Published in 1900, _Sister Carrie_ follows its protagonist, Carrie, as she resolutely makes her way through the bustling city of Chicago in the hope of achieving her ultimate goal of a securing a better and more glamorous life for herself. Effectively illustrating his reputation as one of America’s greatest naturalists, Dreiser deviates from the established norms and moral values present in the Victorian era, and instead focuses his attention on accurately portraying the basic instincts that influence human behavior. The novel begins with the introduction of Caroline Meeber, an eighteen-year-old girl who leaves her rural hometown and travels to the bustling city of Chicago, where she is to live with her stern sister and brother-in-law, in the hopes of fulfilling her ambitions. During her travel, she meets Charles Drouet, a warm-hearted salesman, and is instantly allured to his charm and expensive clothing. After sharing contact details, the pair makes arrangements to meet later in the week. Subsequently, Carrie settles in to her sister’s modest apartment and is excited at the thought of working in the city. Realizing that life in the big city is not as easy and enjoyable as she had initially believed, Carrie instead finds herself coming to terms with the squalid conditions at her factory workplace, the dullness of her accommodation, and the inability to treat herself to some decent clothing. Her prayers seem to be finally heard when an accidental encounter with Drouet marks her change in fortune, as he introduces her to the lifestyle she had always wanted. However, Carrie’s pursuit of happiness is not what she had initially bargained for, as she is pushed to seize every opportunity thrown her way, regardless of the cost. Interestingly, the revolutionary novel received mixed reactions at the time of its release due to its depiction of the harsh and somber reality of human condition, which spurred outrage from some critics, while triggering fascination in others. Furthermore, Dreiser offers an accurate observation of the ambitions prevailing in urban areas at the time, which he successfully demonstrates with his lively characters and their uncensored radical actions. Nevertheless, _Sister Carrie_ continues to captivate modern readers with its evocative detail of tenacious human nature, and remains a classic highly recognized and appraised for its influential portrayal of naturalism and realism.
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