Sister Carrie

Sister Carrie

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Overview

Sister Carrie by Theodore Dreiser

An eighteen-year-old girl without money or connections ventures forth from her small town in search of a better life in Theodore Dreiser's revolutionary first novel. The chronicle of Carrie Meeber's rise from obscurity to fame -- and the effects of her progress on the men who use her and are used in turn -- aroused a storm of controversy and debate upon its debut in 1900. The author's nonjudgmental portrait of a heroine who violates the contemporary moral code outraged some critics, including the book's publisher, Frank Doubleday, who tried to back out of the agreement his firm had made with Dreiser. But other readers were elated -- and a century later, Dreiser's compelling plot and realistic characters continue to fascinate readers.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780375753213
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 03/28/1999
Series: Modern Library Classics Series
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 752
Sales rank: 866,725
Product dimensions: 5.20(w) x 8.10(h) x 1.60(d)

About the Author

Theodore Dreiser, one of the principal exponents of naturalism in American literature, was born in Terre Haute, Indiana, on August 27, 1871, into a large family of German ancestry. He endured a rootless upbringing as his parents moved their ten children to different towns in search of employment. Along the way Dreiser received an erratic education in various parochial and public schools; he read voraciously from an early age and was largely self-taught. He began his writing career in 1892 as a cub reporter for the Chicago Daily Globe, an experience he recalled in A Book About Myself (1922; republished as Newspaper Days in 1931), and later wrote for the St. Louis Globe-Democrat and the Pittsburgh Dispatch. His years as a journalist proved instrumental in developing the exhaustively detailed style that is the hallmark of his fiction. In 1894 Dreiser arrived in New York City and became editor of Ev'ry Month, a moderately successful literary magazine. Encouraged by a publishing colleague, he turned out short stories and entertained thoughts about writing a novel.

In October 1899 Dreiser inscribed two words—'Sister Carrie'—on a clean sheet of paper and proceeded to compose a breakthrough work that propelled American literature into the twentieth century. 'I have found a masterpiece . . . it must be published,' said Frank Norris, a reader for Doubleday, Page and Company, to whom Dreiser submitted the manuscript. (The firm had just brought out Norris's novel McTeague, another unretouched picture of American life.) Despite the strong objections of senior partner Frank Doubleday, who detested the book and refused to promote it, Sister Carrie was published on November 8, 1900. The reviews were violently adverse, and the novel sold poorly. Genteel readers perceived the unsparing story of Caroline Meeber's rise to riches as a direct affront to the standards by which respectable Americans claimed to live.

'Ultimately, what shocked the world in Dreiser's work was not so much the things that he presented as the fact that he himself was not shocked by them,' observed Robert Penn Warren.

The commercial failure of Sister Carrie forced Dreiser to abandon fiction temporarily, and over the next decade he occupied editorial positions on several popular magazines. With the encouragement of H. L. Mencken, one of his most persistent defenders and promoters, Dreiser eventually resumed writing. His second novel, Jennie Gerhardt, was both a commercial and a popular success when it appeared in 1911, though many regarded this frank story about the sexual experiences of a young girl as a threat to moral standards. After its publication Dreiser pledged all of his creative energy to literature, writing The Financier (1912), a story about the rise of an unscrupulous tycoon, which became the first book in a trilogy that included The Titan (1914) and The Stoic (1947).

Dreiser's next novel, The 'Genius' (1915), a highly autobiographical work portraying the artist as Nietzschean superman who lives beyond conventional moral codes, was threatened with censorship. The successful campaign to save it from suppression proved a pivotal victory in the fight for American literary freedom. During this period Dreiser also wrote two engaging memoirs, A Traveler at Forty (1913) and A Hoosier Holiday (1916); a compendium of philosophical essays, Hey Rub-a-Dub-Dub (1920); two volumes of drama, Plays of the Natural and the Supernatural (1916) and The Hand of the Potter (1919); as well as several collections of short stories, sketches, and articles, including Free and Other Stories (1918), Twelve Men (1919), and The Color of a Great City (1923).

The publication of An American Tragedy in 1925 established Dreiser as the foremost American novelist of his time. Based on newspaper accounts of a sensational murder case, the work was dramatized on Broadway and sold to Paramount Pictures, which released a film version in 1931. Yet afterward Dreiser virtually abandoned the novel as an art form. He composed two books of poetry, Moods, Cadenced and Declaimed (1926) and The Aspirant (1929). He also wrote Chains (1927), a second volume of short stories, and A Gallery of Women (1929), a collection of biographical sketches. Dawn, another work of autobiography, came out in 1931.

Dreiser became increasingly preoccupied with philosophical and political issues during the last two decades of his life. Two volumes of essays, Dreiser Looks at Russia (1928) and Tragic America (1932), reflect his growing involvement with socialism. America Is Worth Saving (1941), the last book Dreiser published during his lifetime, announced his complete conversion to Communism. In 1944, the year before his death, he was honored with an Award of Merit by the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Theodore Dreiser died of a heart attack at his home in Hollywood on December 28, 1945. His two last novels, The Bulwark (1946) and The Stoic (1947), appeared soon afterward, along with The Best Short Stories of Theodore Dreiser (1947).

