Carrie becomes completely absorbed in the life of the theater. She longs to be a renowned actress. One newspaper runs a small notice announcing that she has taken a speaking part. It is the first time her name is published in a paper. Her new wage of $35 per week gives her ample spending money. New clothes, trinkets, and decorations accumulate in her room. Soon her picture is published in the paper.
When summer arrives, Carrie gets a silent part as a Quakeress. Carrie's photo is published with the announcements advertising the show in the papers. The manager instructs Carrie to frown and scowl throughout the play.
During the first performance, the audience does not notice Carrie during the first act. However, during the second act, they take notice. They find her scowl funny, and Carrie becomes an instant hit as well as the chief feature of the play. The reviews of the show make recurrent references to Carrie's name, and many critics praise her performance. Carrie receives a raise. She now earns $150 per week. Hurstwood reads of Carrie's success while staying in a dingy hotel.
A crowd of ardent male admirers sends Carrie gifts, flowers, and letters. A representative of a lavish hotel asks her to take a suite there for $3 per week because her presence there will draw business. Carrie accepts the offer and takes Lola with her. Mrs. Vance, having discovered Carrie's success from the papers, calls on Carrie at her new home. They make an appointment for dinner. Despite her sudden fame and wealth, Carrie feels lonely.
Hurstwood's small store of cash dwindles as he pays for lodging in the cheapest hotels. He follows Carrie's rising success closely, reading the newspaper reviews that praise her performance. For some weeks, he works at menial tasks in a hotel. His weary attitude and taciturn nature displease his co-workers, so they make work unpleasant for him. He catches pneumonia and spends three weeks in a hospital. He begins to beg for money.
There is a homeless man in New York known as "the captain." Every evening, other homeless men gather around him. At the appointed time, the captain calls out to passing pedestrians, asking them to give money to rent beds for each of the men. Hurstwood seeks out the captain's peculiar charity and manages to sleep indoors for a night.