The Element of Desire in Sister Carrie by Theodore Dreiser

Sister Carrie by Theodore Dreiser is a story of the power of desire. Desire is the strongest influence among the characters. Carrie, Drouet and Hurstwood each have a longing for something they do not possess. As creatures of instinct, people are driven by desire.

Carrie Meeber, being a natural aristocrat, desires materialistic objects such as clothes. Upon engaging Drouet on the train, Carrie thinks to herself foremost of his wealth. She all too aware of what she has to do fulfill her desire.

When Drouet takes her shopping, we really see how powerful an influence clothes are to Carrie. In the store they found that shine and rustle of new things which immediately laid hold to Carries heart. For Carrie, Drouet is sufficient until Hurstwood comes along. In him she sees a refined Drouet, with more money. Once again, Carries desire impedes her judgement, because we are told that she does not love Hurstwood. Carrie essentially has no feelings for Drouet of Hurstwood yet involves herself with them because of the prospect of money.

Once Carrie became accustomed to a comfortable lifestyle, her subconscious desire gave her the will to do what it takes to avoid change.

Drouet is born bachelor whose desire is flirtation and courting women. For him this is almost a natural instinct, as soon as he saw Carrie on the train he felt an obligation to introduce himself. He loved to make advances to women, to have them succumb to his charms, …his inborn desire urged him to that as a chief delight.

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He is moderately wealthy and therefore can afford to support women periodically. Drouet constantly desires female companions, even if he is already engaged in a relationship. Towards the end he does proclaim true love for Carrie, but we can infer that the cause was her recent fame. Drouet is shallow and will always be a bachelor due to his desire for many relationships.

Hurstwood desires happiness, which in his eyes is Carrie. Hurstwood has never had a good marriage and kept it for professional reasons. When he meets Carrie he gets drawn in and falls deeply in love. He believes that she is his only source for happiness. Hurstwood becomes infatuated with Carrie and his desire leads him to eventually kidnap. He confesses to her I wouldnt have wanted you to come if I hadnt loved you. I tell you, Carrie, before God, I cant live without you. I wont! From this we can clearly see how powerful and influential Hurstwoods desire is in this novel.

These characters are only human and yield to their desires. After their trials and tribulations none of them were happy with what they had. Possibly desires are not meant to be obtained, but to be left unfulfilled.

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The Element of Desire in Sister Carrie by Theodore Dreiser. (2022, May 13). Retrieved from

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