Study Guide

Sister Carrie Society and Class

By Theodore Dreiser

Society and Class

In Sister Carrie we meet characters who have loads of cash and bling, others who are flat broke, and some who are everywhere in between. Characters in this novel hardly exist outside their class distinctions: how they are viewed by other characters and how they view themselves has a whole lot to do with how big their house is or what brand of shoes they wear.

Of course, these class distinctions aren't set in stone. Each of the central characters' narratives are, in fact, based on their movements among a broad spectrum of social class categories—including very rich, rich, middle-class, lower middle-class, poor, very poor, and destitute. Beware: this novel can really make your head spin when it comes to keeping track of all these categories of social class.

Questions About Society and Class

  1. How easy or hard is it to alter one's class position in the novel? How does it happen?
  2. Do Hurstwood's criminal actions make us less sympathetic to his fall in status?
  3. Late in the novel, we meet a group of striking workers attempting to end exploitation of the working class. Are they depicted sympathetically? What role does Hurstwood play in this situation?

Chew on This

Sister Carrie endorses the ideal of the American Dream.

Sister Carrie shows that the American Dream is just a big myth after all.