Sister Carrie Essay

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Sister Carrie and the Poverty in the Gilded Age The latter half of the 19th century saw a period of unprecedented growth and urbanization. As such, this era of American history was characterized not only by an industrial revolution, but by a cultural one as well. As the nation grew increasingly urban, so too did its people. Countryfolk flocked to industrial centres seeking employment and trying their hand at the “American Dream.” However, not all succeeded. Although innovations in technology and business allowed many to prosper, this era was also rife with the displacement and suffering of many. Theodore Dreiser’s Sister Carrie tells the story of a young woman, Carrie, who moves to Chicago from rural Columbia City in 1889 searching for a new life. Through a series of unusual circumstances, she rises from her poor and humble beginnings to become a famous actress in New York. Simultaneously, we see the fall of George Hurstwood, a wealthy and important member of society with whom Carrie becomes involved. Dreiser’s compelling work of historical fiction gives the audience insight into the ever growing disparity between the wealthy and impoverished in the late 1800s. Although many rose to affluence during the Gilded Age, countless more were trapped by financial burdens and social barriers. Dreiser illustrates these widening social cleavages by creating very full, complex characters with rich background stories. By following the rise and fall of these protagonists, it becomes clear that the Gilded Age, enchanting as it may have been for the American upper crust, truly had a dark and dreary side. The Second Industrial Revolution, spanning from approximately 1870-1914, resulted in a series of technological developments that severely cut production costs. By increasing mechanization and incorporating mass production methods, the demand for labor drastically decreased.[i]
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