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The style in which Dreiser wrote Sister Carrie has been described as "naturalism," a more extreme form of realism. Naturalist authors pretend that they are objective observers and that their novels are like windows upon reality: they frame it without giving comments or judgment. Naturalist narratives sought to be more inclusive than other literary movements had been and focused their plots on details that had been defined as inappropriate for literature. For example, Sister Carrie contains explicit references to prostitution and divorce that scandalized a big part of the reading public. Dreiser started his novel in the tradition of the American self-made citizen, although he changed the gender from man to woman. When Carrie arrives in Chicago, she sees infinite opportunities to rise on the social ladder. Yet, the novel turns the quintessentially American narrative of self-improvement on its head and shows the most unpalatable realities of turn of the century urban America. Contrary to the general belief that humans are responsible for their actions and lives, Dreiser's naturalism also carries a belief in determinism. Human actions are heavily influenced by the environment in which they occur and are ultimately decided by fate.
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