While working as a freelance journalist, Theodore Dreiser wrote his first novel, Sister Carrie, which was accepted for publication by Frank Norris, the author of McTeague: A Story of San Francisco (1899) and an editor for Frank Doubleday, but Frank Doubleday objected to the novel. Bound to a contract, Doubleday printed, but did not distribute or advertise, one thousand copies; few sold, a fact that crushed Dreiser. The book was ahead of its time—readers were not ready for the realism and frank language that Dreiser championed.
Carrie Meeber, the main character, is a young woman from a small town in the Midwest who leaves her family to attempt to make her own way in Chicago. Her excitement at this prospect soon changes to sorrow when she realizes that the life she will lead working in a factory is not glamorous. In a state of despair, she accepts money from a traveling salesman, Drouet, and she moves to his apartment, where she lives in comfort without working. Later, she is tricked into leaving Chicago for New York with another man, Hurstwood, who is more successful than Drouet, but who soon fails. It is hard to read this novel and fully understand the objections that Frank Doubleday and other readers had. One must remind oneself that Carrie, according to the standards of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, is a fallen woman. She lives with a man, Drouet, without first marrying him. If that were not scandalous enough,...
(The entire section is 491 words.)