Search Menu

Sister Carrie

Theodore Dreiser


Chapters 17-21

page 1 of 2


Carrie writes Hurstwood to tell him about her part in the play at Drouet's Elk lodge. Later, Drouet drops by Fitzgerald and Moy's and talks to Hurstwood, who mentions that he has heard that Drouet's lodge is putting on a play. Drouet tells him that Carrie is going to take a part in the play. Hurstwood replies that he would like see it, and he offers to get flowers for Carrie after her performance. Drouet thinks Hurstwood is a good-natured man to care so much for Carrie's happiness.

Carrie attends the first rehearsal. Most of the participants are poor actors, and the director harangues them to put some expression into their parts. Carrie suggests that they run through the play once to make sure everyone knows their lines. She impresses the director with her performance. Meanwhile, she and Hurstwood continue to meet periodically in a park.

Hurstwood, who is a member of another Elk lodge, has considerable influence among the Elks. He spreads the word among his own lodge and his friends, and he arranges to have a newspaper advertisement for the show. Partly due to his efforts, the tickets for the performance sell very well, and the show is filled to capacity. Carrie feels at home in theater and loves the entire affair. Hurstwood explains his wife's absence at the show by telling his friends that she is ill.

Despite Carrie's enthusiasm, she and the rest of the cast suffer severe stage fright. The first few scenes are absolutely awful. When Drouet goes backstage to give Carrie encouragement, Hurstwood becomes intensely jealous. Carrie and the rest of the cast improve somewhat in the following acts, and Carrie finishes with a brilliant performance. Her performance revives Drouet's affection and intensifies Hurstwood's desire. At the end of the show, Drouet cannot wait until he and Carrie return home together, and he resolves to marry her as he had promised. Drouet, Carrie, and Hurstwood dine together after the show, and Hurstwood returns home that evening full of jealousy and unrequited desire.

At breakfast the next morning, Julia irritates Hurstwood more than ever by asking when they are going to take their summer vacation. Hurstwood states that he is too busy to go for at least a month. Julia replies that she, Jessica, and George Hurstwood, Jr., will go without him. Hurstwood tells her that they will do no such thing.

Drouet tells Carrie that he will marry her soon, but she jests that he is not serious. Drouet perceives that Carrie is no longer helplessly dependent on him, but has begun to feel her first inklings of independence. When he leaves, Carrie hurries out to meet Hurstwood. Drouet, however, returns to get some bills he had forgotten and discovers that Carrie has gone out. The chambermaid is there cleaning, and he flirts with her. She asks him what has become of Hurstwood; she is surprised because he has not called once since Drouet returned to Chicago. Drouet asks what she means, and she replies that Hurstwood had called a half dozen times while Drouet was gone. He feels the first inklings of suspicion and resolves to confront Carrie.

More Help

Previous Next

Readers' Notes allow users to add their own analysis and insights to our SparkNotes—and to discuss those ideas with one another. Have a novel take or think we left something out? Add a Readers' Note!