues of morality and ethics. We might wonder whether Carrie has any ethical responsibility to help Hurstwood after she leaves him at the end of the novel, or we might consider who bears responsibility for the suffering of the masses of poverty-stricken people depicted in the closing chapters of the novel. One thing is certain: Sister Carrie gets the wheels of our brains turning on the subject of morality and ethics.

Questions About Morality and Ethics

  1. What do morality and ethics mean in this novel? What do the narrator's asides tell us about morals or ethics, and how do they relate to the story?
  2. How do the characters determine what is the right or wrong thing to do? Take a really close look at one or two examples.
  3. Are there any characters that seem to be role models for acting ethically or morally?
  4. Do you think the narrator gives us clues on how we should judge the actions of the characters? Why or why not?

Chew on This

Humans in Sister Carrie aren't capable of acting morally or ethically; they're only animals after all.

Sister Carrie shows how an unjust society makes it impossible for individuals to act morally or ethically.