Questions for Study
What role does imitation play in feminine identity in Sister Carrie? Consider Carrie's relationship with Drouet, Carrie's fascination with the theater, and the role of masculine sexual desire.
How does economic class govern the individual's relationship to money in Sister Carrie? Consider Carrie's early obsession with prices and Hurstwood's slow decline. Why is not having to think about money the true luxury of the rich?
What role does Carrie's unsatisfied desire play in the novel? Consider the nature of consumer society, the distinction between imitation and the genuine, and the book's portrayal of conventional social attitudes toward women's sexual desire.
What is the relationship between money and sex in the novel? Consider Drouet's relationship with Carrie, Hurstwood's relationship with Carrie, and Julia's reaction to Hurstwood's affair.
What is the relationship between power and performance in the novel? How do the men of the novel--Hurstwood and Drouet, in particular--gain power over Carrie by performing certain roles? How does playing a role allow Carrie to assert her own power?
What is the connection between role-playing and lying? How are they both connected to the satisfaction of desire? Consider Drouet's lie about his intent to marry Carrie, Hurstwood's lie to Carrie about his own intent to marry her, and Hurstwood's lie to Carrie about Drouet's "injury."
Why does Carrie like Hurstwood more than Drouet? Consider the difference between gaudy conspicuous consumption and tasteful conspicuous consumption. Consider also the function of role-playing and the distinction between imitation and the genuine.
How is Carrie's identity developed over the course of the novel? Consider the role of masculine desire, the role of imitation, and Carrie's lack of history.
How does consumer society turn people into commodities or objects? Discuss the role of "the captain" as a symbol for the commodification of people.
Why does Hurstwood fail? Why does Carrie succeed? Can any moral lessons be drawn from either of their fates? Why or why not? Consider Carrie's skill at imitation and her strong consumer drive, and Hurstwood's failure to perform his role as Julia's husband.
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