Summary and Analysis
Preparing in her dressing room one evening, Carrie is disturbed by a commotion outside the door. In walks Drouet, who has just bribed the doorman. The next evening over dinner Drouet tells Carrie about Hurstwood's theft from Fitzgerald and Moy's. She is moved to a genuine sorrow for Hurstwood, thinking that he must have done it for her sake.
Drouet had hoped to win Carrie back again, but eventually he sees that his efforts are in vain. As a matter of fact, Carrie's reticence is noticed by more people than Drouet; she has acquired a reputation among the public as a somewhat mysterious, withdrawn figure.
One night Hurstwood finally approaches Carrie outside the theater and asks for money. He is so ashamed and downtrodden that he slips away as soon as Carrie hands him the contents of her purse. Their exchange of remarks has been very brief and perfunctory.
After returning to New York from a London engagement, Carrie meets Bob Ames several times; he urges her to alter her repertoire to include more serious drama. "If I were you," he tells her, "I'd change." The effect of his remark is like "roiling helpless waters." It causes Carrie to despond in her rocking chair for several days. "It was a long way to this better thing — or seemed so — and comfort was about her; hence the inactivity and longing."
By parading through Carrie's new life the three major figures of her past, Dreiser succeeds in providing "closure" or completeness to the structure of the novel. One cycle has completed itself and now another begins. Carrie is able to weather the reappearance of Drouet and the news he brings of the past Chicago incident; she is able even to overcome her hostility toward Hurstwood.
Carrie cannot escape unscathed, however, from the influence of Bob Ames. Believing that Ames holds a key to the future, she idolizes the man and hangs on his every word. There is, of course, a certain amount of truth in Ames' observation: "Most people are not capable of voicing their feelings. They depend upon others. That is what genius is for. One man expresses their desires for them in music; another one in poetry; another one in a play.
Sometimes nature does it in a face — it makes the face representative of all desire. That's what has happened in your case." Ames further observes that Carrie will lose this quality if she persists in expressing only personal desire and neglects the desires of the rest of humanity. It is then that Carrie retires to her rocker in the attempt to root out her personal desire. She hopes to find "that better thing."