Theodore Dreiser Essay

1478 words - 6 pages

Throughout history there has been many great authors that have created even greater works, and some people refer to these as classics. However, what truly makes an authors’ work a classic? “The idea of a classic implies something that has continuance and consistence, and which produces unity and tradition, and transmits itself, and endures.” “A true classic, is an author who has expressed his thought, and who has spoken to all in his own peculiar style” (Hutchins). Theodore Dreiser is the epitome of this very definition. Dreiser drew upon his upbringing, life experiences, and the situations of his family members and transformed these collective experiences into his very first novel, ...view middle of the document...

The theme of fate plays an overwhelming role in the novel “Sister Carrie”. Much like many of his other themes and symbols, this one also came as a result of his experiences, most notably his childhood. Before he was born, his father owned a mill that eventually burned down. This event caused him to turn into a cynical, bitter man who abused and tortured his family mentally. This led to Dreiser coming to the conclusion that “man is a pawn in the hands of a blind or malevolent fate” (Warren 11). This idea of fate can be further explained as Dreiser accepting that no one can change the future and whatever is meant to happen to them will happen, whether it be good or bad. This quote shows him coming to grips with the idea of human suffering, which he later in life proves to be true in his quest for achievement in the big industrial cities. Blind fate exists heavily in the “Sister Carrie” and can be a positive or negative thing. For example, the main character Carrie becomes an immensely successful person while trying simply because of fate (where she and others happen to be at certain times). Another example is George Hurstwood who cheated on his wife and subsequently abandoning her by having an affair with Carrie (Dreiser). Blind fate plays its hand here by eventually leading to Hurstwood’s suicide after being abandoned by Carrie, much like he abandoned his wife and child. This is an example of blind fate simply because it was by chance that he met Carrie and ultimately because of that same chance that his life prematurely ended.
Dreiser is most notably seen as someone who exhibits Naturalistic tendencies in his writings. “Sister Carrie” is very similar to other American novels before it simply for the fact that it tells a story of someone poor becoming rich in American. However, the way the story is told is completely different and unique. Dreiser draws upon his experiences in trying to make it big in cities like Chicago and New York. He lived a less than glamorous life. He suffered from poverty, an abusive father, and a lack of experiences which prohibited him from landing any decent jobs. However, his experiences led to an incredible manifestation in his novels. In “Sister Carrie” the main character Carrie moves to Chicago where she is only able to work in menial, low-waged jobs in the same way that Dreiser started out. His experiences, in some form, all manifest into his writings and as such, the reader is better able to align with the characters and understand the story because they are reading it from someone who truly experienced these things: someone who truly knows how horrible this way of life is, who knows how hard anyone would try to get out of poverty and who knows the struggle towards achievement and self-actualization. Because of this, he is able to covey his feelings to the reader better and as such many people believe that this work actually transcends the boundary of Naturalism and takes on a whole new genre. ...

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