Cheyenne Fallman Fallman 1
Language and Composition
21 November 2008
The Importance of Appearance in Sister Carrie
Throughout literary history, one can acknowledge the fact that appearance, while not including value and morals as should be of more importance, defines oneself and helps them establish a place within the social system. Sister Carrie serves as an excellent model to portray this thought in. To the majority of the characters, how they appear to look and act hides the reality of which they live in. As Professor Furner says in his analysis of the text, “…a naturalist would describe the look and habits of a butterfly, Dreiser put these characters under his glass, noting in rich detail each one’s background, appearance, status, relationships, values…” To Carrie herself, she doesn’t feel whole unless she is dressed magnificently. On her first day at work, she feels ashamed of her female coworkers. After leaving her dingy work station, she proceeds to the lobby where she encounters other young women. As she walks past, “She felt ashamed in the face of better dressed girls who went by. She felt as though she should be better served and her heart revolted.” (Dreiser 31) Being of middle class stature, she thinks herself degraded and believes she can get no respect or attention from these, “… better dressed girls.”(Dreiser 31) Though she is extremely attractive in her lesser state, as proven by the young men who flirt with her, she feels only remorse because she wasn’t extravagantly displayed.
While Carrie is the main character whose existence thrives on the dependence on her looks, she is not the only one who Dreiser chooses to make a victim of appearance. The young man whose
charm and swagger caught Carrie’s...