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Sister Carrie (Signet Classics)

227 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0451527608
ISBN-10: 0451527607
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Editorial Reviews Review

Sister Carrie, Theodore Dreiser's revolutionary first novel, was published in 1900--sort of. The story of Carrie Meeber, an 18-year-old country girl who moves to Chicago and becomes a kept woman, was strong stuff at the turn of the century, and what Dreiser's wary publisher released was a highly expurgated version. Times change, and we now have a restored "author's cut" of Sister Carrie that shows how truly ahead of his time Dreiser was. First and foremost, he has written an astute, nonmoralizing account of a woman and her limited options in late-19th-century America. That's impressive in and of itself, but Dreiser doesn't stop there. Digging deeply into the psychological underpinnings of his characters, he gives us people who are often strangers to themselves, drifting numbly until fate pushes them on a path they can later neither defend nor even remember choosing.

Dreiser's story unfolds in the measured cadences of an earlier era. This sometimes works brilliantly as we follow the choices, small and large, that lead some characters to doom and others to glory. On the other hand, the middle chapters--of which there are many--do drag somewhat, even when one appreciates Dreiser's intentions. If you can make it through the sagging midsection, however, you'll be rewarded by Sister Carrie's last 150 pages, which depict the harrowing downward spiral of one of the book's central characters. Here Dreiser portrays with brutal power how the wrong decision--or lack of decision--can lay waste to a life. --Rebecca Gleason --This text refers to the Paperback edition.


`Dreiser`s early novel is probably his greatest, and one of the greatest American novels`l Irish Times --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 512 pages
  • Publisher: New American Library (April 1, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0451527607
  • ISBN-13: 978-0451527608
  • Product Dimensions: 4.3 x 1.2 x 6.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (227 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,371,055 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

93 of 95 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 20, 2000
Format: Paperback
Somewhere in the depths of time a critic once labeled playwright Eugene O'Neill a genius with no talent. It's a description that could just as easily fit Theodore Dreiser, an uneducated, mercurial man who, while still in his twenties, and with virtually no experience composing fiction, managed to crank out what I consider one of the greatest novels in American literature. Very few authors have ever managed to generate the raw power that Dreiser does over the 500 or so pages of "Sister Carrie." It is amazing how much of the human experience he has put into this book, how well he understands the hopes, fears, and desires--mysterious and contradictory as they often are--that drive ordinary people.
The conventional judgment on Dreiser puts him in the naturalistic, social-realist tradition of Zola and Hardy. There is much in this; but I think his real strength lies in depicting character--Carrie, Hurstwood, and Drouet really come alive in these pages. His characters possess a depth and complexity of feeling that one rarely finds in fiction. Dreiser has a melancholy, fatalistic sense that the world may be too vast and impersonal for people to live in it comfortably, and yet his world is vibrantly human as well.
I personally find Carrie a more likable heroine (if you could call her that) than many readers have. She is self-absorbed, yes, but also capable of compassion for others, and she is never intentionally cruel. Like all of Dreiser's characters she is somewhere between the angels and the devils.
This is by no means a perfect book. Dreiser's rhetorical flourishes can become absolutely ridiculous, and so can his habit of injecting philosophical commentary into the texture of the narrative. But the total effect of "Sister Carrie" is powerful, and more than compensates for any defects in the novel.
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81 of 85 people found the following review helpful By Jeffrey Leach HALL OF FAME on June 9, 2003
Format: Hardcover
It is no mystery why Frank Norris praised to high heaven Theodore Dreiser's 1900 novel "Sister Carrie." Norris, one of America's great naturalist writers, saw in Dreiser's tale about a young woman on the make a reflection of the same bleak vistas he wrote about in "Vandover and the Brute," "The Octopus," and "McTeague." When Dreiser submitted his book for publication, it was Norris who read the book and made a glowing recommendation to the publisher. There were immense problems with "Sister Carrie" from that point forward: the wife of the publisher hated the story and worked hard behind the scenes to prevent its release. With a contract already signed, Dreiser's book did become a reality but the publishing house refused to support it with any marketing. The story languished for years in a paper limbo before finally emerging to great success and acclaim. Thank goodness it did because this may be one of the most powerful books ever written about social climbing and the perils of bad morals. Dreiser went on to publish more novels (American Tragedy, The Financier) before dropping out of the literary scene and converting to communism before his death in 1945.
"Sister Carrie" doesn't promise much at the beginning. In fact, this is yet another story about a rural person arriving in the big city seeking fame and fortune. In this case, it is Carrie Meeber, a young woman moving to Chicago to live with her sister and her husband while she tries to find work. Carrie quickly discovers big city life is tough; her sister's home life bores her to death, the work she finds in a shoe factory is pure drudgery, and she doesn't have enough money to buy decent clothes because she has to pay her sister four dollars a week for rent.
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32 of 32 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 13, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Living an average middle-class life, I have always wondered how the very rich and the very poor get where they are. Sister Carrie is a beautifully written and fascinating tale of how one climbs and descends the social ladder of life. I am aware that some readers have criticized this book stating that Dreiser did not develop the characters very well and that Carrie was not very likeable. Well, it is my thought that Dreiser never intended for us to become solely wrapped within the characters. He meant for us to become enveloped in the circumstance. The two main characters, Carrie and Hurstwood, are truly victims of circumstance - Carrie's never-ending unhappiness and Hurstwood's downward spiral. As we go through life, there are so many events and choices that will guide our lives to what they are. When one stops and thinks about this, it is really quite fascinating. I believe Dreiser r was aware of this aspect of life and he wanted to write a novel that would effect the lives of everyone who reads it. I read the entire book in 3 days. I simply could not put it down. I recommend Sister Carrie to everyone. It will leave you thinking and thinking and thinking.
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51 of 54 people found the following review helpful By B. Kerr on April 22, 2008
Format: Kindle Edition
This edition, which was prepared by volunteers, contains numerous errors, dropped words and punctuations, misspellings, wrong tenses, etc. It was so annoying to read that I purchased the Modern Library edition ($3.50) after about 75 pages. The errors are not occasional; they're on virtually every page. Although it's much less expensive, the savings aren't worth it.
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