Why is Carrie initially attracted to the traveling salesman Charles Drouet in Sister Carrie?

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William Delaney | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Charles Drouet, being a salesman, is self-assured, superficially sophisticated, and aggressive. Dreiser describes his general manner and appearance as "magnetism." And Carrie is only eighteen years old. She is an easy victim, never having been away from home before, and never having encountered anyone like Drouet before. They first meet on a train bound for Chicago. She has never been to Chicago; he has been everywhere. Like almost all drummers, he travels by trains. He has made a sort of hobby out of picking up young women as a way of passing the time. He quickly sees that Carrie is inexperienced, unmarried, and unprotected, the kind of young girl he likes.

Her maidenly reserve, and a certain sense of what was conventional under the circumstances, called her to forestall and deny this familiarity, but the daring and magnetism of the individual, born of past experience and triumphs, prevailed. She answered. 

Carrie is impressed by Drouet's flashy clothes. Dreiser describes them in considerable detail. 

He was, for the order of intellect represented, attractive, and whatever he had to recommend him, you may be sure was not lost upon Carrie, in this, her first glance.

For the time being, Drouet is only interested in getting Carrie's address in Chicago. He uses a salesman's trick to get her to tell him. 

He took out his pencil and a little pocket notebook as if it were all settled.

Carrie feels she has gone too far in this acquaintanceship to refuse his request, and she makes the fateful commitment of giving him the address of the home where she will be staying with her sister and brother-in-law.

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