Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Yet More On Sister Carrie

Today's entry continues the one dated January 14th, titled "Charles and George", that was about Theodore Dreiser's novel "Sister Carrie" which I was reading. I've now finished it.

What did I take away from it? Well, that the power equation in a marriage or like relationship can change dramatically. Hence the weaker partner becomes the stronger, and the stronger one becomes the weaker. So with Carrie and Hurstwood. In the beginning he had the power and the money. In the end she had the power and the money, thanks to her success in the theatre, and he had none of either, thanks to that he could never get another job after fleeing Chicago for New York.

Hurstwood obviously became more and more depressed the longer he was out of work. In those days (late 19th century) there was no welfare state. If you became a bum there was no-one to help you but yourself. And if you couldn't help yourself, well, that was it. Thus it was with George Hurstwood.

In its portrayal of a man going irrevocably downhill because he has no work, "Sister Carrie" is relevant today, for there is no longer full employment. There are millions of the unemployed who will never find work again because the longer you are unemployed the less likely you will find work. This will destroy your soul because if you don't work you're a non-person. Your wife will leave you, your children won't want to speak to you, and friends you see on the street will look the other way when you wave and say "hi".

While Carrie found success on the stage and earned more and more money, and eventually had a comfortable life, she didn't attain all this through hard work. Rather, she attained this because men liked the way way she looked. This shows that you don't have to work hard to get rich. You can just be lucky, like Carrie. Even if you do work hard, you won't necessarily get rich. If working hard automatically meant getting rich, most women in Africa would be millionaires.

Even though Carrie did get rich, this didn't bring her much happiness, for she had no-one to share her good fortune with. Money didn't buy her love.

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