The Distinction of Social Classes in Sister Carrie by Theodore Dreiser

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By the later part of the 1800’s New York and Chicago were some of the largest cities in the world and both had populations that exceeded a million. With the growing population, the economy’s stability began to fluctuate. The instability within the states gave rise to two distinct populations within America, the upper and the working classes. Theodore Dreiser, knowing the volatile state America was built upon, highlighted the economic differences between the wealthy and the poor in his novel Sister Carrie. During the eighteenth century, America had transformed from a simple homestead into an ornate country. Within the bustling empire, the wealthy were able to live lavish lifestyle that inspired the idea of the “American Dream.” The “American Dream” was a common belief that the poorest person in the United States could achieve success. With the circulation of this ideal there was a boom of immigration within America. People from all over the world traveled to America with the belief that they would be guaranteed freedom, safety, and prosperity. Unfortunately for many, The “American Dream” was an elusive lifestyle that was a complete contradiction to the realties that existed within the country. Life in America was harsh. There was little opportunity for advancement for most people, especially the lower class workers. Unemployment was steadily rising and working conditions were best described as atrocious. Pay In the late 1800’s the socio-economic system within America began to change. There was a boom of commercial enterprise, which was a result of mass Industrialization. Banks, Railroads, and Factories seemed to sprout up in a matter of months. With the sudden change in enterprises there also came a shift in material longi... ... middle of paper ... ...haberdashers, confectioners . . . the street was full of coaches. Pompous doormen in immense coats, shiny brass belts and buttons . . .waiting for the mistress of carriages who were shopping inside. The whole street bore the flavor of riches and show” (Dreiser, 227). While the poor working class citizens were fighting to survive, the rich were busy looking for new processions. Conclusion Throughout Sister Carrie, there is a distinction between social classes. The rise of unemployment, unjust working conditions, pay, clothing, home life, and food were all traits that distinguished ones social class from another. Dreiser plays with the two classes in Ney York and Chicago as a means to show readers that the “American Dream” was an unrealistic ideal few could obtain. America, land of Democracy and freedom, was a land of nightmares for the poor.

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