Comment on the note of austere materialism in the novel Sister Carrie.
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It is hard not to ignore the emphasis that is placed on wealth and poverty in this novel. Let us remember that the novel is set during a time of unprecedented growth in the United States as prosperity meant that white-collar jobs received a good salary. However, as the novel makes clear, those working in the factories earned very little, creating a massive division between the haves and the have nots.
This explains the focus on social class throughout this text. There is particular attention given to the type of clothing people wear, the homes that they inhabit and the activities in which they engage, as these are indicative of the kind of social standing that characters occupy. The "haves" are shown to wear expensive and fashionable clothes, the kind that Carrie dreams of owning, and spend their time going to theatres. The "have nots" are left to buy cheap, poorly made clothing and jeans and only are able to amuse themselves by going to the local dance pavilion or the penny arcade. The focus on austere materialism in this text therefore relates to the theme of social class and the massive gap between the rich and the poor.
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