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When the sociologists of the Chicago School of Urban Sociology started to study the American city and the phenomenon of urbanisation at the beginning of the twentieth century, they also analysed literary texts about urban space. Dreiser was one of the writers they took into account. The reputation of Dreier as an urban writer and of Sister Carrie as a city novel has therefore long been established. Carrie is established as a migrant to Chicago in search of a better life and opportunities to become socially mobile. Right from the very first pages, the novel contains vivid descriptions of Chicago and New York and the feelings of amazement they generate into the newcomer. Yet, for all its fascination with city life, the novel is also informed by a contradictory pull, one that focuses on Carrie's nostalgia and melancholia. The very image which is associated with Carrie (her rocking on the chair thinking of a better life) usually reminds readers of a countryside, rather than an urban, setting. In addition, Sister Carrie does not simply describes the city as a site of opportunity, but also, in more naturalist and deterministic terms, as a site of poverty. The novel portrays all social classes and shows the lives of the poor alongside those of the wealthy. The character of Hurstwood also demonstrates that social mobility does not necessarily move people upward, but can also trap them in a downward spiral.
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