Chapters 18-19 Summary
Hurstwood goes to work and rounds up an impressive audience of the well-to-do for Carrie’s performance. He convinces a friend in the newspaper business to print a notice in the paper. Carrie has learned her lines well but is nervous about experiencing stage fright. Last-minute cast changes highlight Carrie’s abilities.
On the night of the performance, Drouet takes Carrie to the theater in a carriage sent by the lodge and then goes looking for some good cigars in the shops nearby. Carrie is overwhelmed at the lights and refinement of the theater. She dresses, hearing the voice of Mr. Quincel, the director, as he hustles the other cast members in their preparations. She thinks this would be delightful if it could last, if this small role could lead to a career as a great actress. The seats are filled with well-dressed and fashionable people. Hurstwood is pleased with the turnout. He explains to an acquaintance that his wife was unwell and could not attend. Members of the audience who have been pressured by Hurstwood to attend chafe him about the possibilities that this will be an amateur performance in the worst sense of the term.
As the performance begins, it is obvious that Hurstwood’s worst fears will be realized. The actors are emotionless as they merely go through the motions. Although the audience knows this is an amateur production, their good will begins to ebb away. When Carrie comes out, she is visibly nervous, even more than the other performers. After her scene, Drouet goes backstage to encourage her. He tries to calm her down and remind her of the fine performances she gave as they practiced at home. She goes out, a little more self-possessed. In the audience, Hurstwood feels for her. Each time Carrie returns from her scenes, Drouet encourages her to what he knows she is capable of. Each scene is an improvement, and Hurstwood joins them in the wings. Drouet has re-evaluated his feelings for Carrie; he realizes he is in love with her and plans to marry her after all. Hurstwood sees the intensity of Drouet’s feelings and becomes jealous. With her final scene, Carrie holds the audience in the palm of her hands. The applause is prolonged, as Drouet points out to her. Afterward, Hurstwood suggests that the three of them go out for a victory dinner. Carrie is once more enthralled with life on the stage, and her thoughts return to the possibility that she might have a career as an actress.