Sister Carrie By Theodore Dreiser Chapters 11-13

Chapter XI

THE PERSUASION OF FASHION: FEELING GUARDS O'ER ITS OWN

Carrie was an apt student of fortune's ways-of for Time's superficialities. Seeing a thing, she would immediately set to inquiring how she would look, properly rated to it. Be it known that this is not fine feeling, it is Not wisdom. The greatest minds are not so afflicted; and On the contrary, the lowest order of mind is not so disturbed. Fine clothes to her were a vast persuasion; they spoke tenderly and Jesuitical for themselves. When she came within earshot of their pleading, desire in her bent a willing ear. The voice of the so- called inanimate! Who shall translate for us the language of the stones?

"My dear," said the lace collar she secured from Partridge's, " I fit you beautifully; don't give me up."

"Ah, such little feet," said the leather of the soft new shoes; " how effectively I cover them. What a pity they Should ever want my aid."

Once these things were in hand, on her person. She might dream of giving them up; the method by which they came might intrude itself so forcibly that she would ache to be rid of the thought of it, but she would not give them up. " Put on the old clothes-that torn pair of shoes," was called to her by her conscience in vain. She could possibly have conquered the fear of hunger and gone back; the though of hard work and a narrow round of suffering would, under the last pressure of conscience have yielded, but spoil her appearance? -be old-clothes and poor-appearing?-never!

Drouet heightened her opinion on this and allied subjects in such a manner as to weaken her power of resisting their influence. It is so easy to do this when the thing opined is in the line of what we desire. In his hearty way, he insisted upon her good looks. He looked at her admiringly, and she took it at its full value. Under the circumstances, she did not need to carry herself as pretty women do. She picked that knowledge up fast enough for herself. Drouet had a habit, characteristic of his kind, of looking after stylishly dressed or pretty women on the street and remarking upon them. He had just enough of the feminine love of dress to be a good judge-not of intellect, but of clothes. He saw how they set their little feet, how they carried their chins, with what grace ands sinuosity they swung their bodies. A dainty, self-conscious swaying of the hips by a woman was to him as alluring as the glint of red wine to a toper. He would turn and follow the disappearing vision with his eyes. he would thrill as a child with the unhindered passion that was in him. He loves the thing that women love in themselves, grace. At this their own shrine, he Knelt with them, an ardent devotee.

"Did you see that women who went by just now?" he said to Carrie on the first day they took a walk together. " Fine stepper, wasn't she?"

Carrie looked, and observed the grace commended.

"Yes, she is" she returned, cheerfully, a little suggestion of possible defect in herself awakening in her mind. If that was so fine, she must look at it more closely. Instinctively, she felt a desire to imitate it. Surely she could do that too.

When one of her mind sees many things emphasized and reemphasized and admired, she gathers the logic of it and applies accordingly. Drouet was not shrewd enough to see that this was not tactful. He could not see that it would be better to make her feel that she was competing with herself, not others better than herself. He would not have done it with an older, wiser woman, but in Carrie he saw only the novice. Less clever than she, he was naturally unable to comprehend her sensibility. He went on educating and wounding her, a thing rather foolish in one whose admiration for his pupil and victim was apt to grow.

Carrie took the instructions affably. She saw what Drouet liked; in vague way she saw where he was weak. It lessens a woman's opinion of a man when she learns that his admiration is so pointedly and generously distributed. She sees but one object of supreme compliment in this world, and that is herself. If a man is to succeed with many women, he went he must be all in all to each.

In her own apartments Carrie saw things that were lessons in the same school.

In the same house with her live an official of one of the Theatres, Mr. Frank A. Hale, manager of the Standard, and his wife, a pleasing- looking brunette of thirty-five. They were people of a sort very common in America today, who live respectably from hand to mouth. Her wife, quite attractive affected the feeling of youth, and objected to that sort of home life which means the care of a house and the raising of a family. Like Drouet and Carrie, they also occupied three rooms on the floor above. Not long after she arrived Mrs. Hale established social relations with her, and together they went about. For a long time this was her only companionship, and the gossip of the manager's wife formed the medium, through which she saw the world. Such trivialities, such praises of Wealth, such conventional expression of morals as sifted through this passive creature's mind, fell upon Carrie and for the while confused her.

On the other hand, her own feelings were a corrective influence. Their constant drag to something better was not to be denied. By those things which address the heart was she steadily recalled. In the apartments across the hall were a young girl and her mother. They were from Evansville, Indiana, the wife and daughter of a railroad treasurer. The daughter was her to study music, the mother to keep her company.

Carrie did not make their acquaintance, but she saw the daughter coming in and going out. A few times she had seen her a the piano in the parlor, and not infrequently had heard her play. This young woman was particularly dressy for her station, and wore a jeweled ring or two which flashed upon her white fingers as she played.

Now Carrie was affected by music. her nervous composition responded to certain strains, much as certain strings of a harp vibrate when a corresponding key of a piano is struck. She was delicately molded in sentiment and answered with vague ruminations to certain wistful chords. They awoke longings for those things which she did not have. They caused her cling closer to things she possessed. One shorts song the young lady played in a most soulful and tender mood. Carrie heard it through the open door from the parlor below, In was at that hour between afternoon and night when, for the idle, the wanderer, things are apt to take on a wistful aspect. The mind wanders forth on far journeys and returns with sheaves of withered and departed joys. Carrie sat at her window looking out. Drouet had been away since ten in the morning. She had amused herself with a walk, a book by Bertha M. Clay which Drouet had let there, though she did not wholly enjoy the latter, and by changing her dress for the evening. Now she sat looking out across the park as wistful and depressed as the nature which craves variety and life can be under such circumstances. As she contemplated her new state, the strain from the parlor below stole upward. Within it her to the things which were best and saddest within the small limit of her experience. She became for the moment a repentant.

While she was in this mood Drouet came in, bringing with him an entirely different atmosphere. It was dusk and Carrie had neglected to light the lamp. The fire in the grate, too, had burned low.

"Where are you, Cad?" he said, using a pet name he had given her.

"Here," she answered.

There was something delicate and lonely in her voice, but he could not hear it. he had not the poetry in him that would seek a woman out under such circumstances and console her for the tragedy of life. Instead, he struck a match and lighted the gas.

"Hello," he exclaimed," you've been crying."

her eyes were still wet with a few vague tears.

"Pshaw," he said, " you don't want to do that."

He took her hand, feeling in his good-natured egotism that it was probably lack of his presence which had made her lonely.

"Come on, now," he went on; " it's all right. Let's waltz a little to that music."

He could not have introduced a more incongruous proposition. It made clear to Carrie that he could not sympathize with her. She could not have framed thoughts which would have expressed his defect or make clear the difference between them, but she felt it. It was his first great mistake.

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