The Naturalist known as Theodore Dreiser
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, “Sister Carrie”. This specific piece of work is unlike any novel before it because it displays the idea of the “American Dream” in a completely different way in which no other author could do and as such it still stands as a very influential novel today.
“He was the first to point out the fragile vulnerability of the facade that was understood to be the American Dream and to depict the awful but beautiful reality that supports the facade” (Johnson). The theme of the American Dream makes up the entire surface idea of the novel. Dreiser displays a reality of success that many have aligned with the idea of the American Dream, while at the same time displaying the failures that may come along with them. Carrie goes through life barely trying, and yet it the end achieves so much. However, her achievement leaves her feeling empty because it contrasts with her personality of always wanting to accomplish more and more. Hurstwood exhibits the American idea of opportunity by having an affair with Carrie and supporting her but ultimately ends up being left behind by her because he is incapable of providing her with the luxurious life she desires. In this novel Dreiser shows that the idea of the American Dream (being successful or having opportunities) is possible but may come at a price in the end.
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...