Jennie Gerhardt Questions and Answers
by Theodore Dreiser

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What are some quotes from Jennie Gerhardt by Theodore Dreiser? This is a study guide question posted by eNotes Editorial. Please identify and analyze at least 3 quotes in your response.

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There are crises in all men's lives when they waver between the strict fulfillment of justice and duty and the great possibilities for personal happiness which another line of conduct seems to assure. And the dividing line is not always marked and clear. He knew that the issue of taking her, even as his wife, was made difficult by the senseless opposition of her father. The opinion of the world brought up still another complication. Supposing he should take her openly, what would the world say? She was a significant type emotionally, that he knew. There was something there—artistically, temperamentally, which was far and beyond the keenest suspicion of the herd. He did not know himself quite what it was, but he felt a largeness of feeling not altogether squared with intellect, or perhaps better yet, experience, which was worthy of any man's desire.

Senator Brander knows that there are social lines that he can't cross and still remain in good standing with his family. Marrying a woman from a poor family, like Jennie, might even hamper his political plans. However, he himself sees something in her that he thinks makes her worthy. Brander doesn't question the social structure that would prevent them from marrying; he only knows that he wants to be with her and believes her to be worthy. Jennie herself sees him as above her. She's scared to approach him at times and feels intimidated by him. Even though they're willing to cross that line and form a relationship, they don't see the line itself as morally problematic.

She found a few friends in the excellent Sandwood school, and brought them home of an evening to add lightness and gaiety to the cottage life. Jennie, through her growing appreciation of Vesta's fine character, became more and more drawn toward her. Lester was gone, but at least she had Vesta. That prop would probably sustain her in the face of a waning existence.

Once Lester is out of her life, Jennie feels empty and like her life has lost its direction. Even though she's able to take care of Vesta, she lives without the romantic love and distraction that Lester provided. He was the first man whom she only wanted for his own sake—she would have been with him were he rich or poor. However, she couldn't let him lose what was rightfully his on her account. She finds solace in her daughter. She doesn't realize that, soon, Vesta will get sick and die, leaving her more completely alone than she could have imagined. Though she adopts the two orphans to raise, the loss of Vesta is what truly leaves Jennie without someone to pour her love into and distract her from her troubles.

"Well, I've told you now, and I feel better. You're a good woman, Jennie, and you're kind to come to me this way. I loved you. I love you now. I want to tell you that. It seems strange, but you're the only woman I ever did love truly. We should never have parted."

Jennie caught her breath. It was the one thing she had waited for all these years—this testimony. It was the one thing that could make everything right—this confession of spiritual if not material union. Now she could live happily. Now die so.

In the end, the thing Jennie wanted the most was confirmation that Lester felt as she did. Lester didn't have a miserable life after he left Jennie; he had a good life with Letty, whom he admired. He was productive and successful. But he never felt the same comfort or pairing of souls that he felt with Jennie. This is confirmation that being a person who falls in line with social expectations isn't worth giving up true love. Jennie, of course, disagrees with him; she'd never have been happy if Lester lost his inheritance. But she loves him and grieves for him when he dies.

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