Study Help Essay Questions


1. In what specific ways are Carrie and Hurstwood counterparts? Take into account their personalities, their desires, and their changing views on life. How does Drouet relate to them?

2. Consider how it would affect Sister Carrie if Dreiser's editorial intrusions were removed. In what ways are they relevant or irrelevant to the major themes?

3. Compare the use of coincidence in Sister Carrie with that in a novel by Dickens or Hardy.

4. Find several passages in the novel where style seems to be particularly important. Does the style ever change?

5. In what ways does Hurstwood contribute to his own downfall? How great a part does fate play?

6. Cite several passages where the season of the year relates to the action of the novel.

7. Select a scene or episode which seems extraneous to the entire action and give your reasons for regarding it as unnecessary to plot development.

8. What are Dreiser's reasons for reintroducing Drouet, Mrs. Hurstwood, Bob Ames, and Mrs. Vance near the end of the novel?

9. Compare the changes that occur in Carrie in the first half of the novel with the changes that occur in her in the second half. At what point does she seem to have the clearest understanding of herself?

10. How do the titles of the chapters form a commentary on theme and action in the novel?

11. How many different types of irony can you find in the novel?

12. Show how Dreiser makes use of both thematic and narrative foreshadowing. How do later events illuminate earlier events?

13. The novel is begun and bisected by train rides. How do the conditions that surround both train rides differ? Are there any other important train episodes?

14. Make a list of the various types of imagery which appearthe sea, the jungle, etc. and discuss the ways in which they reveal Dreiser's philosophy.

15. Choose at random a scene or episode and use it to discuss how details are used to relate it symbolically with action.

16. Who is the central character of the novel — Carrie or Hurstwood? What are your reasons for thinking so?

17. Dreiser once confessed that the scene in which Hurstwood steals the money from the safe at the saloon was the hardest part of the novel to write. Why do you suppose it was so difficult?

18. Explain the thematic relevance of card games and games of chance in the novel.

19. Discuss the techniques and function of Dreiser's management of "compressed" and "extended" time. Why is time so important to the novel?

20. In what ways do the roles which Carrie plays in the theater form a commentary upon the themes of the novel?

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