Sister Carrie By Theodore Dreiser Summary and Analysis Chapters 24-25

Summary

Hurstwood leaves his home to take a room in a hotel. Uncertain of what his wife will do next, he is forced into inaction. Mrs. Hurstwood, on the contrary, proceeds to press her advantage and begins to make heavy demands of money. Cursing himself for placing his property in her name some years ago, Hurstwood is further distressed by the possibility that she will carry news of his behavior to his employers. He turns from these thoughts to thoughts of Carrie, telling himself that she will wait for him.

In the morning he goes to his office to check the mail, dreading to hear from his wife but hoping to hear from Carrie. Next he goes to the park to wait for Carrie but she does not appear. As he mounts a streetcar, it begins to rain, which only adds to his distress. Once again he checks his mail. After lunch, a messenger arrives with a demand for money from Mrs. Hurstwood, but he sends the boy away with no reply. Later another demand arrives, threatening to expose him to Fitzgerald and Moy if he does not send the money asked.

Hurstwood decides to deliver the money himself, and takes a cab through the dreary rain only to find himself locked out of his own home. He returns dejectedly to his office. In the meantime, he has received no word from Carrie and begins to suspect that perhaps she has heard all about him. All day his thoughts range back and forth between Carrie and his new problems. The weekend is spent in much "mental perturbation."

Monday's mail brings a letter from his wife's attorneys asking him to call. Hurstwood does not respond. On Tuesday he drives out to Carrie's apartment but leaves before seeing her because he thinks he is being followed.

On Wednesday another note from the attorneys reveals that Mrs. Hurstwood has begun divorce proceedings. Now Hurstwood knows what to expect. If he does not see the lawyers he will be sued for divorce promptly. If he does, he will "be offered terms that would make his blood boil."

Analysis

The presentation of these chapters resembles that of Chapter 4, wherein Carrie's grueling factory job is presented. Nearly every moment of time is registered both by the character and reader, with the result that time appears to be an endless progression of minute and distressing details. In his anxiety Hurstwood seems to be on the treadmill of his own destruction. He must do something or else "drift along to catastrophe."

Throughout the novel up to this point, Hurstwood has been characterized as a man of great persuasive qualities and power, but even he is laid low by the great demonic force of jealousy and revenge that drives his wife. Just as much as Drouet or Carrie, he is capable of being victimized by a set of circumstances beyond his control. Now, locked out of his own house, he sees that the power he had wielded there is lost to him.

The dreary, rainy setting of Chapter 24 serves to put the images of storm and doom of the preceding chapters on an external plane. The "lowering clouds of suspicion" have produced a literal rain in which Hurstwood wanders back and forth from office to home. In addition, Hurstwood finds he must frequently wipe the moisture from his brow, a detail which is perhaps too literal.

It should be noted that here, precisely in the middle of the novel, the reader's attention has been drawn away from Carrie to Hurstwood. The story of Hurstwood's fall becomes inextricably connected with the story of Carrie's rise to eminence; the fate of one is entangled with the other. Appearing before only as a minor" character, Hurstwood has become more and more conspicuous while Carrie is at times only mentioned as a background for Hurstwood's condition.

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