Several works drawn from Dreiser's unpublished papers and diaries appeared in later years, notably Letters of Theodore Dreiser (1959), Theodore Dreiser: A Selection of Uncollected Prose (1977), American Diaries, 1902-1926 (1982), and An Amateur Laborer (1983). Three volumes of his early journalism were also issued posthumously: Selected Magazine Articles of Theodore Dreiser (1985), Journalism, Volume One (1988), and Theodore Dreiser's 'Heard in the Corridors' Articles and Related Writings (1988).

'Dreiser more than any other man, marching alone, usually unappreciated, often hated, has cleared the trail from Victorian timidity and gentility in American fiction to honesty and boldness and passion of life,' concluded Sinclair Lewis.

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Sister Carrie 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 16 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is the story of a young woman plagued by desire for a success she cannot fully understand or enjoy and the rather happenstance way she comes by it. The story is told with keen and absorbing psychological insight, but a psychology characterisitic of the period and Dreiser's ideas on Realism and what that entails. As an added bonus, the reader is given endless insight into the lifestyle, biases, expectations, and social rules of life in 1900's America: a bonus worth reading for. It is essential as well to read to the last sentence of the novel in order to fully appreciate Dreiser's world view and learn the fates of his characters.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It is obvious that Dreiser understood the motivations of humans, by the mind and heart. My two favorite things about the book are that, one, you truly are on a journey with the characters as their personalities and situations morph with every chapter, and two, it is such a wonderful take on human life and perspective and how, sometimes, no matter what you say or don't say, what you do, or don't do, fate unravels itself in funny, unexpected ways. Simply ingenious, probably my second favorite book ever.
Marhayter More than 1 year ago
No doubt about, this is one really good yarn.  It kept my interest throughout as the story unraveled.  A bit of a soap opera in parts, but you can't beat it for a great story.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
Sister Carrie is a tragic story by Theodore Dreiser of a girl who learns that materialism is an empty pursuit that only leads to unfulfilled dreams. The reader first meets Carrie as she travels from a small town to the endless ocean of possibilities that is Chicago. The book follows her ascent of the social ladder from poor factory worker in Chicago to respected actress in New York. The prose is filled figurative language and interesting diction and syntax, which make it easy to become absorbed in. The novel focuses on Carrie¿s emotional development rather than on plot development. This can make the plot slow at times, but teaches the reader the value of emotions and morals in a character. To those with loose morals, Sister Carrie may seem hypercritical as Dreiser condemns even the smallest moral infraction. The book does present insights about human nature including that because humans act on emotion they continually repeat their mistakes and compound their misfortunes. The first story of its kind, Sister Carrie ushered in a period of great American writing about the problems of the times, including the plight of the poor, materialism, social obligations, and others. The characters of Sister Carrie can be seen throughout literature in slightly different forms. The girl corrupted by the city, the idiotic wealthy who pay more than things are worth, and the naïve middle class constantly chasing wealth have become fixtures of American literature. Sister Carrie is at times hysterical, and at other times tear jerking, but it is the mixture that teaches valuable lessons and makes it a classic.
Guest More than 1 year ago
These paperback 'Thrift Editions' from Dover publications are a great way to collect classic titles at low prices!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Fascinating reading for someone unfamiliar with the 'zeitgeist' of America in 1900. This story captures a time when things were growing here and gives a historical window into the timeframe it encompasses. Carrie becomes her own woman, but she is not 'self-made' she is a product of her two lovers assistance and resolve. This was an interesting look into the life of a woman at this time. Not unlike Chopin's Awakening in that it chronicles an woman who asserts her independence!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
A lot of what is written in this book is unnecessary. Do we really need to know the make of the clothing the peole wear. The only thing left out was the price. This reads more like a catlog and street guide to Chicago than it does a story. Take out half of the descriptions and there would be a much more effective novel.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I have just finished reading Sister Carrie, and I must say I thoroughly enjoyed it. This is probably, and I am speaking as a someone from Europe, one of the best American novels ever written. The end is outstanding. A must.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is very boring and too dramatic. An example of it being too dramatic is when Carrie looks for work in the beginning. She is just so emotional when she is rejected by employers. It got a little better after that, but it was still boring.
Guest More than 1 year ago
In my opinion, Sister Carrie is a book of a young girl who mistakes richness for succsess and happiness. Carrie learned her lesson in the end when she was left all alone. Worst days for mr. hurstwood who killed himself because he was left broke and all the better days were gone. What Mr. hurstwood once had, dissapeared the day he cheated on his wife with Carrie.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
You were cheating on with a blackmoon...
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
YOU SUCK HAHHAHA
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Waits