If she were my sister, I’d kick her out too

January 27, 2008 at 11:14 pm Leave a comment

Is there anything in the world more boring than Sister Carrie? Well, probably, but the fact is that when a journalist goes to write a flowery novel about the tragedy and hardship of life, clearly all is not going to go as planned.

Theodore Dreiser flunked out of college and wrote for two newspapers in the Midwest before becoming a novelist. I have to give him credit for being an objective writer. He was probably a pretty good journalist, and he’s not prone to using any sort of trickery to make the reader feel sorry for his characters. In fact, he hardly seems to care about his characters, especially Carrie, to such an extreme that when he attempts to point out how hard Carrie and Hurstwood have it, it’s incredibly out of place and more annoying than heart-wrenching.

Dreiser at his best is fairly forthright. He really should have stuck with journalism, but the fact is that in Sister Carrie he cannot make up his mind whether to be strictly objective and naturalistic or to succumb to the kind of overwrought prose typical of the Victorian novel. He makes a distinct mistake in not remaining straightforward, and instead tries to be eloquent and whatever else, resulting in passages that are hilarious in their awfulness. Hurstwood’s money-feathers were growing in? Come on.

That being said, I’m sure there are many wonderful things about this book. I just don’t know what they are. Good luck trying to find them…


Entry filed under: Classics.

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